Tom Hyland, a friend and Chicago-based wine writer, was in NYC on business and we made a plan to meet for lunch. The last time I saw Tom was on a press trip to Campania a few years ago. Since Tom had an afternoon flight back to Chicago, I picked Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, one of my favorite Italian restaurants, which by chance is close to the Queens Midtown Tunnel and on the way to the airport. I also I invited Tom Maresca, a wine writer and mutual friend, to join us.
Tom Maresca and Tom Hyland finishing lunch. We had a great time talking about wine, food and the trips we were on together in Italy.
For starters, we shared Carpaccio di Polipo, octopus with fennel, orange and olives, Involtini alla Siciliana, thin sliced roast pork rolled around mozzarella and cured meats, and Caponata, sweet and sour eggplant with olives, celery and almonds served with crostini.
Aurora Bianco 2019 Etna Bianco Superiore I Vigneti di Salvo Foti. Made from 90% Carricante and 10% Minella. The soil is volcanic and sandy. The vines were planted in 2010 and 2015 and the exposure is east. Wine clusters are directly pressed and left to settle for 30 hours. Natural fermentation takes between 15 to 20 days and the wine remains on the lees for one year. There is a light filtration at bottling. This is a wine with hints of citrus fruit, lemon, peach and a touch of flint. It will be even better with a little age. Aurora means dawn in Italian but it is also the name of a butterfly on Etna that is in danger of extinction.
After the starters, we shared two pizzas. The first was a Pizza Margherita tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The pizzas at Norma are light and airy.
Passum Barbera d’Asti Superiore Current profile for the2016 made from 100% Barbera which comes from long established vineyards. The grapes are hand picked in the middle of October and rushed to the winery for semi-drying in special air conditioned, well-ventilated rooms. The duration of the drying depends on the vintage and varies from year to year. The oenologist frequently inspects the condition of the bunches and the sugar content of the grapes. The stalkless grapes are pressed and fermented in contact with the skins in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The addition of selected yeasts along with frequent remontages causes regular alcoholic fermentation over the course of 15 to 18 days. The wine is then racked and kept in ideal conditions for the completion of malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in French oak barriques (I do not think the 1985 was aged in barriques) and medium sized conventional vats for about a year and another 6 months or more in bottle before release.
The 1985 is a complex full-bodied wine with hints of dried plum, red fruit jam a very nice after taste and a very long finish. I was happy to see it has aged so well.
Our second pizza was a Pizza Mortadella topped with mozzarella, pistachio pesto, mortadella and stracciatella. An unusual combination, but one I enjoyed.
What a pleasure to get together with two old friends and enjoy a good lunch and wines once more. It’s something I plan to do often in the coming months.