Checchino dal1887 a Classic Roman Restaurant

Checchino dal 1887  Via di Monte Testaccio 30     email:

Open from 12:30 to 15:00 and from 20:00 to 24     Closed Sunday night and all day Monday

The Mariani Family has owned the restaurant Checchino dal 1887 since it opened in 1887. Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen.

Francesco and Michele

Francesco and Michele

Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world. The wine is kept in a cellar that was dug into Monte Testaccio, a hill made from broken amphorae, which dates back to Ancient Rome.

The slaughterhouses of Rome used to be located here and the restaurant still specializes in the innards and other spare parts, called the quinto quarto, which the poor people used to eat.

Michele and I first came here 33 years ago and come back every time we are in Rome, which is very often. There is an outdoor space but we prefer to sit inside.

I enjoy speaking with Francesco about wine and like his recommendations. He knows I like older red wines from the area around Rome, especially Fiorano Rosso, Torre Ercolano and Colle Picchione, which are now almost impossible to find, so whenever I come to Rome, he searches his cellar to see what he can find. In February it was a 1971 Fiorano, and the year before a 1983 Colle Picchione. This year he said that he found another bottle of the 1983 Colle Picchione and of course I wanted it.img_1312

Colle Picchione 1983, Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wines were aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1983 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as it was last time I had it.img_1313

To accompany the wine, I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense and so Roman!img_1314


Michele had Puntarelle con salsa di alici, a seasonal salad of Catalonian chicory with anchovy sauce, one of her favorites.img_1316

Bucantini all’Amatriciana — for me this is the best pasta dish and I almost always order it here. We both had it again.img_1315

Coda alla vaccinara ox-tail in a tomato sauce.img_1317

Fegato di vitello ai ferri — thin slices of grilled veal liver. It may be the best I have ever had, very flavorful and tender.img_1318

For dessert we had Torta stracciatella – one of my favorites. A cake with chocolate chips.img_1319

Tortino di pere e noci, a spiced pear cake with nuts and chocolate sauce.


If you go, ask for Francesco and take his advice on both the food and the wine. Be sure to ask if he would show you the wine cellar.

Checchino 1887 was one of the restaurants that took part in the Bio*Sagra for children, held at Fattoria Fiorano to benefit the Hospital Bambino Gesú

Here is a picture of Francesco serving the pasta e ceci at the event. Michele really likes this.

Mercato Testaccio (Testaccio Market) is just across the street from the restaurant and worth a visit. It is closed on Sunday.




Filed under Checchino dal 1887, Colle Picchioni, Italian Red Wine, Roman Restaurants, Roman restaurants, Rome

A Taste of Vesuvius in Rome: CasaSetaro Winery


I have tasted the wines of CasaSetaro in the U.S and in Italy and really liked them.

Massimo Setaro

Massimo Setaro

Michele and I were spending 3 weeks in Rome when I received an e-mail from Massimo Setaro (the winery is in the Vesuvius National Park) that he wanted to come to Rome so I could taste his wines.img_1501

We met at Bar del Fico, Piazza del Fico 26, for a light lunch so that I could taste the wine with food. It is close to the apartment we rented and we go there for our morning café, drinks, and to eat. It a kind of funky place and the people are very nice.

Massimo said the winery is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Trecase. All the vineyards are located inside the Vesuvius National Park.

There are 4,500 plants per hectare. He spoke about the terroir and said it is volcanic and sandy with a layer of lava on the surface and volcanic stone. There is a mineral character present in the wines. This composition of the soil makes the vines immune to phyloxera so many of the plants have European roots.

The exposure of the vineyards are south, southeast, at 200 to 450 meters. If you walk to the highest point, you would be surrounded by the forests of the Vesuvius National Park. Green organic manure is used and the vines are treated only with copper and sulfur. Selected yeast is used in all the wines and the winery uses only their own grapes.

Massimo said he had bought a number of oak barriques but does not use them for wine anymore. Now they are used for planters.

Massimo said he learned a lot from his father growing up in the winery where they live. He said he takes care of all the production steps from vineyard management to the final bottling and his wife, Mariarosaria, works at his side.

I was very impressed with the passion in his voice when he spoke about growing up in the winery, the Vesuvius National Park, his wines and that he and his family live at the winery.

The Winesimg_1504

Caprettone Spumante Method Classico 100% Caprettone Production zone Alto Tirone, Vesuvius National Park. The age of the vineyards is 18 to 25 years. They are at 350 meters and the training system is espalier, guyot trained with a few buds per plant. Vinification: maceration at 4C in steel tanks, fermentation for 18 to 24 days, the second fermentation takes place after about six months. The wine remains on the lees for 30 months and remains in bottle for about 12 months before release.

In June when I was a judge at Radici del Sud in Puglia, this wine was picked as # 1 in the spumante category by the journalist panel of which I was a member.

Massino said the Caprettone grape is excellent for making spumante method classico because it has very good body and produces a round and elegant wine. I have to agree.img_1503

Falanghina Campania IGT “Campanelle” 100% Falanghina del Vesuvio. Production Area: various micro zones within the Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vines are 18 years old. The training system is espalier with guyot pruning.img_1506

Massimo feels that Falanghina does not have the same rich character as the Caprettone. We both agreed however that with spaghetti con vongole verace, spaghetti with clams, we would drink the Falanghina. The wine has nice citrus aromas and flavors with a touch of minerality.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco “Munazei” 100% Caprettone. Production zone Vesuvius National Park. The training system is Vesuvian pergola and guyot. Vinification: Maceration in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and fermentation lasts for about 20 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for about 6 months and then in bottle for two months before release.

Michele and I first had wines made from the Caprettone grape few years ago on the Amalfi Coast and have been drinking them ever since.

Munazei- this is what they called the cold storage rooms built into the mountain where food was kept to prevent spoilage.img_1502

 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Rosato “Munazei” 100% Piedirosso. The vineyards are at 300 to 350 meters and the vines are 20 years old. Training system is espalier, guyot and Vesuvian pergola. There is a soft destemming and pressing followed by low temperature skin fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 4C for about 24 hours. The lees are removed and there is cleaning and controlled temperature fermentation at 10 to 12C for 18 to 24 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for 3 months and another 2 months in bottle before it is released. It has aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, strawberry and raspberry.img_1505

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Piedirosso DOC 100% Piedirosso. Espalier, guyot training Vesuvian pergola. Vinification: Maturation in stainless steel tanks for 6 months and in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of dark fruit with touch of blackberries violets. It is an easy drinking wine that goes very well with food.img_1508

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC Riserva “Don Vincenzo”  Made from 85% Piedirosso and 15% Aglianico. The production area is Tirone della Guardia. The vineyards are at 350 meters and are 30 years old. The training system is espalier, guyot trained. There is a natural selection of the hand picked grapes. Fermentation takes place, with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. The wine is then aged for 24 months in French oak tonneau and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a deeply rich wine with hints of cherries and raspberries with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Massimo said this wine is named after his father. He is very proud of the wine and gave me a magnum as a gift!

Leave a comment

Filed under Caprettone, CasaSetaro winery, Falanghina, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lacyma Chrisiti di Vesuvio, Piedirosso, Spumante, Uncategorized

Restaurant da Enzo, Rome

My next few blogs will be on restaurants in Rome and sites or food stores or markets that are close by.

da Enzo AL 29 Via Dei Vascellari 29 (Trastevere)

12:30 to 3:00PM and 7:30 to 11:00PM Closed Sunday

Phone 065812260

They only accept reservation for dinnerimg_1359

da Enzo, da Enzo, we heard the name over and over again from our Roman and American friends that love traditional Roman food. You have been to Rome so many times and you have never been to Da Enzo? You must go — but we were warned! If you are going for lunch go early, it is a very small place. They do not take reservations for lunch and it can be very busy.da-enzo

We arrived at 12:30 on the dot and it was empty so we got the best outdoor table by the entrance to the restaurant. Michele, who does not like to be the first one in a restaurant said “we did not have to come this early!”

Within five minutes however, there was a crowd of people coming from all directions. Within 10 minutes the place was filled and within 20 minutes there was a line waiting to get in.

da Enzo is simple traditional Roman food at its best.

The service is brisk but friendly and English is spoken.img_1360

We started with Fiori di Zucca, deep-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, among the best I have had on this trip. Then La Palla Al 29 — fried balls of cod, potato and cheese. We should have ordered more of them.img_1361

We both had pasta Carbonara. It was made with rigatoni, the best guanciale (cured pork cheek) I have ever tasted and the dish seemed much lighter than other versions I have eaten.img_1363

Michele was looking forward to the polpette three large meatballs in a tomato sauce, and she really enjoyed them.img_1362

I had Trippa Alla Romana –Tripe in a delicious tomato sauce.

We ordered the white house wine, which was very strong, and I cut it with water as the Romans have always done. It went very well with the food.img_1364

Last but not least the Torta Del Giorno was a light tender cake with ricotta and cherry filing, and of course caffé.

Three things to note (1) the portions are very large. (2) even with all the food we ordered the bill was only 74 euros! (3) when we left there was still a line waiting to get in.

Worth the Visitimg_1356

The church of Santa Cecilia is a basilica. There is The Last Judgment by Pietro Cavallini (c.1293) and a baldachino(sculpted canopy) by Arnolfo di Cambio over the altar (late 1200’s) and mosaics.

img_1354 There is also a famous music school connected with the church, and Cecilia is the patron saint of music. The sound of a student playing the clarinet greeted us when we visited, at other times students play the organ and the violin. It is just down the block from the restaurant:



Leave a comment

Filed under da Enzo, Restaurants Rome, Roman restaurants, Uncategorized

Bio*Sagra for Kids

Michele and I met Alessia Antinori a few years ago when we visited La Fattoria di Fiorano, her winery near Rome.

Last week, she invited us to attend a charity event for children which she hosts every year at the estate.

The #Bio*SagraforKids is organized by the eleven members of Fiorano for Kids, a group of friends with a common passion for wine and with children between 0 and 12 years who have the desire to rediscover and promote a lifestyle in harmony with nature. Their purpose is to contribute to a common goal to help children less fortunate as follows:img_1414

“Upon the recommendation of the Director of the Department of Neurological Sciences Hospital Bambino Gesú in Rome, their objective will be to finance each year a researcher who will focus their research on the therapeutic role of some diets in the treatment of epilepsy in children. The fundraising is developed through the organization of meetings and events in the territory of Rome, for the involvement and awareness of the participation of the fundamental role of donations in the development of three research projects for many children with epilepsy.” www.fioranoforkids.itimg_1391

The Bio*Sagra Sunday festival took place at the 100-hectare organic winery/farm La Fattoria di Fiorano just across from Rome’s Ciampino airport. 50 of Rome’s top restaurants and pastry shops were represented and served iconic foods including some of our favorites: Checchino 1887, Armando al Pantheon, Trimani Wine Bar, Enoteca Ferrara, Glass and Per Me. Fonzie The Burger’s House had the longest line!img_1395

A huge crowd showed up, many with toddlers who were very cute to see. The property boasts a large organic garden filled with seasonal vegetables and fruits and the children participated in workshops about gardening.

img_1397 They visited the animals, played on bales of hay, enjoyed organized games, listened to 3 different groups playing music, ran around, ate and had a good time.  Adults and kids alike enjoyed the variety of food supplied by the restaurateurs.img_1393

Michele and I were glad we got there early.  Alessia has done a lot of landscaping and planting since our last visit and the property is very beautiful. The trees were laden with quince and the gardens were full of cabbages, artichokes, and many other vegetables.img_1404

We tried tastes of several foods from different restaurants.  Rice balls with tomato and mozzarella from Supplizio, a veal tongue slider with greens, a sausage in tomato sauce hero from Bonci,img_1390

but the best was the zuppa di ceci from Checchino, which Michele swears she could eat every day.

Though the skies threatened rain, it did not stop the crowds from coming and having a great time. All of the day’s proceeds go to the Hospital Bambino Gesú in Rome.

Alessia Antinori said that her grandfather Alberico Boncompagni, the founder of the estate, was a forerunner of modern organic farming and it was her goal to keep up the tradition.img_1401

If you are visiting Rome and want to plan a day in the country, the estate welcomes visitors, especially families, every weekend. You can find out more information here at


1 Comment

Filed under Checchino dal 1887, Fioranello, Uncategorized

Wines of Sardinia from Vigna Surrau

I have visited the Island of Sardinia off the coast of Westen Italy a number of times. It is has a rugged interior, but a great coastline with beaches that attract many tourists. Though it is one of the regions of Italy, the inhabitants are proud of their Sardinian heritage and if someone is going to the mainland (Italy), they say they are going to the continent. The national dish is mutton. I always enjoy the wines of Sardinia made with such grapes as Vermentino, Cannonau, Carignano and Muristellu.

A few months ago I received samples of wines from Vigna Surrau, a winery in Sardinia. I just finished tasting them last week and here is my review.

The Surrau Vineyards extend to the eastern part of Gallura, in Sardinia. The Vigna Surrau winery overlooks a property of over 50 hectares of land covered by vegetation. It is not far from the famous “Costa Smeralda” (Emerald Coast), on the road from Azachena to Porto Cervo.

The Winesimg_1270

Vermentino Di Gallura “Branu” 2015 DOCG made from 100% Vermentino. The training system is espalier (guyot) and the soil is granite, medium mixture, tending to be sandy. Crushing and destemming takes place in a cold environment. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine is bottled young to preserve its minerality and fruity freshness.img_1265

Vermentino Di Gallura Superiore “Sciala” 2015 DOCG Made from 100% Vermentino from a selection of the best grapes in their vineyards in the valley of Surrau. Training system is guyot and the soil is granite, medium consistency, tending to sandy. After destemming and crushing the must is kept cold. After a brief contact of the skins with the must, alcoholic fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature and the wine remains on the fine lees for a few months with batonnage. The wine has aromas and flavors or citrus fruit with hints of tropical fruit and good acidity.img_1268

 Cannonau Di Sardegna 100% Cannonau.  2014 The soil was formed from granite of medium mix, clayey and sandy, which gives the wine good minerality. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks for 7 to 8 days at a controlled temperature, daily pumping over and punching down are carried out in order to allow for balanced extraction of polyphenolic substances. Malolalactic fermentation takes place right after alcoholic fermentation. The wine remains in concrete and steel tanks for a few months before it is bottled. The wine has an intense aroma of red fruit with hints of strawberries and raspberries.img_1266

Cannonau Di Sardegna “Sincaru” 2013 DOC 100% Cannonau The soil is derived from granite weathering, medium mix, tending to sandy. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks for 16 to 18 days at a controlled temperature. Daily pumping over and punching down are carried out. The wine is then aged in Slavonian oak barrels that have not been toasted for 12 months. It remains for a few days in cement tanks and very large barrels before release. This is a wine with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of spice and a touch of leather.

Cannonau di Sardegna “Sincaru Riserva” 2011 DOC made from a long maceration of 100% Cannonau grapes. After a careful manual selection, the grapes are destemmed and crushed and ferment in medium sized Slavonian oak barrels. Alcoholic fermentation lasts about 15 days never exceeding 28C. Maceration is with a floating cap with frequent pumping over. There is prolonged post fermentation for another 15 to 20 days with a submerged cap. After racking, the wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of 30HL for a minimum of 18 months. The wine is in small cement tanks before it is bottled and will remain in bottle for 6 months before release. This is an intense wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of cherry and spicy notes.img_1267

Isola Dei Nuraghu “Surrau” 2013 IGT Made from Cannonau, Carignano and Muristellu grapes. Skin contact takes place in stainless steel tanks for about a week at controlled temperature. Daily pumping over and pumping down take place. Aging is for a few months in steel tanks and then in bottle. The wine has nice red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of raspberries and strawberries and a touch of violets.img_1271

Isola Dei Nuraghi “Barriu” 2013 IGT made from Cannonau, Carignano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. Maceration on the skin is continuous for about 3 weeks with daily pumping over and punching down. Malolactic fermentation takes place in cement tanks and then is aged for 18 months in barrel. The wine has ripe red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of red jam and spicy notes.






1 Comment

Filed under Cannonau, Vermentino, Vigna Surrau

The Fiano di Avellino of Donnachiara at IL Gattopardo Restaurant


I have met Illaria Petitto, managing director, Donnachiara winery a number of times in NYC and have visited the winery in Campania a number of times. I really like their white wines and paired with Neapolitan food at a luncheon at Il Gattopardo in Midtown Manhattan, it is a match made in heaven.img_1147

At the luncheon, Illaria offered a vertical tasting of her Fiano di Avellino going back to 2007. John Gilman who publishes “View from the Cellar” also spoke. I met John last March in Benevento at the Campania Stories tasting and together we visited the Donnachiara winery.

ILaria Petitto

ILaria Petitto

Ilania began by speaking about the Fiano di Avellino grape in general, her Fiano, and the winery. She said the winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino.  The modern building is set on a hilltop in an area of rolling hills.

Ilaria said she parted ways with her winemaker, Angelo Valentino because she wants to have more input into her wines. She hired the well-respected Riccardo Cotarella as the consulting enologist for the winery. She felt that he could help with the Fiano as far as enhancing the bouquet and aromas. I told her I liked the wines just as they are now!img_1153

We tasted the 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009 and 2007 paired with a menu prepared by Il Gattopardo. All the wines are 100% Fiano di Avellino

  2015 -When I was in Benevento in March for the Campania Stories blind tasting of Fiano, I picked this vintage of Donnachiara as #1.

The soil is chalky clay; there are 4,400 plants per hectare, the training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 90 days. The wine does not undergo malolatcic fermentation and does not see any wood. This is an elegant wine with good body, dried fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of tropical fruit. This is a wine with good structure and body. Illaria said 2015 was a very good vintage.img_1148

With the wine we had Stuzzichini: Scagliozzi Di Polenta and Mini Mozzarelle in Carrozza con Salsetta D’Acciughe with the 2015 and 2013

I asked Illaria if the 2007 was vinified the same way as the 2015 and she said nothing has changed.

Cotarella will start with the 2016 vintage.

When I visited the winery in March I tasted 2011, 2009 and 2007 vintages of the Fiano di Avellino. There were floral notes, aromas and flavors of citrus fruits and good acidity in the wines. There was a hint of smoke and it really become noticeable in the 2009. Illaria said Fiano grows best in clay soil. These wines are very full-bodied showing no signs of age. You could see the development of the wine from the different vintages.

In the white wines the juice is free run and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation does not take place.

2013 — This was the first I had tasted this vintage. Illaria said that 2013 was a warm and dry vintage. The grapes were very concentrated, rich in pulp and very structured. The wine is very soft and fat with nice ripe citrus fruit aromas and flavors and good acidity. I would not drink a Fiano unless it was at least 3 years old and that is still too young.

2011 — Illaria said this was a balanced vintage. The wine had developed since the last time I had tasted it and was showing very well. If you can find this wine buy it!

We had this wine with Scialatielli ai Frutta di Mare img_1159

2009 — Illaria said this was a difficult vintage but to me it was drinking much better than when I first tasted it. This is a well-balanced complex wine that will age for a very long time.

2007 — Illaria said that 2007 was a very hot and dry vintage that produced a very concentrated wine. This is big wine with great structure and aromas ranging from candied fruit to flowers with good acidity. Both Illaria and John believe that this wine has great aging potential, from 15 to 20 years. It was showing a little more age than when I first tasted it but this was just the natural development.img_1160

We had both of these vintages with the Dentice in Brodetto con Cozze e Vongole.img_1166

2011 — Esoterico This is one of two wines that are in barriques, 20% is fermented in new French barriques for a period of 12 months. There is no fining, filtration or refrigeration, and there is natural clarification. This is the only vintage of the wine that they made. Illaria said because the wine is in a 375-ml size bottle, every one thinks it is a dessert wine. She said she is not sure if she would produce the wine again.img_1165

For dessert we had the Baba- it was one of the best I have ever eaten!

1 Comment

Filed under Donna Chiara Winery, Fiano di Avellino, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

More from Jeremy Parzen on the Nebbiolo wars

Nebbiolo war: “inclusion of Nebbiolo in the Piemonte DOC has been definitively shelved” says Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium president

nebbiolo-war“Inclusion of Nebbiolo in the Piemonte DOC has been definitively shelved” said Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium president Orlando Pecchenino in a statement published late yesterday by Corriere della Sera wine writer Luciano Ferraro.

This latest volley in the “Nebbiolo war,” as Ferraro has called it, arrives in the wake of a meeting yesterday where Filippo Mobrici, president of the Asti-Monferrato consortium, and Pecchenino presented their respective positions — for and against the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC — to the Piedmont Regional Viticultural Commission and its superintendent Giorgio Ferrero.

After the Asti-Monferrato consortium circulated a proposal for a new Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC in August, representatives of the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium have lobbied aggressively against the move.

While Asti-Monferrato growers would like to have the right to use the grape name Nebbiolo in labeling of wines made from Nebbiolo in their appellations, Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium members counter that the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC would lead to the planting of Nebbiolo in appellations not suited for its production; diminished quality of Piedmont’s production of Nebbiolo in general; and confusion among consumers.

“The Langhe have won the Nebbiolo war,” Ferraro wrote yesterday referring to the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium in his post for the Corriere. But it’s not clear whether or not efforts to move forward with the Asti-Monferrato proposal have been “definitively” blocked.

In a statement included in Ferraro’s coverage, Mobrici told the Corriere writer: “we are pleased that the conversation took place in peaceful and constructive tones. Based on these discussions, we plan to present a new proposal that can be received with wide-reaching consensus by the commission and by producers.”

See this op-ed by my friend and client Giovanni Minetti, former president of the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium, who argues against the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC. “Before asking for permission to create such an important new category like a DOC,” he writes, “why not begin by experimenting and planting a few vineyards in places outside the traditional areas for production?”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized