Michael David Murphy named beverage director at Bar Italia


On the heels of Brandon Kerne’s departure, Bar Italia has found a replacement for its now-vacant beverage directorship: Michael David Murphy, who oversaw the beverage program at Gerard Craft’s empire of restaurants, will fill Kerne’s shoes beginning this week.


“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Murphy said, citing the more than 600 bottles now amassed in Bar Italia’s wine library. “The cellar runs deep. There’s not many places in St. Louis that you can go to have wine that is correctly aged and served in its prime for $60 to $70.”


Since April 2014, Murphy worked for Robust Wine Bar, following stints as wine director and, later, beverage director for the Craft Restaurant Group from 2010 to 2011 and 2012 to 2013. In between, he was a wine manager for a distributor in Kansas City. Under Murphy’s watch, Craft’s Niche earned a spot among Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in 2013. He will continue to flex his sommelier muscles in his position at Bar Italia.


“This really is, from a sommelier’s perspective, a dream. Brandon did a phenomenal job elevating this into a prestigious program,” Murphy said. He plans to broaden the regional representation of the wine list and continue to evolve the 30-year-old restaurant’s monthly wine dinner program. Yet for the most part, he said, he just wants to keep an already flourishing program going strong.


Mengesha Yohannes, co-owner of Bar Italia, said Murphy’s laidback approach to beverage service differs from Kerne’s, but is no less apt. “He’s very quiet, but there’s a lot of substance,” Yohannes said. “Every time I have a chat with him, I’m always surprised, the hidden passions boiling under the surface. He’s very, very engaging and has a deep passion that comes out in surprising ways. More of a Zen master approach.”


Kerne, who worked with Murphy for several months before his departure to facilitate the transition, was equally enthusiastic. “I cannot recommend (Michael) enough as a professional,” Kerne said. “He is undoubtedly one of the top talents in the city.”