He is chef, sommelier, restaurant entrepreneur and friend. He is Giuseppe “Beppe” Meschiari, and he is the indefatigable man behind Taverna Napoleone in Castlenuovo Rangone, Italy.
When you first meet this charismatic young man, you are charmed by his joyous personality and smile. But it only takes a few seconds to realize that he is far more than just a nice guy. At only 33, Beppe knows his stuff, as the Americans would say.
From flying jets and small planes to discerning the fine differences in the 3000 wines he’s evaluated to greeting his restaurant customers like they are good friends, Beppe is a man of broad talents. He is married to Alessia, a penal lawyer in Modena. The two met while skiing in the Alpine area of Trento.
While sumptuous bread cooks in the restaurant’s large wood oven with the leftover coals from the last night’s fire – warm, but not too hot temperature makes for a slow, perfect rise – amazing aromas fill the restaurant space. We talk about the evolution of Beppe’s career and how he always knew it would lead him back to the kitchen. At the same time, he’s making arrangements for an evening community event, handling unexpected logistical challenges with grace, coaching anxious brides-to-be, and sharing his wisdom with his family and staff.
“I love everything about food, from shopping the markets in the early morning to preparing new dishes to serving great meals to customers and friends at night. The man who gave me the passion for cooking and the restaurant business was my uncle Giancarlo,” he explains. “We lost him a few years ago, but we carry on in his honor at Taverna Napoleone.”
Taverna Napoleone was founded in 1974 close to Maranello, and is very much a family business today. It moved to its current location in Castlenuovo Rangone in 2000. With his grandmother, mother, aunt and uncle working in his kitchen at his side, Beppe savors tradition. “To carry on with the restaurant means I’m able to bring the traditions of the family forward. They could get lost, but having the restaurant helps us keep our traditions together.”
As an exchange student in high school, Beppe spent a year living the American dream on a cattle and horse farm in Guthrie, Oklahoma near Oklahoma City with his host family, the Latimers. There he not only became a “champion” bull and horseback rider, but also experienced regional cuisine that influenced his gourmet tastes. “The barbecue sauce was unforgettable, and in Oklahoma I really enjoyed the beef.” Now, he slow-smokes meats with particular woods to create subtle flavors and textures.
Beppe is a self-proclaimed daredevil who has parachuted from planes and has earned “every driving license Italy has to offer – jets, boats, trains, buses, taxis, motorcycles and of course, cars.” He explains that he is also a certified scuba instructor. When I asked him why, he gives me a grin. “Why did I get so many licenses? Why not? It’s fun!”
When I asked Beppe about his love of cooking, he told me it has always been a part of his life. “I learned at my Uncle and my Mama and my Nonna’s sides,” he says. “They inspired me to carry on the culinary traditions our family has had for generations.”
Beppe’s many talents have taken him far and wide. He was asked to prepare a memorable meal for the Italian Embassy in London, which turned out to be a huge success that earned him high praise. Though he humbly speaks of his skills, Beppe is a sought-after and award-winning sommelier with the Associazione Italina Sommelier who shares his expertise at community events and corporate affairs throughout Italy. He is also a successful restaurateur who opens his doors and treats every guest as if they were a close friend.
In my opinion, Beppe is living life right in a career that inspires his creativity, draws out his love of people and blesses him with the fulfillment of busy, happy workdays.
His advice to teens thinking about the restaurant business or cooking as a career? “Put the most love you have into what you’re doing. Do what you like – not what you’re told to do. Don’t care what the oldest chef in the kitchen has to say – he’s not always right. There is no way you can do your best if you’re not making your own way.”
Great advice, Beppe. Thanks!