Monthly Archives: September 2020

Return to Norma Gastronomia Siciliana

Norma Gastronomia Siciliana is one of our favorite restaurants, but because of the pandemic we had not been there in months.  We were really missing it and decided to go.  They have an outdoor sidewalk cafe area and a small garden in the back.  

For appetizers we had:

Arancini, Sicilian rice balls  filled  with  a meat  ragu  and  peas

Meatballs  topped  with  melted  cheese

Caponata,  Sicilian  style  eggplant  with  capers  and  olives  in  a sweet  and  sour  sauce.

Monte Grazie Rosso 2011 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has aging potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast a few years and it may be the best wine he has made so far!

Barolo 2001 “Brunate Marcarini made from 100% Nebbiolo from the Brunate cru zone, with a south, southwest exposure and the soil is classic calcareous clay with a high magnesium content. The vineyard is at 300 meters and the training system is freestanding espalier with guyot pruning. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel and concrete tanks for 5 /10 days. Selected yeasts are used. There is submerged cap Maceration that lasts up to 45 days. The wine is aged in 22HL to 45HL and which are 10 to 50 years old. Aging is for 24 months in oak and 6 months in steel and then 6 months in bottle before release. This was a classic Barolo showing just a touch of age with hints of black fruit, licorice, tar a touch of balsam and a note of tar.

Busiate Pasta al Pesto Trapanese – Spiral pasta with pesto Trapani style made with almonds, tomatoes, pecorino, garlic, basil and olive oil.

Pasta alla Norma–named  for  the  opera,  eggplant  cubes  are  fried  and  served  in  a tomato  sauce  with  ricotta  salata  cheese  and  shreds  of  fresh  basil.

For dessert, I had Affogato di Cafe, vanilla ice cream doused with hot espresso.

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Filed under Barolo

Grilling Outside-Eating Inside

Fall was approaching but there was still time for one more barbecue.  But the day turned chilly and we wound up eating indoors.

While the grill was heating, we ate crostini, one topped with mozzarella and anchovies and the other with Michele’s eggplant, pepper and tomato spread.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Fonte Canale” 2011 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from old vines from Tiberio. The vineyard is at 300 meters, there are 2,500 vines/hectare and the training system is the tendone (vines form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun). Harvest takes place the last week of September. Cold maceration on the skins lasts for 6 hours. Vinification takes place in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains in the bottle for a short period before release. This is a full bodied white wine with citrus aromas and flavors and a hint of herbs.

Barbera D’Asti “Vigna del Noce” 1997 Az. Agr. Trinchero made from 100% Barbera and the vines were planted in 1929. The soil is a mixture of clay and the exposure is southwest and the vineyard is at 250 meters. The training system is guyot. Traditional fermentation with natural yeasts lasted for 40 days. I believe the 1997 was aged for 5 years in 90 year old chestnut casks. The winery is strictly organic.  This is a full-bodied robust wine with hints of cherries, plum, and leather, balsamic touches and a note of smoke. This is a very impressive Barbera.


Hamburgers and three different types of sausages, sweet, spicy and chicken on the grill

Sausages ready to eat

Hamburgers in the bun

Spanna 1964 Castello di Montalbano Vallana  made from Nebbiolo 85% (local name Spanna). According to Wasserman  in his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, producers blended in a number different grapes, Vespolina and Bonarda for example, as well as Aglianico from Campania. The wine was drinking very well with red fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of rasperries and a touch of leather. For a wine from Novara-Vercelli area of northern Piedmont that is  56 years old to have the dark color that it did there had to be Aglianico in the blend. The wine was a pleasure to drink

Sliced tomatoes  and  red  onions  accompanied  the  meat.

And Sicilian style potato and green bean salad  with  capers,  olives,  red  onion, oregano  and  olive  oil.

We ended with an assortment of ice creams and biscotti.

The table

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Filed under Barbera d'Asti, Spanna, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo

A Late Summer Lunch

It had been several months since we had last seen our friends, wine and food writers  Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow,  so  we  were very  happy  to  accept  their  invitation  for  an  early  dinner/late  lunch  this  week.

To start, we had a pizza-like vegetable tart made with tomatoes, peppers and onions.  Diane said it was a Spanish recipe and it was a good way to make use of the late season vegetables available in the market. 

With it we had Champagne Boizel 2007 made from 40% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier.  3% of the wines were aged in oak casks. The wines were aged for 7 years on the lees. This is elegant Champagne with hints of apricot, biscuits, flowers, almonds and a touch of licorice.

For the first course we had  Ravioli  del  Plin,  a Piemontese  specialty.  The  name  means ravioli  with  a pinch  and  Tom  had  made  a delicious Piemontese-style  sauce  with  prosciutto,  mushrooms  and  a little  cream.

We drank Nebbiolo d’Alba 2017 Poderi Colla 100% Nebbiolo. The exposure is westerly and easterly and the vineyard is between 330 and 370 meters. The vines were planted in 1967, 1989 and 1999 and there are about 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is the 1st-10th October. Vinification is the same as above. Elevage is in Slavonian oak casks for about 12 months. This is a complex wine with hints of plum, red berries, dried roses and a touch of violet.

For the main course  we  had  an elegant Neapolita-style  saltimbocca.  Thin  slices  of  veal  were  topped  with  a thin slice of prosciutto, fresh  mozzarella  and  a light tomato  sauce  and  baked  until  the  cheese melted. 

We drank Taurasi “Radici” 1995 Mastroberadino made from 100% Aglianico The soil is poor in organic substances but has a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, and can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1995 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather.

A variety of cheeses brought the meal to a savory ending.

Wine Barolo 1990 Prunotto This wine was produced before Antinori purchased the winery (1994).  It was then owned by the legendary Beppe Colla and his brother Tino.  The 2017  Nebbiolo d’Asti listed above was produced at the winery Poderi Colla by Tino in whose capable hands the winery is in now. This is a very traditional Barolo with hints of red fruit, licorice, tar, coffee and a touch of rose petals. It was the favorite wine of the evening, but I  gave a slight edge to the Taurasi.

A seasonal dessert of spiced braised Italian plums topped with ice cream ended the meal.

Followed of course by an espresso and….

…one of my favorite Grappas “Capo di Stato”  from Loredan Gasparini made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

What a joy to spend an evening with good friends.


















Filed under Barolo, Boizel, Champagne, Grappa, Mastroberardino, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Poderi Colla, Prunotto Barolo Cannubi 1989, Taurasi, Uncategorized

Put Italian Spirits Into Your Life

One of my favorite daily rituals when I am in Italy is meeting friends at a cafe for an aperitivo, a drink before dinner.  An aperitivo can be any sort of beverage, but the best kind are made with Italian spirits.  While I often enjoy a Campari and Soda or an Aperol Spritz, I got to sample some creative combinations I had never tried before at a recent tasting at Il Gattopardo Restaurant.

We were greeted with a variety of aperitivi.

I started with the Negroni Lucano made from Lucano Amaro and Vermouth

Gianfranco Sorrentino and Antonino Laspina

Gianfranco Sorrentino, managing partner of Il Gattopardo Group and President of the Gruppo Italiano, introduced us to Antonino Laspina, Direttore ICE (Italian Trade Commission) New York Coordinatore Rete USA, who organized the event.

Daniela Porro of ICE pointed out  some of the many Italian Spirits

There were a number of small bites to go with the Aperitivo:

One of my all-time favorites at Il Gattopardo, the arancini, rice balls  flavored  with  veal  and  mushrooms.

Then  cucumber  slices  topped  with  a sea bass tartar.

Then  crisp  polenta  squares with  whipped  salt  cod

Fresh mozzarella and tomato bites

Toast  with  burrata  cheese  and  truffles

More Italian Spirits

While I enjoy starting with an aperitivo, after a meal, I often have a digestivo (digestive aid in Italian).   Typical digestivi include Grappa, Vodka and Vermouth; fruit based liqueurs such as Limoncello, Mitro and Maraschino; herb and spice based liqueurs such as Amaro, Rosolio and Sambuca; Nut based Liqueurs including Amaretto and Nocino, and various other liqueurs such as coffee flavored or egg based liquori all’uovo.  There are many more in each category and they can be sipped straight, in mixed drinks or simply on the rocks.


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Filed under Italian Spirits

Dinner by Lamp Light


A beautiful Saturday night was the perfect time for dinner with friends in their garden.  Since it is getting dark earlier now, the table was lit by a hurricane lamp which gave the setting a romantic glow.

The table

Monte Rossa Prima Cuvèe Brut 85% NV Pinot Chardonnay 10% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Blanc. Soft pressing of the best grapes with no more then 55% of the total yield. Partially fermented in steel tubs at a controlled temperature and partially fermented in oak barrels. The wine has strawberry aromas and flavors with an undertone of brioche which added depth to the wine.

The first course was a spectacular  souffle  made  with  corn,  red  peppers  and  jalapeno.

It  was  so  good,  we  all  asked  for  seconds.  

Next we had grilled swordfish, marinated with sesame oil and soy sauce.

To accompany the swordfish, we had Sancerre “Les Baronnes” 2017 Henri Bourgeois made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The soil is clay and limestone. The wine is fermented in thermo-regulated stainless steel tanks at 15 to 18 degrees C. The wine is aged on the lees at a cool temperature for 5 months before release. This is a crisp and fruity wine with citrus aromas and flavors with a touch of herbs, nice minerality, a long finish and pleasant aftertaste.

Grilled zucchini with herbs and fingerling potatoes  accompanied  the fish.

Swordfish, zucchini and potatoes on the plate

A nectarine and almond cake was our dessert.

With the cake, we had cinnamon ice cream, a recipe from Michele’s dessert book La Dolce Vita.










Filed under Monte Rossa, Sancerre

Lunch by a Tree

Living in NYC, we do not have an outdoor grill or an expansive garden so we appreciate it all the more when friends invite us over for an outdoor meal cooked on the grill.

Recently, we had lunch in a beautiful garden and my friend made one of my favorite meals.


While guests assembled, we started with sweet cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto, and bread sticks wrapped with mortadella and finocchiona salame. With this we had

Champagne Marguet Grand Cru “Shaman 15 Rose ” Dosage 0 g/liter. Bottled May 2015 made from 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay. The soil is chalk. The wine is fermented spontaneously. Fermentation and aging in new oak. The wine is unfined, no added sulphites and no temperature control. The wine is filtered. The winery is Organic/Biodynamic. Horses plough the soil. This is a full-bodied, complex Champagne with hints of yellow fruit and brioche.

Next was Michele’s smoked salmon dip with potato chips.

With the main course, we had grilled zucchini  sprinkled  with  herbs

and a simple salad of cherry tomatoes from a local New Jersey farm with herbs and olive oil.

Pigato 2008 Le Russeghine Riviera Ligure Di Pontente Az. Ag. Bruna made from 100% Pigato. The vineyard is at 230 meters with a southeast exposure. The soil is iron-rich red clay and the vines are 25 to 60 years old. The training system is guyot. Harvest takes place by hand in the second half of September. The grapes are soft pressed and the must is allowed to settle, and the fermentation begins and is capped of at 18C. Aging is stainless steel and large oak barrels (20 to 25% for at least 8 months on the lees and then in bottle until it is ready for release. The wine has hints of peach, citron and a touch of grapefruit. There is a note of almonds and citrus fruit in the aftertaste.

Cote-Rotie “Ampodium” 2017 Rene Rostaing made from 100% Syrah a blend of 13 sections of different vineyards but not from the best parcels. About 40% or more of the grapes are destemmed. Wild yeast fermentation takes place. The wine is aged in a mix of 225 liter and 500 liter oak barrels, 15/25% new. The wine is bottled without fining or filtering This is an elegant wine with hints of blackberries, blueberries and spice, floral notes and a touch of licorice.

Cote-Rotie “Cote Blonde” 2009 made from 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. The mineral laden soil has deposits of silex and mica on steep hills. The vines are 50 years and older. The grapes partially destemmed (35 /50%) and co-fermented. The rest are whole bunch fermented in stainless steel vats. Only 10% of new oak is used. This is a very impressive full bodied wine with hints of black cherry, raspberries, licorice, a touch of herbs and a hint of smoke

Our main course was rosemary marinated lamb skewers with bacon and bread.  This photo is of the skewers ready to grill. The recipe is from Marcella Hazan.

On the grill

Ready to serve.  The  bread  toasts  and  absorbs  the  smoky flavors  of  the  grilled lamb  juices  and  bacon.  

After the meats, we had an assortment of  aged cheeses from Bobalink, a New Jersey farm.




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Breakfast and Lunch Italian Style

When Michele and I are in Italy we tend to eat breakfast and lunch, but skip dinner. This way we can have a big breakfast, usually involving pastry, and later a long leisurely lunch so we can eat whatever we want.

We try to follow a similar plan at home, too.  

On a recent morning, we started with blueberries and strawberries with a touch of honey.

Followed by cappuccino,

with cornetti and ciambelle (donuts) from Pallazone Pasticceria of Wayne, New Jersey.

For lunch we opened a bottle of:

Monte di Grazia Rosso 20011 The wine is made from 90% Tintori di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintori di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has aging potential.


For lunch we had Italian cold cuts,  mortadella  with  pistachios,  porchetta,  prosciutto,  finocchiona  salame with  Sardinian  pecorino  and  green  Castelvetrano  olives.


We also had some warm bruschetta topped with burrata and anchovies, a combination that I first had in Rome.

Spanna Riserva 1967 Francoli the wine was mostly Nebbiolo (also know as Spanna in the Novara-Vercelli area of Piedmont) with some Vaspolina, or as Wasserman says  in his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, whatever other grapes they had handy. He also says that back then Aglianico from Campania was used to give the wine more body. The wine was showing some age but still had some fruit with balsamic notes. This is a wine that goes very well with food.


After the appetizers, we had my favorite pasta, Bucatini al’Amatriciana.  Though  my  dining  companions  said  they  would have preferred mezze  maniche shape pasta,  I was  very  happy  that  they  indulged  my  preference  for  bucatini.  It  was  excellent.

For dessert, there was espresso and two different Italian biscotti made by Michele

Today is a holiday in the U.S – Happy Labor Day and I wish I was spending the holiday in Naples/Rome


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