Picture it: Urbino, Italy 1982. A young George (Giorgione) Kessler is studying Italian language, history, literature and film abroad through the University of South Carolina.
“He totally got hooked on Italy,” said his wife and business partner, Monica Kessler.
The pair moved to Columbia in December 2011 and opened the Devine Street restaurant in September 2012.
“He has always wanted to bring what you would expect to find in a small restaurant in Italy,” his wife said. “So it’s not necessarily Italian-American but more of what you would find in Italy.”
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The restaurant’s bartender, Dave Ward, has been with them for close to a year.
“When I started, I had a pretty good understanding of wine but only a few Italian wines,” he said. “So it was a little daunting, but I had the opportunity to learn about 26 different wines that I wasn’t used to. And if you pour it enough and drink it enough, you start to get it. You have to be willing to taste everything that you pour.”
We get anywhere from college students to 90-year-olds. But we’re definitely a restaurant that has been able to thrive on repeat business. We have customers that come once every two weeks and some that come two or three times every week.
David Ward, bartender at Il Giorgione
In addition to an impressive selection of authentic Italian wines, the bar also carries 17 beers. Five are Italian, while the rest are a mix of domestic and local brews, including River Rat.
“People love River Rat beer,” he said. “We currently have three of them. They’ve been extremely popular.”
As far as an Italian favorite, it has to be the the Menabrea, an Italian lager.
“American lagers are typically flat-tasting and not too heavy on the hops or the malt,” said Ward. “The Italian lagers have a little bit of hops, a little bit of malt, but they give it that bright flavor that you’ll notice is very distinct.”
For wine, Ward said since the restaurant is known as a pizzeria and wine bar, beer takes a backseat to its corked counterpart.
“We serve copious amounts of wine. Typically, a table of four will purchase either a bottle or go through several glasses between the group,” he said.
According to Ward, the most popular bottle is La Maialina Gertrude ($10 glass, $35 bottle). The wine, from Tuscany, is described as a “super Tuscan.”
“It’s a nice full wine. The sangiovese grapes give it a nice earthiness while it’s rounded out with the cabernet and merlot,” Ward said.
For the bar’s fall menu, Ward recently created a tiramisu martini since the traditional dessert is not carried on the menu.
“Being an Italian restaurant, we have people that come in and ask about it. So I decided if we’re not going to serve it in solid form, then I’ll make a martini,” he said. “There’s hundreds of recipes out there, but based on the ingredients that I have here, I’m convinced that this is an original recipe. I’ve been able to test it on a number of people, and they’ve all given me the consensus that it’s good. I think it’s going to be very popular here. I’m excited.”
So the next time you’re on Devine Street and looking for a place to duck in for dinner and a few drinks, step into Il Giorgione and be transported to a slice of Italy. And just so you know, Il Giorgione thanks you for being a friend.
A lot of people walk here. People come in and see neighbors and friends and will stop at other tables and chat. It’s a wonderful thing.
Monica Kessler, co-owner of Il Giorgione with her husband, George