For Ruby Wilson, the West Coast brand ambassador for MARTINI & ROSSI, working in hospitality was, at one point, simply a means to an end. Once on track for a career in dance, the California native pivoted after getting her first taste of travel abroad just after graduating from high school. That adventure “changed the course of my life,” she says. She scrapped her dance plans, instead attending junior college and working in restaurants with the goal of making enough money to travel, then adventuring for months at a time. In just three years, she saw 24 countries.
After all that journeying, she felt ready to settle down, choosing the culinary and cultural bastion of San Francisco as her home base. Going back to the hospitality industry was a natural choice, and she ended up at a well-regarded Italian institution in the Mission, where Eric Alperin had created the opening bar program. “He really taught us cocktails and Italian drinking, top to bottom,” Wilson says—and sparked her passion for Italian food and drink culture, including the diversity of the country’s regional products.
Wilson has been back to Italy since her youthful traveling days, but it is an encounter from her very first trip, in her early 20s, that she recalls as being particularly impactful. “I remember wandering into a bustling piazza in Rome around golden hour after a very long train ride from the south of France,” she says. Taking a cue from the surrounding tables, she and her travel companion ordered a round of Negronis; the drinks arrived accompanied by olives, chips and hunks of Parmesan. “I recall being confused, and then overjoyed to have something delicious to nosh on as we wove our plans for the evening,” she says. “I was sold on aperitivo hour from that point forward!”