Laura DePasquale, Sommelier/ Beverage Director
21 Almeria Avenue
Coral Gables, FL
Laura DePasquale has been Sommelier/Beverage Director at NORMAN'S
since 1999. Under her tenure NORMAN'S has received an Award of Excellence
from Wine Spectator, Best Wine and Spirits Program for Fine Dining
from Santé, Best Wine Dinner from Santé, and Number 1 Restaurant
in Miami from Zagat Survey. NORMAN'S has also appeared on the cover
of Wine Spectator, and been featured in Bon Appétit, Nation's
Restaurant News, Food & Wine and Santé.
Sommelier of NORMAN'S, Ms. DePasquale has focused on providing extraordinary
service, great creativity and outstanding education programs. She has
developed many new programs, including complete crystal service, waiter
and waiter-in-training wine education classes (which have led to the
certification of 3 staff members as sommeliers), culinary wine education
programs for members of the chef-team, Tuesday Tastings, which are tasting
nights open to the public featuring specific varietals, and charity
fundraisers and wine auctions that have raised a total of over $350,000
for selected charities. Since she assumed this position, annual sales
of wine and beverages have increased by 40%. Average wine bottle sales
have nearly doubled, from $48 per bottle to $82 per bottle. She has
also expanded the wine list from 265 selections to 425, while maintaining
the same inventory dollar amount.
DePasquale's relationship with Chef Norman Van Aken began in 1992 when
she moved to Florida from New York and was hired as the Dining Room
Manager for Norman's renowned restaurant A Mano in South Beach. In New
York, while pursuing a graduate degree in Art History from SUNY Purchase,
Ms. DePasquale was the Beverage Director at the Royalton Hotel and the
Bar Manager for Arizona 206. When A Mano closed in March of 1993, Ms.
DePasquale pursued her love of art and created several bodies of work.
Her series of large-format drawings, "Gadgets & Desire," established
her art career in Philadelphia with SubCulture Gallery and in New York
with Kirkland Gallery. Both galleries continue to show her work today.
In 1996, Ms. DePasquale was awarded the Florida State Fellowship for
Individual Visual Artist.
an art career, Ms. DePasquale worked part-time as a waiter at the nationally
renowned Mark's Place in North Miami for Chef Mark Millitello and continued
learning about wine. In 1995, she and her brother opened the 8th Street
Coffee Bar on Ocean Drive in South Beach. For two years, she enjoyed
mornings of baking while the sun rose followed by afternoons of working
in the art studio. The business was sold in 1997.
Simultaneously, Ms. DePasquale began exploring opportunities to help
at-risk children through the visual arts. She began writing grants for
a non-profit art agency, The Bakehouse Art Complex, to develop art programs
with teens, reforming youth gang members and homeless children in Liberty
City, Wynwood, Overtown, Allapattah and Little Haiti. The success of
these programs led to increased funding and the development of The Bakehouse
Children's Art Workshops (BCAW), a non-profit agency that employed professional
artists to work in these communities with children at risk. Ms. DePasquale's
programs were recognized by the President's Council on Arts and Humanities,
and the BCAW was the only program in Florida included in the President's
Councils' publication "Coming Up Taller," which recognized outstanding
art and humanities programs that worked with disenfranchised youths
throughout the nation. Ms. DePasquale was a keynote speaker at the International
Social Workers' Conferences in 1997 and 1998 in Quebec City and Denver,
respectively, for her unique project development and work with visual
artists and social service agencies. The growth of the BCAW led to the
creation of a full-time position as Director in 1998.
Ms. DePasquale soon found that as Director she spent most of her time
administering and less time doing what she loved - working with children
and teens. She also found herself unable to deny her love for wine,
food and learning. Wine, she says, brings together culture, history,
art, politics and science, and "the experience of sharing wine" is for
her "an undeniable lifelong pursuit." In the spring of 1998 she became
a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers in London,
and she is currently pursuing the Master Sommelier certification. Working
as a sommelier at NORMAN'S, she says, "means I am teaching a staff of
professionals about wine and slowly steering some of them into a career,
building and educating a community about wine, and providing those people
who already have great wine collections an outlet for dialogue."
Ms. DePasquale continues to work on her art, and works part-time with
reforming youth gang members in Little Haiti.