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Behind the Scenes at The Standard With Rainlove Lampariello

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Rainlove Lampariello of The Standard

Born on a commune to hippie parents in California, Rainlove Lampariello, the Regional Beverage Director at The Standard, grew up in Brooklyn and was working at places like the Limelight, the Palladium, the Underground and Funhouse by the time he was fifteen years old. After a stint in Miami, as it was becoming South Beach, Rain returned to New York and landed at Sign of the Dove. “It was an exquisite restaurant with three stars on 65th and 3rd Avenue,” he said. “When you get three stars, you start to learn about wine, real drinks and service. I was always a great fast bartender, but that was a whole different environment. You think you’re great until you get to a place where you have to go into the kitchen and say, Yes Chef. Oui Chef. That’s where wine started. But I didn’t truly get into wine until I worked at Balthazar.”

On the opening team of Keith McNally’s Balthazar in 1997, Rain worked with the likes of Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson in the kitchen, Kevin King, who now works for the Standard, “and all the bartenders that opened the Diner in Williamsburg,” he said. “Almost every single person that I was bartending with went on to open their own bar or restaurant. It was a really solid crew. It was bartenders that really knew how to tend bar. A lot of bartenders today tend cocktails. They don’t tend bar anymore. It’s that feeling when you walk into the bar of a great bartender who’s waving to you in a bar that’s three deep, and sees you coming, instead of looking down and being so uber conscious of what’s in the drinks.”

It was at Balthazar that Rain first learned about Grand Crus, and the hillsides of Burgundy. “Keith really is a genius,” he added. “To this day, I think I learned more at that restaurant in four years, than I did at any other place that I worked.” And though there are still opening employees who currently work at Balthazar, Rain decided it was time to go. “I started to feel that if I didn’t leave, I would stay there forever. I needed to know that there was life beyond Balthazar.”

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Staff Training at The Standard

The Lever House was Rain’s first opening, with Steve Eckler, Peter Cassell and Dan Silverman, at a time when hedge fund managers crowded the bar, ordering two, three, four thousand dollar bottles when the bar was three deep. First growths, Lafite, Corton. “They opened everything,” said Rain. “It was my biggest exposure to drinking great wine. And the guests at the bar. Once you get into wine and you start having conversations, they share with you. I’d have seven glasses behind the bar with little labels of all the different wines. It was magnificent.”

Additional openings followed. Rain and Peter went on to open Lure FishBar, Chinatown Brasserie and Joe’s Pub, where they lent a hand. When Peter then came to T. Edward Wines, Rain went on to open Rouge Tomate with Pascaline Lepeltier. “We had a whole bar program that literally had a bar behind the bar where we made everything fresh,” said Rain. “All of our own ginger ale. We made our own mixers, our own triple sec, our own ginger beer. It was all sustainable.”

With a fierce need to be on his heels at all times, Rain left for The Standard when they opened in 2009. “This was the first place that actually appealed to every single one of my skills. I really felt empowered,” he said, “because they hired me to run the bar programs, and at that time I was tending bar and running the bar program. I was doing payroll for 100 people. Working until five in the morning, with the volume we were doing. We projected the first year at 18 million and we did 44 million.”

Opening at a time when the Meatpacking District was on the cusp of its current form, The Standard was unlike other like destinations in the city. “André Balazs was the big up and comer,” said Rain. “He’s a freaking genius. You can literally come here and have a whole day. Dinner, ping-pong in the beer garden, dancing, then I can finish with a bottle of Champagne at the Top of the Standard. Even the people that are staying here, they’d much rather stay here than go out.”

T. Edward Wines, Rainlove Lampariello, Gran fondo, Karen Ulrich for T. Edward Wines

Rain at the start of the New York Gran Fondo

In-house, the staff trainings are extensive at The Standard, with three levels of wine training, separate classes for Champagne, service training and alcohol awareness. “Mark Smith, who is our Wine Director right now, he was a somm here,” said Rain. “We pretty much try to promote with in for all of the positions and that only happens from training. It’s a great company for investing in staff. I’d like to think that everybody who works for me, and with me, leaves knowing more. If I can accomplish that, then I feel like I’m successful. Working with Ashley [Santoro, the Wine Director at The Standard East Village] and Mark, that’s the part of the job that’s the most fun for me. Because you get to see people who truly love what they do, and be a part of the love, and watch them grow.”

Recently, The Standard Grill reduced its wine list from 500 to 350. Partly due to storage issues, and partly because of the lack of old vintages. “It’s the hardest thing to do, to have old vintages,” he said. “Because no body allows them to age. When you get your first allotment of DRC, people see it on a list and they order it just to roll. There are so many things in the wine room that aren’t ready yet, so we want to hold on to them for a while. For Burgundy now, 10 or 15 on the list are 10 to 15 years old. And when one of those goes, we’ll put another one in.”

And while the different lists throughout The Standard share some similarities, Rain said, “We pour Billecart upstairs by the glass. It sells tremendously by the bottle. I think it was one of the greatest coups of your portfolio.”

As a friend of TEW for some time, Rain knows our history well. We’ve cycled a few Gran Fondos together, starting at the top of the George Washington Bridge. We’ve trained hill repeats on River Road in New Jersey, and rode through Provence. Becoming an avid cyclist when his long nights tending bar finally came to an end, Rain said, “No matter how much I train, there’s going to be people that blow by me. It’s humbling. It keeps me grounded. It helps me use up all of that energy. It’s my meditation. And that’s what I realized,” he added, “as you grow up, you think about yoga and meditation, and I now realize the connection of all of that you can achieve in two or three hours on the bicycle. Or running or something else that will get you to focus on your breathing and your rhythm. That’s almost the secret to life. If you can just clear everything out for a little while, you’re much better at life.”

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