Category Archives: Barbara

Norma “Hell’s Kitchen”

A second location of Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, one of my favorite restaurants, recently opened on Ninth Avenue in the neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen, near the Theater District.  Since Michele and I live on the east side and the original Norma restaurant is in walking distance from our apartment, we tend to go there. But Salvatore Fraterrigo, known as Toto‘, who is the chef and owner, urged us to come to the new location.  Last week we went for lunch and were very happy that we did.   

IMG_5326We were meeting a friend and arrived early so we had cocktails.  Norma in Hell’s Kitchen has a full bar and is larger than the original Norma.


Michele had an Aperol Spritz, made with prosecco, Aperol, soda, and a slice of orange while I had a Campari and soda with orange.

The three of us shared an assortment of different dishes.

3A9D917F-A4B1-416F-B386-ADF512DF5C43_1_105_cCaponata con crostini – a sweet and savory combination of eggplant, celery, green olives, capers, onions, and tomato, served with seasoned bread crostini.  With our starters, we drank:


Monleale 2001 Vigneti Massa made from Barbera (Piedmont). The vineyards are at 300 meters and the soil is rich in limestone. The grapes are harvested in the last week of September. Maceration is for 10 days followed by fermentation with indigenous yeasts.  It is bottled without filtration. The wine has hints of cherry, balsamic notes and a touch of chocolate.  It was beginning to show its age.

D80A9C44-1D6D-4E85-8390-08E55236E08D_1_105_cArancine Ragu – saffron rice ball with Bolognese meat sauce filling with green peas, served over tomato sauce.

C0C519DE-D8A7-4500-A135-1D39AE5E53BB_1_105_cFritto Misto di Mare —  made with shrimp, calamari and zucchini perfectly fried in a light coating is only available at the Hell’s Kitchen location.

E070F576-2FF3-45B5-AD82-3FC1BF8BB8B0_1_105_cSeafood Couscous — This is a specialty of Chef Toto’.  He imports a special type of semolina flour, from which he makes his own couscous by hand.  The seafood, including shrimp, calamari, fish and mussels, cooks in a rich broth flavored with a hint of sweet spices.  This is a fantastic dish perfect for anyone who enjoys seafood and we scooped up every last bit.  It is new on the menu at the Hell’s Kitchen location.


Chianti Classico Riserva 2004 DOCGRancia” Berardenga-Fèlsina made from 100% Sangiovese from Vigneto Rancia located in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga northwest of Siena and in the southern part of the Chianti Classico zone. The vineyard is at 400 meters with a southern exposure and is 2.4 acres. The training system is simple guyot. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed and then fermented at 28-30 degrees C with automatic daily punch downs followed by 12-15 days maceration. At the end of fermentation the wine goes into small and medium oak barrels in March-April for 12 to 18 months. The lots are blended and bottled with 6 -10 months aging before release. The wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, plum, and spice with a note of licorice and a touch of violet. This wine was showing no signs of age.

CEFE7D77-CE3D-4B30-8E09-3903B5F71114_1_105_cWe also shared the Cabbucci Porchetta — a round of flatbread filled with roasted porchetta, arugula, provolone cheese, and spicy mayo.  There are cabbucci with several different kinds of filling on the menu at both Norma’s.

The desserts, which all seemed excellent, will have to wait for our next visit.

For after lunch or dinner there is Amari, Grappa and Liquori

Norma Hell’s Kitchen

801 9th ave.

NY, NY 10019




Filed under Barbara, Chianti Classico, Felsina. Berardenga, Norma

Welcoming Spring

Spring has arrived in New York so we decided to have a few friends over for dinner to celebrate.


IMG_4664Champagne Andre Clouet “Cuvèe “1911” Grand Cru Brut NV made from100% Pinot Noir – 50% from 2002, 25% from 1995 and 25% from 1997. The estate vineyards surround the village of Bouzy where the soil is chalk and clay. The farming method is conventional. Fermentation is in stainless steel and natural barrels. Malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged for 6 years on the lees. This is a complex Champagne with citrus aromas and flavors, a touch of peach and a note of brioche.


With the Champagne, we had smoked trout mousse on toasts.  



Barbera d’Asti 2007 Tenuta Cisa Asinari Del Marchese Di Gresy made from 100% Barbera. The vineyard is located in Cassine at 230 to 240 meters and the soil is clay. The farm is practicing organic and the vines are 17 years old. The training system is guyot. Alcoholic fermentation takes place followed by malolactic fermentation. The skins macerate for 8 to 10 days with regular pumping over. Farina fissile and micro filtration takes place during bottling. The wine is aged in second and third passage barriques and in Slavonian oak casks for 5 to 6 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, blackberries, a touch of licorice and a note of spice with good acidity.


IMG_4633Homemade Ricotta and Basil Gnocchi in tomato sauce from Michele’s book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.


IMG_4669Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2004 “Beradenga”Felsina made from 100% Sangiovese located in Castelnuovo Berardenga with mostly southern exposure between 320 and 420 meters (the soil here is rock quartz and calcareous alberese mixed with alluvial pebbles. The vineyards are on different slopes. There are about 5,400 vines per hectare. The training system is bilateral cordon and simple guyot with a maximum of 5 to 8 buds per vine. Harvest is staged due to different altitudes of the vineyards, the first three weeks of October. The clusters are de-stemmed and pressed and the must is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Programmed punch downs and daily pumpovers take place. In March/April the wine goes into medium sized Slavonian oak barrels and French barriques of second and third passage. After 12/16 months of aging the final blend is assembled. The wine remains is glass for 2 to 6 months. The wine has notes of red and black berries with a touch of spice and mineral tones. It was drinking very nicely.


IMG_4635Potato Gatto’, a recipe from Michele’s book, 1,000 Italian Recipes

It had been some time since Michele had made this and we all couldn’t stop eating it.  It’s a classic Neapolitan recipe from her family and it’s made with potatoes mashed with Parmigiano Reggiano, mozzarella, and salami.  

IMG_4637Leg of Lamb  roasted with garlic, rosemary and anchovy was our main course.  


IMG_4639In the dish


IMG_4670Barolo Riserva 1967 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural wine making methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo with hints of red fruit, tar, tobacco, violets, cedar and a touch of balsam.


IMG_4641A few Italian cheeses to finish the wine.  

IMG_4643For dessert, a friend brought a very good version of Pastiera, aka Pizza Gran, a Neapolitan style cheesecake cooked with grain and flavored with orange and cinnamon from his local pastry shop.

IMG_4645On the plate


Filed under Barbara, Barbera d'Asti, Barolo, Borgogno, Chianti Classico Gran Selectione, Di Gresy, Barnera d'Asti, Felsina. Berardenga

Norma — Return to Sicily in New York

All we can do right now is dream about going to Italy, however, we can still go to restaurants in NYC where the food makes you feel as if you are there.IMG_4705 2

One of these restaurants is Norma Gastronomia Siciliana for real Sicilian food. It was a nice day so we sat in the backyard garden. With the overhead heater on  to chase away any lingering chill, it was very comfortable.IMG_4685

Panelle – Fried chickpea fritters with aglio olio sauce

IMG_4684Caponata – Sweet and sour eggplant, celery, green olives, capers, onions and tomatoes served with crostini

IMG_4683Foccacia — The warm focaccia is irresistible with Caponata.

IMG_4686Timballo di melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant parmigiana timbale with mozzarella ane Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, basil and tomato sauce

IMG_4687Arancine “Ragu” — Fried saffron rice balls stuffed with Bolognese meat sauce, green peas served over tomato sauce.

IMG_4693Pasta alla Norma- Paccheri from Gragnano with fresh tomato and garlic sauce, basil, eggplant, pecorino and ricotta salata cheese.

IMG_4691Pasta con Sarde in Timballo – Spaghetti alla chitarra “Setaro”, fresh Portuguese sardines, wild fennel, pine nuts, and saffron baked in mold.  There is an unbaked version of pasta con sarde on the menu as well.  Both are excellent.

IMG_4689 2Porchetta Sandwich — Roasted porchetta, arugula, provolone cheese, spicy mayo

IMG_4690Pizza alla Norma — Pizza topped with eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta salata

IMG_4688Barbera d’ Asti “Vigna Noce” 1999 Antica Azienda Agricola Trinchero.  Made from 100% Barbera.  The winery belongs to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir and as little interference as possible by the wine maker. Only natural yeast is used, there is no acidification of the wine, clarification and filtration does not take place. Chemical treatments are not used in the vineyards; copper and sulfur are used but only when it is really necessary. The wine is aged for 7 years in large chestnut barrels. This is a traditional, classic Barbera that will last for at least another 10 years. I was very impressed with this wine.

We shared two desserts.

IMG_4694Pistachio Tartufo  — Pistachio gelato filled with caramel and rolled in Sicilian pistachios.


Cannoli — These miniature cannoli are filled to order so the crust remains crisp.  The filling is ricotta and chocolate chips and the ends are sprinkled with more Sicilian pistachios.


Filed under Barbara, Barbera, Barbera d'Asti, Trinchero

Best Pizza Since Naples

A friend raved about the homemade pizza made in his backyard pizza oven,  claiming  that  it  was  as  good  as  I could  find  in  many  pizzerias.  I was skeptical, but I said, bring it on.  I would love to try it.

Our friend’s daughter-in-law made the dough and wrapped it neatly in individual pizza size portions.  She told me that she made it with Italian 00 flour which gives a tender crust.  

The pizza oven is something called a Roccbox.  It uses propane gas and gets up to a temperature of 900 degrees F.

Our friend’s son Jason made the pizzas.  We started with focaccia,  topped with sliced fresh garlic and fresh thyme.

Dough ready for the topping

Homemade tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella on top ready to bake.

Pizza in the oven.  The oven is so hot that the pizzas cooked in just a minute or two.

The baked Margherita with a few leaves of fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.  Pizza this good deserves a good wine.

Barbera d’Alba 2015 Pre-Phylloxera DOC Cogno made from 100% Barbra Vitis Vinifera. The vineyard is 0,25 hectares at 520 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare.The sandy chalky terrain is a natural protection from philoxera. The training system is vertically trellised with guyot pruning. Harvest takes place the beginning of October. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over. The wine is aged for 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and a note of ripe cherry with a touch of prune and spice. This is a big wine for a Barbera and it will age.

The next pizza was topped with garlic sauteed escarole, Italian pork sausage and mozzarella.  

The finished pizza was a masterpiece.

Barbaresco 1979 Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo from various vineyards in the DOCG zone. The soil is limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins. Vinification in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. There is 30 days of skin contact and pumping over 2 to 3 times a day. The wine is aged for two years i large oak barrels. The wine has hints of black raspberries, cherries, leather, tea and a hint of spice. It was showing very well. Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy.

White pizza with anchovies satisfied my craving for anchovies.

Margherita topped with prosciutto and arugula.  The prosciutto and arugula are added after the pie is baked and removed from the oven.  The heat of the pizza wilts them.  Outstanding!

Sausage  and  mozzarella  pizza.  All of  the  pizzas  were  excellent.  Rather  than exaggerating  how  good  they  were,  our  friend  had  understated  them   It  was  like  being  in Naples

Barolo Riserva 1967 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural wine making methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo.

Dessert was a blueberry pound cake with ice cream and locally grown black raspberries.


Filed under Barbara, Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Borgogno, Cogno, Pizza, Pizza and Wine, Produttori del Barbaresco

At Home with Michele and Charles

Just like everyone else, Michele and I are trying to make the best of being confined to home, which in our case is a small apartment.  For us that means we are doing a lot of reading, tv watching, household projects and of course, eating and drinking.  Luckily, we had done a big shopping trip when we returned home from Italy and stocked up on some of our favorite Italian ingredients.  I keep a supply of wines on hand, so whatever Michele decides to cook, or is able to cook with what she finds in the pantry or refrigerator, I can match a wine to it.  With a good supply of pasta on hand, there is always something good to look forward to.


One day it was one of Michele’s childhood favorites.  Broken spaghetti with peas, eggs and cheese.  She uses frozen peas for this dish, and they are perfectly delicious, sweet and fresh tasting.



Beneventano Falaghina ‘”Resilienza “2018 Donna Chiara made from 100% Falanghina  The soil is chalky and the training system is guyot. Harvest is the first two weeks of October. There is a soft  pressing of the grapes and then they are cooled  50 degrees F for 4 to 5 hours. This is followed a with static decantations.  Fermentation is at 57 to 60 degrees F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has floral notes with hints of citrus fruit, pear and apricot with good acidity and a long finish. I am always impressed by the Falaghina from Donna Chiara.



Another day, she tried a recipe from one of Marcella Hazan’s books.  It was spaghetti with bacon and zucchini.  It doesn’t look that interesting in the photos, but we liked it.



I was craving tomato sauce, so Michele made a simple one with olive oil, garlic, canned Italian tomatoes, and some basil that she had in the freezer.  It will have to do until we can get some fresh basil or plant some when the weather is better.


The only time we have pasta leftover is when Michele makes a double batch so that she can fry it the next day.  She mixes the cold pasta — any kind will do — with eggs and grated cheese and fries it in a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet until crispy and browned.  This was made with the remains of the spaghetti with zucchini and bacon.




Here we have spaghetti once again, with broccoli cooked until very soft with garlic olive oil and hot pepper.  Mashed with a little of the pasta water, it  makes  a kind  of  pesto  to  toss  with  the  pasta.

Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Pietro”  Sandro De Bruno made from 100% Garganega from the hills around Roncà, at 330 meters. The soil is volcanic, there are 4,000 vines per hectare, the training system is Pergoletta Veronese and the exposure is south. Fermentation is in big oak barrels of 30hl. This is a well-structured, complex wine with hints of tropical fruit,  citrus fruit white pepper and a floral note with a very pleasing after taste and a long finish. A great Soave.


This spaghetti was tossed with fresh scallops, garlic, parsley and hot pepper.  She finished it with some toasted breadcrumbs.

Barbera d’Alba” Bricco di Merli” 2001 Cogno  made from 100% Barbara from a 1.8 hectare vineyard at 300 meters, There are 4,500 plants per hectare and the training system is vertical trellised with guyot pruning. Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over. The wine is aged for six months in large Slavonian casks and  6 months in bottle before release. This is the fourth bottle of this wine I have had and it is showing very well for a wine 19 years old. Barbara can age. It has hints of dried prunes and cherries with a hint of spice.


Fresh fettuccine is the preferred pasta for a slow simmered Ragu Bolognese, made with pork, beef and a variety of vegetables.  But  we  had  it  with  dried penne rigati.

Montefalco Rosso 2016 Bocale made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangiovese, 10 % Merlot and 5% Colorino.  Harvest is by hand the last days of September and the first days of October.  Vinification is with natural enzymes and there is no stabilization or filtration. The wine is aged in barrels and barriques for 12 months. The  wine has hints of violets and cherry with spicy notes

One day, a homemade pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella was a nice break from pasta.  It was even good reheated the next day.


A bunch of fresh asparagus was the inspiration for this creamy risotto.


Michele fried the remainder into cakes the next day, similar to the fried spaghetti I mentioned previously.

With so much bad news, good meals are a joy and a comfort.  We hope you are eating and drinking well too.



Filed under Barbara, Barbera, Bocale, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Michele and Charles, Montefalco Rosso, Uncategorized