Wine with Pizza but not Pizza Wine
When it comes to beverages to accompany pizza, Neapolitans prefer drinks that sparkle. Beer, soda, and acqua minerale gassata are the most popular choices, but for those who prefer wine, it is likely to be Gragnano, an inexpensive sparkling red made from piedirosso, sciascinoso, and a little aglianico. The late Sheldon Wasserman, author of two seminal wine books, Sparkling Wine and Italy’s Noble Red Wines, loved champagne with his pizza Margarita.
Neapolitans eat pizza because it tastes good and is a complete and inexpensive meal. Naturally, their beverages of choice are also inexpensive. At Da Michele, one of the best pizzerias in Naples, only soda, beer and acqua minerale are served. They make only two types of pizza: marinara and margarita. The pizza is always perfect and the cost of a pizza and a drink is under ten dollars. Needless to say, the place is always packed with long lines out the door.
I used to think that as good as pizza can be, a nice inexpensive wine was all I needed to go with it. When I say “Pizza” I mean Neapolitan style pizza. The only place to get true Neapolitan pizza is in Naples or in the Naples area. (www.i-italy.org/blog/wine-and-food Pizza Any Way You Slice It, the Best is in Naples) Wine lists in pizzerias in Naples are sometimes not very good but I can be perfectly happy with a Gragnano, Aglianico or Lacryma Christi. But now, when given the opportunity, I enjoy pizza with more “important” wines. The first time I had Barolo and pizza was in Piedmont. Alfredo Corrado of the Vietti winery in Castiglione Falletto took us to a pizzeria owned by a Neapolitan. We had pizza bianco (fontina Val D’Aosta cheese) topped with funghi porcini with a magnum of 1961 Barolo, the first wine Alfredo had made at the winery. The combination was wonderful. Since then, I have tried the best wines that Italy has to offer with pizza.
When Michele and I were writing Pizza Any Way You Slice It, we spent a lot of time in Naples and ate pizza twice a day. Last May we did a tour of Naples and the Amalfi Coast based on our book. Our group of pizza-lovers happily ate pizza at least once a day and we even made our own pizza at a farm just outside Naples. The pizza was so good that on the last day for lunch we went to Da Michele and each had a pizza, then went across the street to Pizzeria Trianon and had another! (www.i-italy.org/blog/wine-and-food “Great Places to Eat Pizza in Naples)
l eat only certain types of pizza: Margarita (the Queen of Pizza-there is no King) tomatoes, mozzarella, and a touch of fresh basil; Marinara with tomatoes, garlic and oregano; and Pizza Bianco with white truffles or funghi porcini. Sometimes I will go over the top and have Arugula and Prosciutto on a Margarita. These are the best types of pizza to have with wine.
My favorite place to have Neapolitan style pizza in New York is La Pizza Fresca. I go there often with many friends and not one of them has ever complained about drinking great wine with pizza. My drink of choice with pizza is red wine. The wine has to be traditional. Modern and international style wines do not work. All that oak, vanilla, and jam does not go with pizza. I have not had a traditional wine from Italy or France that did not work with the pizza. Some of my favorite wines with pizza include the 1996 Carmignano Riserva, Villa di Capezzana; 1995 Taurasi “Radici” Mastroberardino; 1995 Chianti Rufina Riserva Villa di Vertice; 1961 Barolo Giacomo Borgogno & Figl;, 1996 Barbaresco Riserva “Asili” Bruno Giacosa, 1990 Barbaresco Produttori del Barbaresco; 1996 Ghemme “Collis Breclemce” Antichi Vigneti di Cantlupo; and 1988 Amarone Bertani. Recently some friends ordered the pizza bianco and we drank it with the 2002 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from E. Valentini and it was a great combination.
Everyone has their favorite place for Neapolitan style pizza. Let me know what places you like best, which toppings, and which wines.