Category Archives: Amalifi Coast

Champagne, Wine and Ravioli with Truffles

Our friends Ernie and Louise De Salvo invited us to their home for a special lunch featuring the season’s first white truffles. Their grandson Steven De Salvo, who is a terrific cook, would be assisting in the kitchen. I knew that Ernie would choose just the right wines to complement the meal.img_1845

We started with the Champagne Gosset “Celebris” Vintage Extra Brut 2002 made from 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot from Grand Cru grapes. This is complex Champagne with tiny bubbles, floral aromas and citrus fruits aromas and flavors, a hint of lime and a touch of vanilla. 2002 was an excellent vintage for Champagne.img_1838

We had this with dates stuffed with foie gras, nuts and Parmesan cheese wafers.img_1846

Barolo Bussia “Dardi Le Rose” 1995 Poderi Colla made from 100% Nebbiolo from the hamlet of Dardi in Bussia Soprana di Monforte. It was the first to be vinified separately by Beppe Colla in 1961 and identified on the label. The vineyard has a south/southwest exposure and is at 300 to 350 meters. The vines were planted in 1970 and 1985 and there are about 4,000 vines per hectare. It is aged in oak casks for 24 to 28 months. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of red berries, tar, liquorice and tea. This is a classic Barolo.img_1848

Stephen prepared delicate ravioli in a brown sauce stuffed with duck breast.img_1843

Ernie showered the ravioli with white truffles. The combination was exquisite!img_1854

Barolo Monfortino Riserva 1997 Giacomo Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. Another classic Barolo with hints of tar, tea, leather, red berries and faded roses.img_1851

With this we had Ernie’s interpretation of a classic Osso Buco served on whipped potatoes.img_1858

A 375 bottle of Sauterne Chateau Doisy-Véderines 2001.Made from 80% Semillon,15% Sauvignon and 5% Muscadelle. Fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats for a week and then the must is transferred to barriques for about 20 months. This is a full-bodied Sauterne with hints of apricot, orange blossom and a touch of honey and marmalade. It is a dessert wine that will age.img_1856

With it we had a rich Italian style cheesecake.

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Filed under Champagne, Chateau Doisy- Verderines, French Wine, Giacomo Conterno, Gosset Celebris Champagne, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Poderi Colla, Sauterne, Sauterne

Unique Red Grapes From Campania

Campania has a few unique red grapes that are not very well known. Along with the white wines of Campania that I tasted last week at SD26 in NYC with Franco Bengazi and Marco Melzi from the Wine Emporium, there were three red wines.   One of them I discovered when I went to visit the winery in Tramonti, high above the Amalfi Coast. Another, also from Tramonti, I first tasted at a restaurant nearby and the third I discovered many years ago when I was in Naples and needed a red wine to drink with pizza.IMG_2652

The wines

Cantina Federiciane Montelone di Napoli Gragnano DOC Sorrento Peninsula 2010, made from Piedirossa and Sciascinoso. Fermentation with selected yeast takes place in temperature controlled autoclaves.  This is a fizzy red wine that when poured has a lot of foam that quickly disappears in the glass. It is fruity with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of raspberries and strawberries, and easy to drink. In Naples they often drink sparkling beverages with pizza and Gragnano goes very well with pizza margarita. Marco said it is the authentic companion to all Neapolitan street food. $16

Sciascinoso, also know as Olivella, is used as a blending grape. The clusters and berries are large and it is a late ripener. I do not believe that I have ever tasted a wine made from 100% Sciascinoso.IMG_2654
Az. Agr. Apicella Colli di Salerno Piedirosso IGT 2011, made from 85% Piedirosso from ungrafted vines and 15% other red grapes. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the training system is mostly pergola. Harvest takes place the third week of October. The stalks are removed and the grapes are pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 10 to 12 days. Piedirosso is used mostly as a blending grape.  (It is one of the grapes in the blend for Lacryma Chrisit del Vesuvio.) It is difficult to find wine made from 100% Piedirosso but worth the effort.
The wine has fresh red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of black pepper and spice a long finish and nice after taste. The wine should be drunk young. It goes extremely well with dishes made with tomato sauce. It is a steal at $15

The Brasciole at SD26

The Brasciole at SD26

“The name (Piedirosso) translates as “red foot” and the grape is also known as Palombina or Pre’e Palummo meaning respectively little dove and dove’s foot in dialect, the latter because of its red-colored triple-branched stem like a three-taloned bird’s foot”, according to Nicholas Belfage in Brunello to Zibibbo.

Piedirosso is an ancient black skinned grape that does well in volcanic soil. It may be identical to the Colombina, the grape that Pliny the Elder d.79AD mentions in his Natural History.

Az. Agr. Monte de Grazie Biological Winery Rosso 2008IMG_2657
The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti gowns 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 ageing potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast last year and it may be the best wine he has made so far! $28.



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Filed under Amalifi Coast, Az. Agr. Apicella, campania, Cantina Federiciane, Gragnano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Monte de Grazie Winery, Naples, Piedirosso, Pizza and Wine, Sciascinoso, Sparkling wine, Tintore di Tramonti

Costiera Amalfitana: Praiano-Amalfi-Cetara

Describing the views in Praiano is just about impossible. No matter where you are — from our rented house, the piazza in front of the church, our favorite Bar del Sole and the restaurants and hotels, you can see Capri in the distance and nearby Positano.  The hotels San Pietro and Tritone are visible and built into the cliffside overhanging the water. At night the sun sets on the mountain behind Positano. And of course there is the sea.

The first and last restaurant we always go to in Praiano is La Brace, a local trattoria.  We first discovered it in 1983.  Like just about everything in the town, the restaurant is up a flight of stairs.  This was the beginning of my “Alici Period.”  Alici, for the uninitiated, is another word for acciughe, or anchovies.  These were fresh caught, not preserved, and have a rich flavor that is quite different from the kind in tins.

Spaghetti con Alici

I had spaghetti con alici and tomato followed by perfectly fried alici which were so good I almost ordered more.  Instead I ate some of Michele’s.  We drank Falanghina del Sannio 2011 from Cantina Taburno and on the second visit Greco di Tufo 2010 from Mastroberardino.  We also had fried alici on the second visit. Michlele ordered octopus (polpo) salad- she would order it often in different preparations on the trip. She also had the spaghetti with zucchini, a local specialty.

La Taverna del Leone

This may have become our new favorite restaurant. It is outside Positano and we decided to walk.  The road offers  great views that you do not see from the bus or a car and you can stop and admire them.  However it is over 2km, there are no sidewalks and the road is narrow, and most of it is uphill.  We took the bus back and both ways the second time we went.

Chitarrine Amatriciana

Michele had the insalata polpo, octopus salad here also, followed by ravioli with baccala.  I saw on the menu chitarrine amatriciana with smoked guanciale from Sauris, a town in Friuli renowned for its smoked meats, and fish.  I just had to order it.  Michele explained that chitarrine are homemade spaghetti made on a device known as a chitarra, which uses guitar-like strings to cut the pasta.  This version was better than the amatriciana I have eaten in most places in Rome.  In fact it was so good I ordered it the second time that we ate here, along with the baccala in tempura batter.  Light and puffy, this was a great main course.

Both times we ate at La Taverna del Leone, we had the same wine Pompeiano Bianco IGTKarà “ 2010 100% Catalanesca from Societa Agricola Cantine Olivella.Cannoli

For dessert we had the cannoli filled with bufala ricotta.  They were so good; I ordered them both times, too.

Lido Azzurro is a very nice restaurant on the water overlooking the port in Amalfi.

Alici Fritti

We sat outside and I ordered the alici fritti con ripiene di provola fume, fresh anchovies stuffed with smoked mozzarella, spaghetti alle vongole, with clams, and scampi e gamberoni sulla griglia, grilled shrimp and langoustines. We drank the 2008 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I should have had them decant the wine, as it was still too young.

Ristorante al Convento

Alici Fritti

Is located in Cetara, a beach town just outside Salerno.  It is famous for its alici!  The restaurant has a nice outside terrace overlooking a small square with the town rising in the background. The menu features alici in a number of different preparations. I started with a misto of alici, followed by pasta puttanesca di alici and then alici fritti con cipolla. Michele’s first two courses were alici but she said basta alici and for the main course and had seppie arrosta.  I ordered a sparking Falanghina but they did not have it so I ordered Biancolella Ischia DOC 2011 Made from 85% Biancolella and 15% Forastera, San Lunardo and Uva Rilla Casa D’Ambra.

We liked the alici so much that we stopped in a store and brought 2 jars to take home.

Trattoria dei Cartari is a very unpretentious restaurant in Amalfi. We had eaten here before but this time it looked a little run down. All of the customers were tourists ordering pizza with beer or with cappuccino.  We almost did not go in. When the waiter came over to take our order he almost did not understand what we wanted. He kept on making suggestions and he could not believe that we knew what we wanted and were ordering a full meal. When he realized this he took away the paper napkins and utensils and replaced them with cloth napkins and better utensils!Alici

I started with fried alici, moved on to pasta with seafood, grilled langoustine, and for dessert a lemon cake topped with pine nuts. The wine was Falanghina “Serrocielo” 2011 from Feudi di San Gregorio.

La Caravella

This is a Michelin one star restaurant located just after the entrance to Amalfi. We have been here a number of times The and the same waiter is always there. It is an elegant restaurant with perfect service. We always order the tasting menu

There were many courses, but highlights included a tiny fried alici stuffed with provolain an anchovy and basil sauce.  Michele said she could have eaten 5 or 6 of those.

Pasta with two sauces

Squid ink ravioli with lobster filling, and pasta with 2 sauces, one spicy and the other with seafood also stood out.  As a palate cleanser, they served a creamy lemon sorbet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  The wine was Verdicchio Classico Riserva 2000 100% Verdicchio Bucci. This is a great wine!



Filed under acciughe, Alici, Amalifi Coast, Amatriciana, anchovies, Cetara, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, La Taverna del Leone- Positano, Praiano, Restaurant La Brace- Praiano, Restaurant La Caranella- Amalfi, Restaurant Lido Azzurro-Amalfi, Ristorante al Convento-Cetara, Trattoria dei Cartari- Amalfi

Eating and Drinking Along the Costiera Amalfitana

Our first stop on the Costiera Amalfitana was Sorrento. Michele wanted to stay in Sorrento because there were a number of restaurants that she wanted to go to that could be reached by bus or by the Circumvesuviana, the train that goes from Sorrento to Naples.

Ricotta Ravioli

Before heading into the countryside, we tried a few restaurants in Sorrento.  Walking down the steps to the restaurants Il Buco di Giuseppe Aversa you notice the little platforms or terraces on different levels where you can dine. Since it was a nice night we decided to have dinner outdoors on one of the terraces.

The waiter spoke English and told us that during the winter months he worked in Florida. He gave us the English menu but we told him we wanted the Italian one since we did not understand the description of the dishes in English!

The food was a combination of traditional and innovative based on local ingredients. Two dishes that stood out: ricotta ravioli with a hint of lemon on a bed of escarole with an octopus ragu. The other was paccheri di Gragnano, large tubes of dried pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella and escarole.  Michele loved the tomato and fennel breadsticks, the escarole bread and the focaccia.

Paccheri di Gragano

They have an extensive wine list and we drank the  Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore DOCG 2008 from Benanti made from 100% Carracanti.

Restaurant La Basilica is a traditional style restaurant with a very good wine list. The dishes that stood out where the octopus in tomato sauce, the fried fish mixed grill and the grilled langoustine-some of the best I have had in Italy.

We drank the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2004 100% Trebbiano from Eduardo Valentini. It was 50 Euros, which is less than retail in NYC. The outside tables are on either side of a narrow street so there are always people walking past you. This can add to the charm as can the guitar player and singer, who was very good.

The Franco

Da Franco Pizzeria was recommended to us for pizza.  I ordered a Pizza Margarita, which was not very good. Michele ordered the Saltimbocca Franco- a sandwich made from pizza dough stuffed with melted mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto, and rughetta. It was terrific. We went back again and this time both of us ordered the Da Franco- Michele really liked it!

Our first trip out of town was to restaurant Antico Franceschiello in Messa Lubrense.  The bus ride to the town was only 20 minutes but when we were on our way there we were not sure if the restaurant was in the town of out of town. When we arrived in town we went to the tourist office and were told that the restaurant was almost 2kl in the direction of Sorrento and there would not be another bus for some time. It was a nice day so we decided to walk.

In the restaurant we sat at a corner table overlooking a lemon orchard with a fabulous view of Vesuvius and Capri.

The wine we drank was a Bianco Terra del Volturio IGP 2010 called 3-tre, punto trentatre 33(3.33). It is 100% Pellagrello Bianco and the producer is Tenuta Pezza Pane.  3.33 refers to the bushel, the ancient unit of measurement used in agriculture in the province of Caserta corresponding to 3.33 sq. ft.

We liked everything here especially the pasta with squid ink, the roasted peppers with eggplant filling–Michele said it was just like her grand mother’s only lighter–and the octopus with marinated artichokes.

One of the restaurants she wanted to go to was Lo Stuzzichino in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi about a 30-minute ride by bus. We knew this restaurant was in the town and it was easy to locate.

The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio and he is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was shouting an order to the kitchen he would holler “Mamma”.  It is a true family restaurant.


One of the dishes that stood out was the ravioli, some were made with cows milk ricotta and others with sheep milk ricotta and it was easy to tell the difference. The last course was a fillet of pezzogna and it just about knocked me over. It was the best fish fillet that I have had in years.

He suggested a Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2011 from  Vadiaperti. It was a full-bodied wine but it needed more time and did not open up until the end of the meal.

After lunch Mimmo and I had a long conversation about the wines of the area. He asked me if I have ever had wine made from the Caprettone or Catalanesca grapes and said they were cultivated in the heart of Mount Vesuvio. When I said that I hadn’t, he gave me a bottle of wine from Società Agricola Cantine Olivella. It was a Vesuvio Bianco DOC 2011 and it is made from the Caprettone grape. The name of the wine is Emblema.

I had never heard of either the winery or the grape variety.

Back in Sorrento I tried the wine again and I liked it. In a wine store I found another wine made from the Catalanesca grape from the same producer and it was only 9 Euros. More on these wines in another article.

Michele wanted to go to restaurant Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense. We had met the chef, Gennaro Esposito, in NYC when he was doing a demonstration and we liked the food. This time we called the restaurant and they told us to get off the circumversuviana the stop before Vico Equense and they would drive us down to the restaurant, which is on the beach.

The Pasta

This is a charming modern restaurant with excellent service and a great wine list. Michele liked the Pellagrello Bianco from Tenuta Pezza Paneso much that we ordered it again.

Fried Anchovies

We left the menu up to the chef and what followed was a wonderful 12-course lunch. Some of the dishes were: paccheri with fried anchovies on a sweet and sour onion sauce, scabbard fish alla parmigiana, pea soup with one ricotta dumpling, a lemon raviolo and with raw shrimp and lightly cooked calamari, and his famous fish soup with 10 pastas which we had in NYC.  The highlight of this great meal might have been the grilled monkfish and foie gras with lettuce, celery leaves and lemon cream sauce. The wine that they served with this course was a sweet wine the Muffato della Sala Umbria IGT 2007 from Marchesi Antinori made from 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Grechetto, Traminer and Riesling.

When I complimented the sommelier on the pairing he gave me two official looking papers to sign stating that I liked the combination! There were a number of desserts including a chocolate mold with mandarin and ricotta filling. To top it all off there was a chocolate cart with many different kinds of chocolate to try.

It was a fitting end to our stay in Sorrento and we were looked forward to our stay in Praiano, which is between Positano and Amalfi.



Filed under Amalifi Coast, Da Franco Pizzeria- Sorrento, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Restaurant Antico Franceschiello, Restaurant Il Buco- Sorrento, Restaurant La Basilica- Sorrento, Restaurant Torre del Saracino- Vico Equense, Sorrento