Above, from left: Paolo Cantele, Hande Leimer, and Theodor Leimer, outside the Cantele winery in Guagnano, Lecce province (image via Hande’s Facebook).
USA Today has called her “Rome’s leading wine educator.”
She and her husband Theodor own and run Vino Roma, a tasting room and wine education center in the heart of the Eternal City. The setting alone is worth the price of admission: it’s situated in a fully restored subterranean Roman-era cellar. With its minimalist subtle décor, the space is simply enchanting.
Having followed their tasting notes on social media for some time now and having tasted with them in person, I have deep respect for Hande and Theodor’s wine knowledge and I highly recommend their tastings, classes, and guided tours, which sell-out quickly btw (advanced booking is required).
But that’s not what I love most about this first couple of food and wine in Rome.
As I follow along on the couple’s culinary adventures through social media, I’ve found that her unbridled exuberance for all things enogastronomic is simply irresistible.
And I can say from personal experience that her joyful exhilaration is as pure as first-pressed extra-virgin olive oil: when I finally met Hande and Theodor in Rome earlier this year, we shared two extraordinary meals at two of the couple’s favorite restaurants (Gatta Mangiona and Da Cesare; we sat next to chef Dan Barber and his children at Cesare, btw).
To watch Theodor marvel over the flavors of classic pajata (the small intestines of a calf cooked with its milk in tomato sauce and served over rigatoni) or to hear Hande discuss the fine differences in vintages of a favorite macerated Ribolla from Oslavja, you take away a slice of gourmet joy, generously shared by them with any like-minded fellow traveler.
Above: During the couple’s recent trip to Puglia, Hande snapped and posted these photos at Ristorante da Tuccino in Bari province.
That’s not to say that Hande is hypocritical in her reportage of the restaurants that the couple visits and the wines that they drink.
Her self-appointed mission is to seek out and share the best enogastronomic experiences. While never harsh in her judgment, she also never refrains from expressing her disappointment in a dining experience or a wine she’s tasted.
She tends to underline the positive. But she isn’t shy when it comes to sharing a negative impression.
But the most important thing about what Hande and Theodor do — at least in my view — is that they constantly remind us that food and wine is a human experience.
In a world that’s sadly dominated by oneupmanship and where exclusivity and braggadocio often prevail, they focus on the every person experience of aroma and flavor.
They are some of the coolest people I know in our world and my wife Tracie P and I love following Hande on social media and trading notes with her on favorite places.
Even though we’ve only met in person on two occasions, I can’t think of a week when I didn’t comment/like/share one of her posts. She and Theodor have become our friends through virtual media and even though an ocean lies between us, they are involved in our daily vicissitudes; and we in theirs (I love Hande’s rants about Romans’ creative parking habits, btw).
There is no doubt in my mind that we live in a better enogastronomic world because Hande and Theodor are in it.