Monthly Archives: June 2018

Due Ladroni — A New Favorite Roman Restaurant

Almost 25 years ago, a restaurateur in NYC told us that next time we are in Rome, we must go to restaurant Due Ladroni (two thieves). Over the years we have passed the restaurant a number of times but never went in. In fact 2 years ago we rented an apartment around the corner and passed it almost every day. Michele said we have to go there one day. Last year friends went for dinner and told us how wonderful it was, the food, service and decor.Finally, last February we rented an apartment a few short blocks from the restaurant. It was very rainy and cold in Rome, so one night we decided to go to Due Ladroni because it was close by. We went for dinner and had a great meal.

When we finished dinner the woman at the next table was still on her main course- -it was langoustine and I could smell the delicious aroma. We went again just before we left Rome and had another great meal. That time, I had the langoustine and  I have been thinking about them ever since.  So  now that we are in Rome again, we returned to Due Ladroni and had another wonderful meal.

Michele had the Tonnarelli Gamberi Pistacchio to start.


I had the Spaghetti ai Moscardini.  Moscardini are tiny octopus.


For the the main course Michele had the Mazzancola alla Griglia and an insalata mista

Once again, I had the grilled langoustine.

 I also had Broccoletti, something like broccoli rabe but all leaves.  Like all Roman vegetables, it was well done, cooked with a little hot pepper.  

For dessert we had fragolini del bosco, tiny wild strawberries.

The Wine

Due Ladroni is now one of our Roman favorites.  We have been there three times and have always been pleased.  Michele and I plan to be back again soon.

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Judging the Pizza and Prosecco Competition

I was speaking to Rosario Procino, owner of Ribalta Pizzeria, at a wine tasting and the conversation turned to pizza in Naples and NYC. As we were talking, Megan De Angelo of Colangelo, a PR firm, came by to see Rosario and joined the conversation. She said that she was organizing a Prosecco & Pizza Competition at Ribalta and invited me to be one of the judges. 

The event took place during Prosecco Week.  Prosecco is the largest selling sparkling (spumante) wine in Italy.  Italians drink it as an aperitif (no self- respecting Roman or Venetian goes out to dinner without having a glass of Prosecco first), with food, and to celebrate. When I am in Rome the first meal I have is at Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter. I always order the same dish, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella with a bottle of Prosecco. I think it goes great with any type of fried food, shellfish and Pizza. I am a big fan of sparkling wine with pizza.

Prosecco production takes place in the area of north east Italy lying between the Dolomites and the Adriatic sea. Since July of 2009 Prosecco can be produced in two regions; the Veneto(most of the production) and Friulli-Venezia Giulia.

Sparkling (Spumante) Prosecco) can be Brut, Extra Dry Dry or Demi Sec. Brut is dryer than Extra Dry. It is made from the Glera (formerly known as Prosecco) grape (85- 100%) with the possible addition of Verdiso, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay up to 15%. Most Prosecco is non-vintage.

Sparkling Prosecco is made by the Martinotti-Charmat method, meaning that the wine is given a second fermentation in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank (autoclave) rather than in the bottle.

The were four Pizzerias  that competed in the challenge:

Josh Johnson and Jordan FloydBarboncino – 781 Franklin Ave. Brooklyn, NY. 7188-483-8834

Steve Spinelli- Porta.- Jersey City, N.J. 201-544 -5199 and Asbury Park N.J. 732-726-7661

Pasquale Cozzolino – Ribalta – 48 East 12th St. NY, NY    212-777-7781

Flavio Garelli- Cacio and Vino – 80 2nd Ave. NY, NY 212-228-3269

Each pizzaiolo was given two Proseccos DOC, one Brut (to be Brut it can have up to 12g/l of residual sugar) and one Extra Dry (12 to 17% of residual sugar). They had to choose either the Brut or Extra Dry to pair with their pizza.

Both Josh Johnson and Steven Spinelli went with the La Marca Extra Dry Prosecco NV (Veneto) to pair with their pizza.

La Marca is made from the Glera grape 100%. The wine is named for the La Marca Trevigina zone in the heart of the Prosecco region. It has hints of fresh citrus, honey and grapefruit with mineral undertones.

After we tasted the Prosecco with the pizza,  orange juice  was poured into our glasses to create a mimosa cocktail.  We tasted his pizza again with the mimosa.

The next two Pizzaioli chose Prosecco Castello di Roncade Brut Traviso DOC NV (Veneto) to go with their pizza made from 100% Glera (residual sugar 9g/l).  It has hints of citrus fruit with herbal and grassy notes and a dry finish.

Each pizzaiolo made 6 pizzas- one for the judges and 5 for the guests.  The pizzaioli brought all of their own ingredients- anything necessary to make the pizza. They shared a wood-burning oven. There were no restrictions on ingredients and creativity was encouraged.


Josh Johnson and Jordan FloydBarboncino

Herb goat cheese base-fontina cheese -jambon de bayonne from les trois petits cochons-grilled red onion -homemade peach and apricot jam -arugula and micro green blend


Steve Spinelli- Porta.

The Spring Betty – goat cheese, house-made mozzarella, asparagus, garlic, watercress pesto, & thyme

Pasquale Cazzolino -Ribalta

Calzone with basil ricotta, smoked fior di latte, Neopolitan salame and piennolo tomatoes


Flavio Garelli- Cacio and Vino

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and anchovies, topped with pomodorini, bufala and capers

 Scoring sheet

Scoring sheet

The judges were:

Hindy Chang- Restaurant Groupie

Sarah Tracey-Wine Lifestyle Services

Morgan Raum- Instagram

Charles Scicolone – Wine and food writer.

Rosario Procino, Partner/owner Ribalta

Flavio, Giusto Priola and Paolino from  Cacio e Vino

After we tasted all of the pizza and tallied the votes, it was a tie between Pasquale  Cozzolino from Ribalta and Flavio Garelli from Cacio and Vino.  All the pizza we tasted went very well with the Prosecco but we broke the tie by giving the grand prize The pizza from Flavio because it  paired better with the Prosecco.  The prize was $2,500.

I felt like a winner too.  It was a great afternoon and I enjoyed tasting pizza and prosecco.


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My Lunch with Andrés

When I was in Italy I received and invitation to have lunch in NYC with Andrés Caballero, Winemaker Director of Carolina Wine Brands, but did not know if I could make it. However once I returned, I saw I was free so I accepted and was very glad that I did.  I met Andres at La Grenouille Restaurant.  There were just the two of us and I had a delightful time speaking with Andrés about his wines, wine in general, food and travel.


Santa Carolina is part of Carolina Wine Brands, one of the leading wine groups in Chile, which belongs to the Watt’s S.A. agribusiness group owned by the Larrain family. The flagship brand is Vina Santa Carolina.  Viña Santa Carolina was founded by Louis Pereyra Cotapos in 1875 He named the winery after his wife, Carolina.  Santa Carolina is located in Macul, Santiago – Chile

We had three wines with lunch.

Santa Carolina 2017 Cuarteles Experimentales 2017  The grapes are from 80 year old dry farmed head trained vines located in San Rosendo, Biobio. There is an early harvest by hand to preserve the natural acidity and freshness Native alcoholic fermentation in small stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation takes place in low capacity tanks. This is a wine with ripe fruity flavors with hints of raspberry, blackberry and a touch of violet. Alcohol 11.5%

This ripe fruity wine was a perfect combination with the foie gras

Dolmen Alto Cachapoal 2015 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The two-hectare vineyard is situated in the Totihue estate, Alto Cachapoal. It is on a 50-degree slope and the soil has a high slate content. Andres said the roots grow deep into the cracks formed in the rocks to absorb minerals. Head training system and extreme viticulture techniques are used. The area is under the climate influence of the Cachapoal River, which produces sharp temperature differences between day and night. There is an early harvest the first week of April. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in vats, followed by post fermentation for 3 weeks. Then the wine is directly transferred to foudres. André said a foudre is a large wooden vat with a capacity to hold more than 1,000 liters.

This is a wine that is drinking very well now but will last for another 10 years. This wine has a fruity bouquet with hints of red fruit and a touch of bell pepper. I really liked the wine and could not stop drinking it. Alcohol 12.5%

Luis Pereira 2012 made from 90% Canernet Sauvignon 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 3% other varieties from 70 year old vines, on average, situated in different areas of the Central Valley in Chile. The soils vary depending on location and range from sandy loam with thin layers of clay-to-clay loam. The climate is Mediterranean with hot and dry summers, with little rainfall and cold and often rainy in winter. The harvest is from March 12 to 22 approximately one month earlier than current traditional harvest.  Andrés said that fourteen days prior to harvest, 2% of the grapes from the Louis Pereira’s vineyard blocks are harvested in order to prepare the started yeast with the corresponding yeasts from different vineyards. Grapes are handpicked and the preferment agent is prepared 14 days in advance with native yeasts from different vineyards. There is traditional fermentation with pumping over and without adding acids. Maceration is short and consistent with the old Santa Carolina recipe before starting the one-year aging in old barrels. The different lots are defined and the wine base is prepared, and will age for another year in French oak casks. The wine has hints of cherry, blackberry, plum, red pepper and tobacco. The wine will age. 12.8% Alcohol

Though very different in style, the last two reds went very well with the roast chicken.

Andres also spoke about the Rescue Project.  After the earthquake of 2010, old documents explaining the vinification practices and process that took place in the mid 20th century were found in the rubble of the collapsed Viña Santa Carolina buildings along with a library of older wines.  This led to the rescue project:

-Making Luis Pereira, a wine with Santa Carolina’s recipe from the 20th Century.

-Bloque Herencia, a rescue of pre-phylloxera vineyards and vitis vinifera vines which arrived in Chile between colonial times and the 19th-century.

-Over 1,000 vines dating back to 1912 were transplanted from Miraflores Estate to the Totihue Estate in Alto Cachapoal. Grape Varieties: Cesar Noir (Romano) Merlot, four Cabernet Sauvignon phenotypes, Cabernet Franc, Pals and Tintoria

I learned a lot about this project from speaking with Andres and I enjoyed drinking his wines.











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Champagne and Pizza

Many years ago a wine writer friend  introduced me to the delights of  Champagne with pizza and I have been enjoying them together ever since. Once a month or so a group of us get together at La Pizza Fresca in NYC for a Champagne and pizza luncheon. Here are the results of our last get together.  The Champagnes listed below are from older vintages and I felt they went better with white pizza. More recent vintage  Champagnes go better with tomato based pizza such as a Margherita.

Champagne Krug Grand Curvee NV 158eme Edition-A blend of more than 120 wines from ten or more different vintages and three grape varieties.  30% of the base wine is from the 2002 vintage. The wine remains in the cellar for at least 6 years before release. This is a full and elegant Champagne with hints of dried fruit, gingerbread, citrus fruit and a touch of almonds, brioche and honey. ID#108001 [disgorged 2008, base vintages 2002-1988] The full story of every bottle of Krug is revealed in its Krug ID, the six digits on the black label. 

SAVOIA-Mushrooms, pancetta, fontina and bufala mozzarella


Champagne Vallèe Grand Cru 2002  Raphaël and Vincent Bèrêche made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Aÿ, disgorged in December 2013. The dosage is 2g/l. Traditional vinification and parcels are vinified separately. Malolactic fermentation is avoided and the wines are bottled around May without filtration and with a natural cold setting by opening all the cellar windows for three days. Disgorging is by hand and they use a traditional liqueur for the dosage.

RUSTICA- Pancetta, onions and bufala mozzarella


Champagne Krug 2002 made from 40% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay and 21% Meunier. It was released after 14 years in the cellar and released after the 2003. The bouquet jumped right out of the glass. It is an intense and elegant Champagne with fruits of all types and notes of cassis, candied orange, and honey and a vibrant and persistent long finish. 2002 was an excellent vintage in Champagne. Disgorged in 2014 

Champagne Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs 1996 Le Mesnil-Sur Oger 100% Grand Cru made from 100% Chardonnay. Three parcels of vines from 40 to 70 years old yield the grapes to make this Champagne. Chalky soil. The dosage is 4 to 5g/L. The Champagne has hints of acacia, peach, pear, and fresh almonds with a hint of gingerbread and good minerality. The champagne is produced exclusively using the grapes from one harvest year and only during the finest years.

 CIME DI RAPE- Broccoli rabe, sausage and bufala mozzarella.

Champagne Krug Brut 1996-made from 48% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay and 21% Meunier. 1996 was one of the best vintages of the century. It was the last vintage blended by three generations of the Krug family working together. Coming from 17 different growths. The champagne has rich mature aromas, full ripe flavors and hints of fresh pear, ripe fruit, honey and gingerbread. Disgorged in 2007.

Champagne Krug Rose-the 21st Edition is a blend of 57 wines, dating from 2000 to 2008. Made from 51% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay and 8% Meunier. There is also 10% traditional Pinot Noir red wine from the House’s plot in Ay. The Champagne remains in the cellar for at least 7 years before release. This is a very subtle  Rosè Champagne with hints of roses, red currant, pink grapefruit and a touch of citrus. Disgorged in 2002.

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Good Wine Values


The wines listed below represent excellent values for the money. They range in price from $14 to $28.

Cötes-du –Rhone Rosè “Samorens” 2017 Ferraton Pere & Fils made from 75% Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. The vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Rhöne. Alluvial soils: limestone, sand, pebbles and clay. Fermentation takes place for 15 days at a controlled temperature of 15 and 19C. The wine matures in vats. The wine is fresh and liverly with hints strawberries and rasberries with good minerality. $15

Les Vignes Rosé Bila- Haut 2017 Pays D’Oc Michel Chapoutier  this is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $15

Urban Riesling 2017 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. This is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, juicy fruit and minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14

Cahors Malbec Prestige 2011 AOP Cahors Domaine du Théron 100% Malbec. Family owned and operated by Pelvillain Freres. The domaine was established in 1973 and is situated in the village of Prayssac in the valley of Lot. The soil is limestone and clay with cover grass planted between the rows. Grapes are harvested in the early morning, destemmed and lightly crushed. Maceration and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Afterward, the wines are racked to different stainless steel tanks where malolactic fermentation is completed. The wines are aged in barriques for about 12 months, 1/3 of which is new wood. The best barrels are selected and blended into the Cuvée Prestige, which is the top of the line, and aged another year in bottle before release. This is a big dark wine with hints of spice and chocolate and a touch of blueberries with a smooth yet powerful finish. $19

Côtes–du-Rhône “Samorëns Rough 2015   Ferraton Pere & Fils made from 85% Granache, 10% Syrah and 5% Cinsault. The vineyards are on the left bank of the Rhone and the soil is alluvial and gravely. Maceration is for about 15 days. The grapes are destemmed and vinification takes place in thermo-regulated cement vats. Color and tannins are extracted by punching down. Maceration lasts for about 15 days. They are biodynamic. The wine has hints of blackberries and blueberries with a touch of licorice and a hint of spice on the finish. $15

Crozes- Hermitage “La Madiniere” 2015 made from 100% Syrah Ferraton Pere & Fils. The soil is glacial alluvial deposits with a lot of rounded pebbles, stones and gravel in the district of Beaumont –Monteux. The grapes are destemmed and temperature controlled vinification takes place in vats. Extraction by punching down and pumping over. Maceration lasts about 20 days. Part of the wine is aged in oak barrels before it is bottled. This is an intense wine with hints of cherry, raspberry and black currants. $23

Domaine de Bila-Haut Cötes du Roussillon Villages “L’esquerda” 2016 made from Syrah, Grenache and Carignane from a vineyard site on the French –Spanish border. The grapes are vinified at low, even temperatures. The juice is fermented in cement vats and the must is pumped over the cap periodically to improve skin contact. After a maceration of 3 to 4 weeks, the wine is racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wine. Depending on the vintage, the wine is aged in large oak barrels but usually less than 10% of the wine receives this treatment. The wine is blended and aged before bottling.  This is a full bodied wine with hits of plums, dried raspberries, with spice and mineral notes. $28

Bila- Haut Occultum Lapidem 2015 Michael Chapoutier made from Syrah, Grenache and Carignane. The soil is granite and schist and the vines are 40 to 60 years old. Vinification takes place at a low even temperature. The juice is fermented in cement vats and the must cap is punched down periodically to improve skin contact. After a long maceration of 3 to 4 weeks, the wine is racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wine.

Depending on the vintage, the wine is aged in large oak barrels but usually less than half of the cuvee receives this treatment. The wine is then carefully blended and aged before bottling. This is an intense full-bodied wine with hints of spice, herbs, blackberries and plum. $26




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Discovering Argillae: Wine for Food

On the Hello Grappa press tour we visited the Bonollo Distillery, in Tuscany, to have a tour and then to taste their grappa.  After the tour of we were invited to lunch by Maria Carla Bonollo and her daughter Giulia Di Cosimo.

It was one on the few nice days and the view from the Piccola Trattoria Guastini in Torrita di Siena terrace was fantastic.

What we did not know but soon found out was that Giulia is involved with the Argillae Winery in Orvieto in Umbria and we were going to have her wines with lunch.

Giulia told us about the Argillae estate. Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, founder of the biggest Italian Distillery, Bonollo, Spa. Today the Argillae estate is managed by his granddaughter Giulia.


She said the estate covers an area of about 220 hectares between the hills of Allerone and Ficulle, northwest of the town of Orvieto. The soil is mostly clay, limestone and rocks but what makes it unique she said is that the area was once covered with water and it contains a lot of fossils such as seashells from the Pilocene period. These fossils enrich the soil with mineral components, which pass into the wine.

The terroir is mostly clay-calcareous and Giulia said this type of soil stays cooler than other soils and works well in hot regions like Umbria. The clayey part retains the water and this helps the grapes during the dry season, while the calcareous part drains well, avoiding diseases caused by stagnation and humidity. Argillae in Latin means clay.

They do everything they can to protect the environment; to her it is not a philosophy but a way of life.

The Wines

Tasting and drinking these wines was an unexpected pleasure. These are my kind of wines. All of the wines are vinified in stainless steel so that the natural aromas and flavors of the grape can be found in the wine. They are all excellent food wines and were perfect with the dishes we had for lunch.

Spumante Bianco Brut Metodo Charmat NV 100% Chardonnay from a careful selection of grapes from their own vineyards. The training system is guyot and there are 3,333 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place in August. The grapes undergo a brief maceration process and are lightly pressed. The must is vinified at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. The second fermentation is in autoclave (charmat method) and is followed by a few months refining on the lees to enhance its organoleptic properties. The wine remains in bottle for 3 to 4 months before release. This is an elegant wine with citrus notes, hints of peach and pineapple, good acidity and a long finish. Giulia spoke about how difficult it is to produce a Spumante and how, unlike other producers in the region, they produce it at the winery.

Tortino di Cipolla su Crema di Pecorino di Pienza — Our appetizer was a little onion tort on a bed of pecorino cheese sauce.

Umbria IGP Bianco 2017 made from 100% Grechetto The training system is guyot, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September. After a careful selection in the vineyards, cold maceration takes place. There is a brief pressing and the juice is racked and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks before the wine is bottled in February/March. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, a touch of jasmine, good acidity and what Giulia referred to as the typical almond finish.

Orvieto DOC  2016 made from Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc. The training system is Guyot. For the Grechetto and Procanico there are 4,ooo vines per hectare and for the others 3,333 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place in September. Each variety is vinified separately. The grapes are lightly pressed and the juice is racked and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on the lees until it is bottled in February/March. Giulia said she wished to pay homage to the regional tradition of Umbria by creating a fresh dry white wine with intense aromas of flowers, citrus and tropical fruit. The wine has nice mineral notes, good acidity and a refreshing finish.

Pici al Ragu Bianco di Chianina – Hand rolled spaghetti with a meat sauce made from the local Chianina beef.

Umbria Rosso IGT “ Sinuoso” 2017 means smooth or round. Made from 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Montepulicano. The soil is clay-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There are 3,333 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place in October. After destemming and crushing there are 15 days maceration with regular must pump-over on the skins. Both the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation are in stainless steel. The wine is subsequently fined for several months and is periodically racked with the addition of oxygen. The wine remains in bottle for 3/4 months before release. This is a fruity red wine with hints of cherry, black current and plum with a long finish.

Anatra al Fiori di Finocchio Selvatico con Sformatino di Zucchine — Roast duck with wild fennel served with baked zucchini

After lunch we went back to the Bonollo Distillery for a grappa tasting- it was a perfect afternoon.


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