Now the country knows what the Twin Cities has all along.
Marco Zappia, one of the hottest beverage directors in Minneapolis, was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list highlighting young people making waves in their respective fields.
Zappia, 26, leads the bar program at two south Minneapolis hotspots — Argentine-Italian restaurant Martina and the new Oaxacan restaurant Colita. He first blazed onto the cocktail scene as a partner with Bittercube, and cultivated a following behind the bar at Eat Street Social. Since the four-star Martina opened a year ago, Zappia has been wowing drinkers with his house-made spirits in a bar program Forbes calls “one of the most inventive in the country.” (4312 Upton Av. S., Mpls., 612-922-9913, martinarestaurant.com)
Marco Zappia started out opening up bars as a partner at consulting firm Bittercube. He’s opened up 32 in all — spanning from Wisconsin to California and South Carolina to Costa Rica. In November 2017, Zappia planted roots in his hometown of Minneapolis, cofounding an Argentinian restaurant inspired by Italian immigration to the country, called Martina. As beverage director, he has created one of the most inventive bar programs in the country. Shirking industry norms, he refuses to use branded liquor at his bar because he doesn’t want to be beholden to big alcohol companies. Martina is known for its house-made amaros, fernets, vermouths, bitters and other old-school Italian liquors that celebrate Italy’s aperitif and digestif culture with an Argentine spin. All botanicals and herbs used to make the liquors come from farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Zappia makes about a dozen in all and they are aged from 21 days to a year. The group’s second restaurant, an Oaxacan inspired spot called Colita, opened in October. Colita’s signature fermented liquors come from other local botanicals and yeasts that Zappia has been cultivating on indigenous Minnesota silver birch trees.
Zappia says the honor came as a total surprise.
“I saw it and I cried for a second, and then I called my mom,” he said.
“Being in a secondary market like Minneapolis — it’s my favorite city and I love it, but on the national scene, you kind of get overlooked sometimes because of our geography,” he said. “But it’s also a strength. Being in a bubble and not letting national trends affect you lets you focus on what makes sense to you and your team.”
The judges for Forbes’ Food & Drink list included “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi; Forbes chief content officer Randall Lane; Nicolas Jammet, the founder of salad chain Sweetgreen; and South Beach Wine & Food Festival director Lee Schrager.
“It’s cool when those people come in and see things they’ve never seen before,” Zappia said.