A successful vintage

Chef Matt Brunozzi, who owns Annata Wine Bar in Hammonton with his family, shows off the wine bar’s gnocchi duo dish.

Annata Wine Bar, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in August, is one of the businesses instrumental in the rejuvenation of downtown Hammonton. It is co-owned by Matt Brunozzi, his brother, Philip, and his wife, Heather, and sister, Jackie Brunozzi-Dolan.

While Philip and Heather Brunozzi concentrate on the financial part of the restaurant, Philip Brunozzi also has put together Annata's award winning wine list. Jackie Brunozzi-Dolan handles all front-of-the-house duties such as training dining room staff and banquet bookings.

Chef Matt Brunozzi is in charge of the kitchen and answered our questions about the successful family restaurant.

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Annata is the Italian word for "vintage" or "vintage year," something the entire Brunozzi team hopes to have for many years to come.

Which foods are your guilty pleasure?

Currently the Tinga de Pollo Burrito from El Mariachi Loco in Hammonton. It's not on their everyday menu, you have to order it special. It's a shredded chicken burrito with the perfect level of spice and smokiness. That and my old stand by Haribo gummy bears.

What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

This is such a tough question, with so many great meals eaten at my families' homes or at various restaurants, it's hard to pick just one. But here goes nothing. The bone-in veal chop parmigiano from Chef Volas in Atlantic City. It's very unusual for me to order a traditional Italian dish when I'm out, but their veal parm, preceded by their linguini with clams, is always the perfect combo for me.

Which local chef is doing food you admire?

Being that I spend the bulk of my time at the wine bar, I don't get to eat out often. But that being said, I'm a huge menu geek and have always admired the work of Marc Vetri and Luke Palladino from afar. From their many successful eateries and the style that they both apply to their ingredients, these two chefs are as talented as they come.

How would you describe your personal cooking "style?"

I wouldn't pigeon hole myself with one specific style. Although I'd say northern Italian is my backbone, I'm constantly trying out new things. Whether it be Mexican, Thai or firing up the smoker and doing some Carolina barbecue.

Do you watch any culinary shows on TV?

I'm a big fan of anything that Alton Brown does. That dude is an encyclopedia. And I do have a few "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" saved on my DVR.

Do you cook at home?

Not as often as I would like because I live alone and as a single guy with my own restaurant most of my cooking is done there. At my parents' house on the holidays I'll often step in to help my mom or having dinner at my sister's house generally involves me doing something because she is usually busy with my nieces.

What's one kitchen ingredient any home cook shouldn't be without?

A really good extra virgin olive oil and bottle of sriracha. Take your pick.

What about a kitchen gadget?

Besides a great set of knives, a digital thermometer and a mandolin.

How about a cookbook?

I often reference the Internet, but there are several cookbooks that I often refer back to whether it be for a new recipe idea or to refresh details of an old classic in my repertoire.

When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?

Sixth grade ... around 11 years old, I would often come home and toy around in the kitchen before getting my homework done.

What do you enjoy cooking most?

The last order of the night.

What's your ultimate desert-island meal?

Although I do love all types of seafood, I'd probably have to rule that out being that I'm surrounded by water. I'll have to go with two fried eggs over easy, fried long hot peppers with lots of garlic in a good EVOO, good crusty semolina bread and Serra's "Special" sausage with parsley, garlic and provolone. Serra's sausage is based out of Vineland and their seasoning blend is a closely guarded secret. You can search high and low and not find a sausage that matches theirs.

Q: What are your culinary influences?

A: My mom, mom mom Colella and nonna Brunozzi. I was their shadow in the kitchen. I was always fascinated how my mother would orchestrate meals with such ease and make them so delicious (in little or no time).

Q: What is the difference between a restaurant and a wine bar?

A: To me, the main theme of our establishment is to focus on wine and the way it can be balanced into a delicious meal. Over the past several years, wine has surpassed all other beverages as what people are ordering when they dine out. Our large selection of wines (by the glass, bottle and case) coupled with our staff's extensive knowledge of our wine list and how the wines pair perfectly with our menu, combine to set us apart from a traditional restaurant.

Q: How important is having wine and food together?

A: Extremely important. Good wine makes good food taste even better and vice versa. Wine is the drinkable part of the meal.

Q: How did you learn about pairing wines with food?

A: I'm still very much in the learning process. Even the most seasoned sommelier will tell you that there is always so much more to learn when it comes to wine and wine pairings. My brother Philip deserves the credit for the wine list and how it is paired with my menu.

Annata Wine Bar Gnocchi Duo Recipe

Spinach Gnocchi


•1 pound whole milk ricotta

•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

•1 egg

•1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

•1 cup frozen and chopped spinach

•Kosher salt and pepper, to taste


Set aside 1/2 cup of flour. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Work together thoroughly but do not over mix (this will toughen the finished product). Roll gnocchi dough out onto floured cutting board in a 1/2-inch rope. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Using an gnocchi board (a fork will work if you don't have one), flick gnocchi pieces to get ribbed design. Place on parchment lined sheet tray and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Cook frozen gnocchi in salted boiling water, they will float when done (about 2 to 3 minutes). Toss in creamy tomato bisque sauce. Garnish with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and chopped flat leaf parsley.

Creamy Tomato Bisque


•8 ounces tomato paste

•1 1/2 pints heavy cream

•1/2 cup marsala wine

•Kosher salt and pepper, to taste


In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients using a whisk. Bring up to temperature, then remove from heat.

Potato Gnocchi


•2 large Idaho baking potatoes

•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

•1 pound whole milk ricotta

•1 whole egg

•1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

•Kosher salt and pepper, to taste


Bake potatoes in a 400-degree oven for 1 hour or until a fork can be easily removed from center of potato. Once potato is cooled, remove skin and put potato through a food mill or ricer. Set aside 1/2 cup of flour. Combine milled potatoes with all other ingredients until thoroughly incorporated (Do not over mix.). Roll gnocchi dough out on floured cutting board into a 1/2-inch rope. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Using an gnocchi board, flick gnocchi pieces to get ribbed design. Place on parchment lined sheet tray and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Cook frozen gnocchi in salted boiling water, they will float when done (about 2 to 3 minutes). Toss in brown butter sauce, add sage. Garnish with grated parmigiano reggiano and chopped flat leaf parsley.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce


•4 ounces salted butter

•1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage


In a nonstick pan over high flame, heat butter until butter solids in bottom of pan are brown (Do not blacken.). Reserve. Once gnocchi are cooked, place strained gnocchi in pan. Add sage and serve.

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