Carlos Todaro – Lafayette’s Wine Connoisseur

Calogero “Carlos” Todaro, renowned for his expertise in all things relating to wine, joins Discover Lafayette to share his adventures in the U. S. over the past sixty-two years.

Carlos is well-known in the Lafayette area for his hard work ethic and desire to be of service to others. For years, he and his brother, Gene, were the resident wine experts at Marcello’s Wine Market in Lafayette. After the sale of Marcello’s last year, Carlos retired from working full time, but is still providing his expertise for pairing wines with food for the grateful customers of Champagne’s Market in the Oil Center.

“I have always been fortunate to have met many nice, kind and generous people throughout my life. People have been kind to me in so many ways. I try to repay as best I can.”

Carlos has a rich family history. A native of Palermo, the capital of the Italian island of Sicily, he’s lived in the U. S. since 1961 when the family moved to New Orleans from Sicily. Interestingly, Carlos’ dad was already a U. S. Citizen, having been born in Pueblo CO in 1915; his dad’s family returned to Sicily when he was young. After his dad served in the Italian Army in WWII, he realized he wanted to return to the U. S. Carlos joked that his dad wrote a letter to then U. S. Senator John Kennedy asking for help and he got his Visa a few months later!

Pictured in Palermo, Sicily, 1956, is the Todaro family send-off of cousin Blaise Todaro, who was headed to New Orleans. Calogero “Carlos” Todaro would follow with his immediate family members in 1961 where they relocated to New Orleans to live with Aunt Lucy. No one in Carlos’ family spoke English when they moved to the U. S.

The “Marcello’s name is a tribute to brother, Marcello Todaro, who attended USL and realized there was no authentic Italian restaurant in Lafayette. Brother Gene moved to Lafayette to assist with opening the restaurant, and along with Marcello, opened the original Marcello’s on the Abbeville Highway in 1981. Carlos moved to Lafayette to open up a grocery store next door to Marcello’s, bringing along his expertise as a longtime manager of A & P in New Orleans.

“Mama (Rosalie Todaro) was a very good cook, using a minimum of spices and the least amount of money. Pasta with broccoli, for example, a staple of Sicily. Feed a whole family of five people within your budget. We ate very little meat and chicken was a treat.”

Marcello’s enjoyed great success and moved into a larger space at Time Plaza where it remained until the oil bust of 1987/88 forced its closure.

Todaro family pictured in Glen Ellen, CA for Marcello’s wedding in 1990.

Carlos moved to Memphis with his brother, Marcello, to sell wine for a liquor company and met many of the greats in the industry such as Jordan and Fetzer. In the meantime, brother Gene opened two liquor stores, one in New Orleans and one in Lafayette in the old La Promenade Mall. When Gene decided to reopen Marcello’s Restaurant in 1993, Marcello and Carlos returned from Memphis to help in the family venture. Carlos reminisced how they started selling wine on the sidewalk outside of Marcello’s to make extra money to float the restaurant’s expenses.

In 1994/95, Marcello’s Market moved to its current location at 2800 Johnston Street and Carlos says, “It’s been successful since Day One.” It was the first wine retailer in the area, way before Total Wines or other box stores. With all of the acumen and discernment Carlos brought to Marcello’s Wine Market, he says he never trained formally. “I am self taught. You don’t really know anything until you go to wineries and see the process. I always learn from others. There is always someone who knows more than you.”

Dustin andJolie Poirier, Kyle and Stefanie Kellner, and Tim Metcalf acquired Marcello’s Wine Market in 2023 from owners Carlos and Gene Todaro. Marcello’s has been the place to go for decades for all liquor needs including wine, beer, spirits, mixers, and specialty items. Carlos and Gene were always focused on customer service.
Today, Carlos Todaro works 10 to 15 hours per week at Champagne’s, and he is very grateful to be doing what he’s doing, helping customers select the right wine, at the right price point for their needs. “I have no more keys jingling in my pocket to carry around.” Carlos knows a lot of the clientele at Champagne’s and enjoys “meeting them where they are…pricewise and tastewise, where everyone is happy.” He wants people to look good when they serve wine at special occasions. “It is very important to tie people together by picking the right wine.”

Simplicity is a way of life for Carlos Todaro today. Of course he enjoys his wines and speaks highly of his favorite, Pinot Noir, although he says rising temperatures in California is changing the Pinot Noir grape skins, causing the wine to be more full-bodied. “The weather is very important. The soil stays the same.” He also enjoys “good Sicilian wines, Chianti, whatever strikes my fancy. Côtes du Rhône is always a good value. The history of wines is fascinating.”

You’ll have to listen to this interview to truly hear Carlos’ humility and warm spirit. He shares tips for wines, saying that “middle of the road’ today is anything under $20. “French wine is different from California wines, as on any given day, California is about 1 degree warmer than France, especially in Bordeaux. California wines are more exuberant in taste profile because of the warmer stock. French wines are more restrained.”

We thank Carlos Todaro for sharing his love of community and knowledge of wines with Discover Lafayette. Look for him at Champagne’s Market and take advantage of a treasure trove of knowledge and experience!