Category Archives: Italian Restaurants

Baracchi Winery: Red, White and Sparkling

Tony di Dio of Tony di Dio Selections is the representative for a number of quality wine estates. It is always interesting to taste with him the wines from one of these estates. This time it was the Baracchi Estate located near Cortona in Tuscany, we tasted the wines with lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC.IMG_8061

Tony said that near the winery is the Relais Il Falconiere, part of the Relais & Chateaux which is operated  by the Baraccho family.

The Baracchi Estate is located on a hill overlooking the Valdichiana Valley. It covers about 60 hectares of which 22 are planted in vines. They are divided into small plots: San Martino where the winery is located, Gabbiano between Cortona and Montepulciano, and Montanare all of them at about 300 meters with a southern exposure.

Tony said that the agronomist Stefano Chioccioli, who is also the enologist, selected the best land for each variety. San Martino with sandy and well-drained soil for Sryah and Sangiovese. Gabbiano with its clay soil is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Montanare with soil composed of stones and lime for Merlot and Trebbiano. He said that here at the top on the edge of a forest he planted Pinot Noir, which might be their greatest challenge. IMG_7803

Trebbiano Methodo Classico Brut NV 2012  100% Trebbiano  The grapes are harvested early by hand. Fermentation takes place with skin contact for about 10 days at low temperatures. Maceration is for at least 12 months on selected yeasts. It has small bubbles, good acidity with floral hints and notes of apples, crusty bread and almonds. $19. I was very impressed with this wine for the price.IMG_7802

Sangiovese Rosè “Millesimato” 2012 100% Sangiovese. Metodo Classico with manual riddling. The wine is produced by the method of submerged cap maceration for a few hours and the fermentation continues with the cold techniques for a few hours more. This is to enhance the aromas and finesse of the wine.  The wine remains on the lees for 36 months. It has hints of cherry with notes of almonds and yeast. I have tasted Rosé made from Sangiovese but this is the first time I tasted a sparkling one.IMG_7811

Sangiovese Rosso “Smeriglio” 2012  Cortona DOC 100% Sangiovese comes from old vines of more than 20 years and a recently planted vineyard. The harvest begins the first week of October; a selection of the grapes had already been made at the end of July leaving only one kg of grapes per vine. The alcoholic fermentation with consequent skin maceration is done in stainless steel tanks for about 21 days, at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French barriques, half new, for 12 months, which also performs the malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and raspberries, with a touch of vanilla.IMG_7807

O’Lillo! 2010 Tuscana  IGT made from 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 23% Cabernet and 25% Sangiovese. The grapes are harvested and vinified separately. After a soft de-stemming the grapes are fermented in stainless steel thermo-controlled and kept in contact with the skins for 20 to 24 days depending on the variety. The wine is bottled after six months and is aged for another 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, wild berries with a touch of spice and pepper.IMG_7808

Ardito 2010 Toscana IGT made from 50% Cabernet and 50%Syrah. Harvest is by hand in mid-September for the Syrah and on October 10 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are vinified separately and after alcohol fermentation, part of which takes pace in oak barrels, the wine is placed in vertical temperature controlled tanks, continues fermentation for 21/22 days. The wines are blended and malolactic fermentation takes place in medium toasted French barriques: Allier, Nevers and Troncais) aging continues for 20 months. It remains a minimum of 9 months in the bottle before it is released. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of plums, licorice, coffee and chocolate.IMG_7809

Pinot Nero- 2012 Toscana IGT 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard approximately 500 meters. Tony pointed out that this is a Tuscan Pinot Noir and should not be confused with the Pinot of Burgundy or other areas. It has hints of cherry and strawberry and a hint of spice with a very long finish.

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Filed under Baracchi winery, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Eating and Drinking around Lake Garda

Lake Garda in Northern Italy is a favorite place to visit. Usually we stay on the western side but on a recent trip, Michele and I decided to stay in Bardolino, which is on the eastern side.

Sunset on Lake Garda

Sunset on Lake Garda

Bardolino is a very picturesque town right on the lake. We stayed in a hotel about a kilometer from the center and it was a lovely walk along the lake into town. There are many excellent restaurants in the area.IMG_5453

Enoteca con Cucina Il Giardino delle Esperidi This restaurant in the heart of Bardolino is a true gem. A friend and fellow wine writer, Tom Hyland, recommended it. There are about 700 labels on the wine list, both Italian and foreign, and a large selection of Champagne. The prices are very good.IMG_5446

When we arrived, Susanna Tezzon, who runs the front of the house and is in charge of the wines, greeted us. After speaking with Susanna, I ordered a bottle of Emidio Pepe 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo. The Emidio Pepe winery is both organic and biodynamic. The winery belongs to the Triple “A”– Agriculturists 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 winemaker in the winemaking process. In their vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic preparations. Only natural yeast is used which gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air. The grapes are crushed by hand. No sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25hl. The wine remains here for two years. The wine is then transferred to bottles by hand.IMG_5449

Susanna brought out a decanter and said it was a one made especially for organic wines. I had never heard of this before but the restaurant was busy and we were enjoying the food and wine so much that I did not ask any more about it.

Salami and Cultello

Salami and Culatello

The food could not have been better and we had a number of courses including Guinea Hen, Salami and Culatello

Locanda Sul Minico

Locanda Sul Minico

Antica Locanda sul Mincio in Borghetto Valeggio sul Mincio. This restaurant may be Michele’s favorite as far as location is concerned. The outdoor dining area is on the riverbank of the Mincio River and it overlooks the medieval village. The view is incomparable. The restaurant has more than just a picturesque setting, however, the food is also excellent.

Grilled Polenta with Fresh Salame

Grilled Polenta with Fresh Salame

Among the dishes we had were grilled polenta with fresh salame, ravioli filled with pear and ricotta and for a main course, roasted goat. IMG_5516

With our meal we drank a bottle of Valpolicella Superiore from Azienda Agricola Marion DOC. 10% Corvina Gentile, 60% Corvina Grossa, 20% Rondinella, 10% Teroldego and other varieties.The winery is in the foothills of the Marcellise Valley some 100 meters above sea level. The vineyards lie on gently sloping hills facing from north to south. The soil is chalk with a little clay and stones. The grapes are harvested between the first and second weeks of September and the first week of October. Part of the grapes are collected in boxes and then placed on wooden racks in well-ventilated rooms, where they are partially dried for approximately 40 days. A second part is left hanging on the vines until it reaches super-ripeness, to be harvested during the first ten days of October, and then pressed. After fermentation the wines obtained are aged separately in small oak barrels for about 30 months and lastly blended and bottled.   This is a wine with a lot of body and aromas and flavors of prunes and blackberries.

Taverna Kus di Zanolli Giancarlo This restaurant is in San Zeno di Montagna and there is a great view of Lake Garda below and Monte Baldo above. There is a garden dining area, a covered outdoor area, and an inside area.IMG_5475

We drank a 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella from one of the best producers of Soave Pieprone. In 1999 the Pieropan family purchased property in the Cellore d’Illasi zone in the Valpolicella and Amarone production zones. The wine is made from 60% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina, and 10% of old traditional Valpolicella varieties. The vineyard is 14 years old and is South facing at an altitude of 500 meters. There are 5,800 vines per hectare, the training system is guyot, pruned to 8 buds per vine. The grapes are hand picked in September and naturally dried. They are pressed and destemmed and the must is fermented for about 30 days during which time pumping over and punching down the cap takes place every day. Aging is in 500 liter barrels for 24/30 months and one year in bottle before release. This is an Amarone to drink with food. It has hints of blackberries, black cherries and plums. This is the first tine I have had this wine and I was very impressed by it.IMG_5479

We began our meal with plates of culatello accompanied by carrot mostarda, followed by a dish of artichokes baked with cheese, an unusual dish that we really enjoyed.

Ristorante Alla Borsa- this is a restaurant in center of the town of Valleggio sul Mincio. It used to be a trattoria where the merchants of the village met to conduct business. Because of this it was called Borsa, which means purse or stock exchange in Italian. The restaurant has a very nice outdoor garden where one can dine and view the old Scaligero castle.IMG_5459

We drank a Valpolicella Classico Superiore IGT 2010 “La Fabriseria” from Tedeschi. 35% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta. The wine is made from grapes that are used for their amarone but are fermented without drying. The grapes are harvested in October and are slightly overripe. The pressing is very soft so that some of the grapes remain whole with the stem. The must ferments in small fermenting vats. Alcoholic fermentation lasts for about ten days. Skin contact is for about 20 days and malolactic fermentation is quickly terminated in Slovenian oak barrels. The wine is aged one year in wood and six months in bottle before release. The wine had hints of prunes and cherries and a hint of vanilla.

Tortellini with Butternut Squash

Tortellini with Butternut Squash

The town of Valeggio sul Mincio and the Restaurant Alla Borsa are renowned for their excellent tortellini, so we had three varieties: cheese, butternut squash and meat filled.

 

 

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Filed under Antico Locanda sul Minico, Emidio Pepe, IL Giardino delle Esperidi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Lake Garda, Marion Valpolicella, Pieropan Amarone, Ristorante alla Borsa, Taverna Kus, Tedeschi

Donnachiara at The Leopard at des Artistes

Along with 6 other journalists I was invited by Ilaria Petitto to the Leopard at  des Artistes for a Donnachiara Campania Wine Workshop.  Ilaria is the 5th generation female to run the estate and is in charge of all operations.

Ilaria Petitto

Ilaria Petitto

The workshop was held in the restaurant’s cozy private dining room.  We tasted and drank the wines of Donnachiara and discussed the region of Campania and its wine.  We spoke about what people think when the hear Campania:  the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Pizza, Wine, etc., were cited.  It was the consensus that Campania produces the best white wine in Southern Italy and certainly has the most interesting white grape varieties. The importance of the Aglianico grape and Taurasi was also discussed.

Iliara then told us about the wines that she had chosen to match with the menu.

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Falanghina Beneventano Santè Brut IGT 100% Falanghina.  Ilaria said that the vineyard is in Torre Cuso, the best location to grow Falanghina.  The soil is volcanic chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of October.  Fermentation lasts for 40 days. Illaria referred to the production method used as the Martinotti method for sparkling wine (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Federico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s).  Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it was fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It was the perfect wine for the appetizers which were very much in the tradition of Campania.

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Falanghina Beneventano 2012 DOC 100% Falanghina the vineyard is the Torre Cuso, the best location for Falanghina. The soil is Volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 16 years old , the training system is guyot and there are 2,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed befor pressing. Cold fermentation is in stainless steel and there is extended maceration. This is a crisp white wine with citrius fruit amomas and flavors nice acidity and good minerality.

With the first two wines we had: crisp fried zeppole, potato croquettes known as panzerotti, miniature mozzarelle in carrozze and bite size pieces of torta Pasqualina, a spinach and ricotta pie.

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Greco di Tufo 2010 DOCG 100% Greco di Tufo The soil is tuffaceious and the training system is espallier. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place during the second week of October. Illaria said that the grapes come from highly rated vineyards. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing. Cold fermentation with extended maceration. No oak used. This is a wine that needs at least 5 or 6 years of bottle age  before it is ready to drink, she remarked. This was served with the Parmigiana di zucchine con scamorza e salsa al pomodoro and it was a perfect combination. The wine was just starting to come around, it has nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of smoke and a touch of almonds in the finish and aftertaste.

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Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2007. 100% Fiano.   The soil is chalky clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the 4 hectare vineyard is located at 600 meters.  Harvesting takes place during the second week of October. llaria said that 2007 was a very hot and dry vintage that produced a very concentrated wine with scents ranging from candied fruits to flora. She believes the aging potential of the wine is 15/20 years and I agree. This is a wine with good structure and body. There were floral notes, aromas and flavors of citrus fruits, good acidity and a hint of smoke. This was an excellent compliment to the Scialatielli ai frutti di mare, short strips of homemade pasta typical of Amalfi in a seafood and tomato sauce.

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Greco di Tufo IGT Ostinato Campania  2011 100% Greco. This single vineyard is 4 hectares and it is outside the DOCG zone in Venticano, Torre Le Nocella.  The soil is clay and limestone.  The age of the vines is 20 years, the training system is Guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. A late harvest takes place the first half of November. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing.  Fermentation is for 12 months 20% of which is in French barriques. The wine is naturally clarified and there is no refrigeration or filtration at bottling. The first time I drank this wine I had it with pasta and clams and it was a terrible combination. The label said Greco di Tufo, but it tasted like a dessert wine. At the workshop dinner, it was served with crostino di pane ciabatta con fegato grasso, toasted ciabatta bread with foie gras.  The combination was sensational, since like certain dessert wines, it goes well with foods like foie gras or cheese.

I told Ilaria that I found this wine to be very confusing since there is no indication on the bottle that it is a dessert wine.  She said that it is in a smaller bottle (500ml), the bottle is clear so you can see the darker color. I said that this should be clarified on the label for the sake of the consumer.

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It becomes even more confusing because of the next wine, the Esoterico Campania Fiano 2011 IGT 100% Fiano.  The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the age of the vines is 6 years, the training system is Guyot and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. Everything else is done just like the Greco except the final result is different. The wine is light in color and while it has more body  than the regular Fiano, it does not really taste like a dessert wine.   I would not drink it with fegato grasso.

Ilaria said that the Greco was darker in color and more like a dessert wine because of the nature of the Greco grape. In both cases it is not the wine I have a problem with, but the labeling, which needs to be clearer

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Taurasi DOCG 2007, 2008 and 2009. 100% Aglianico coming from the 20 hectare estate vineyard Torre le Nocelle. Ilaria said that all of Donnachiara’s red wines are made from grapes from this vineyard. The soil is volcanic, the vines are 30 years old, the training system is Guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is no filtration. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225-liter French barriques. I find these red wines to be more modern in style but not over the top and they all needed more time.IMG_4900

It was served with costata di manzo alla griglia con sale rosa cristalino dell’Himalaya e pandellate di Friarielli e patate, grilled rib eye steak with Himalayan pink salt, broccoli rabe and potatoes. The wine worked much better with the steak, which was so good that I ate the

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Filed under campania, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Fiano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Taurasi, The Leopard at Cafe des Artists

Wine and White Truffles at SD26 in NYC

This is the holiday season but it is also the season for white truffles. As the weather turns colder one can dream of Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo and il tartufo bianco of Alba on pasta, risotto and eggs. Sometimes the dream becomes a reality.  On Tuesday afternoon, a friend called and asked if I was free Thursday night.  When I said yes,  he invited me to join him and two friends for the white truffle gala dinner at SD26 in NYC.  Of course I accepted!

Beni di Batasiolo, a wine producer from Piedmont whose wines I know and like would supply the wines.  It promised to be a very memorable evening.

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Tony May Presenting Our Truffle

The main dining room was filled to capacity.  Tony May and his daughter Marisa May, the restaurant owners, graciously welcomed the guests.

The hors d’oeuvres were served at the table and included robiola cheese and mushrooms on toast, crostini with cured lard and anchovy (a favorite), and tartra Piemontese with crispy sage and paddlefish caviar on olive oil potato purèeIMG_4361

The wine was the Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Granee” DOCG 2012 100% Cortese. The vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity which made it go very well with all the hors d’oeuvres.

Our Truffle

Our Truffle

Each table of diners received a very large white truffle placed on the table with a truffle cutter. The truffle was ours to grate on the next three courses.  Tony May spoke about the truffles and showed us how to grate it.  Every one covered their dishes with the truffle, but it was so big that there was some left over and each of us took some home. Michele made pasta with the truffle the next evening.

Beef Crudo

Beef Crudo

The first course was Fassone beef crudo with fresh porcini and olio extra virgine novello served with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2011 “Bricco di Vergne,” 100% Dolcetto. The vineyard is located between the towns of La Morra and Barolo, on very steep slopes facing southwest at 480 meters. The soil has layers of sand and sandstone, which lightens the structure of the mainly marly soil. Grapes are harvested by hand around the last week in September. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place with maceration on the skins between 8 to 10 days. This is an elegant, well balanced fruity wine with a lot of red fruit and a hint of cherries that worked very well with this dish.

Truffles and an Egg

Truffles and an Egg

The menu said Sunchokes and Potato Gratin with young Fontina and chives, but what arrived was toast with melted Fontina topped with a poached egg.  The warmth of the egg brought out the aroma of the truffles we shaved on top.  It was wonderful–I just love truffles and eggs.

 We had this with the Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” 2011, 100% Barbera. The vineyards are in Barolo and La Morra at 400/450 meters, facing south and southwest in the area that is usually reserved for Nebbiolo.IMG_4363

It is calcareous soil rich in potassium and the vines are 55 years old. The excellent position and the age of the vines along with the soil makes it a Barbera with unique qualities that can age. The harvest took place on Oct 2nd. Alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins is in stainless steel tanks for 10/12 days. In the spring the wine is transferred into oak barrels (second passage) where it matures for 12/15 months. After careful sampling the wine is assembled into the final product. The wine remains in bottle for 8/10 months before release.  This is a Barbera with good structure, tannin, fruit and acidity and it will age.

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

The next course was the Toma Piemontese filled ravioli del plin, with toasted hazelnuts and sage, a classic  Piemontese dish.  This was a perfect combination with the Barbaresco DOCG 20010 made from 100% Nebbiolo. The area of production is the semi-circle of hills surrounding the three ancient villages of Barbaresco, Nieve and Treiso and part of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a tiny village overlooking the Tanaro River. Harvesting takes place from Oct 10 to 20.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place along with long maceration on the skins in stainless steel. The wine is aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. This is a very traditional Barbaresco and it was perfect with this dish.IMG_4364

Last but not least there was pan-seared saddle of venison, barbera wine infused pear, and foie gras. Two Barolo’s were served with this dish.  The Barolo DOCG “Vigneto Boscareto” 2003 made from 100% Nebbiolo in its subvarities: Michet, Lampia and Rosè from the village of Serralunga. The soil is marl composed of limestone and clay, intermingled with sand. The terrain is hilly and the vineyard faces south/southwest at 300 to 400 meters. There are 3,700 vines per hectare and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The training system is classic guyot modified with arch canes. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in October. There is traditional red wine fermentation with maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. After fermentation the wine is aged in traditional oak casks for at least two years and one year in bottle before release. 2003 was a very hot vintage but this wine was showing well. There were hints of ripe fruit, plums, spice, figs and tea.IMG_4366

Barolo “ Corda della Briccolina” 1996 100% Nebbiolo from the three sub varieties. The vineyard is facing southwest which in this area it is called a vigneto di mezzogiorno. The soil is calcareous marl rich in limestone and calcium carbonate. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place followed by 15 days of maceration then a decanting process. The wine is aged for at least two years in barriques and one year in bottle before release. 1996 was an excellent vintage for Barolo. This wine has aromas and flavors of red berries with hints of cedar, spice, licorice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_4367

For dessert there was a “Domori” Dark Chocolate Tortino and white truffle gelato. Moscato D’Asti “Bosc D’la Rei” 2012, made from100% Moscato Bianco accompanied the dessert. The grapes are grown in soil that is marly and calcareous and the terrain is hilly. The exposure is northwest, there are 3,500 plants per hectare and the vineyard is at 380 to 410 meters. Average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is guyot modified into small arches. Harvesting is by hand the last week of September. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place and the juice is cooled to 0°C. and stored in refrigerated vats. Fermentation (partially fermented with abundant residual sugar) begins a month before bottling. It is a very slow process and the alcohol reaches 5.5% by volume. This is an elegant aromatic dessert wine with hints of overripe fruit.

The Executive Chef at SD26 is Matteo Bergamini

The event and dinner exceeded my every expectation!

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Beni di Batasiolo, Dolcetto, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, SD 26, SD26, Tony May, Truffles

Roma SPQR

Rome in the spring is magical.  It is my favorite time to be there. Michele and I were spending a week in Sorrento and what better way to begin and end our travels than in Rome.

ROMA

ROMA

The days were becoming warmer and longer and just walking around the city and taking in the sites was a pleasure. Looking at the official seal of Rome, SPQR meaning ‘The Senate and the People of Rome,’  always reminds me that Rome was once the most important city in the world.  We sat in the outdoor cafes on sunny mornings enjoying cappuccino and cornetti and watching the world go by. At night we would stop for a Campari and soda or a Negroni at one of the roof garden bars watching the setting sun.  But as I have said before, I love the food in Rome and the highlights of the day for me are lunch and dinner.

Here are some favorite restaurants we went to on this trip. Some we have only been to a few times, others we have been going to for over 30 years.

all'Amatriciana

all’Amatriciana

The first time I went to Il Matriciano ( 39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55, was in 1981 and have been going back whenever I was in Rome, until two years ago.  On that trip, we sat outside and were disappointed in the service and the food.  The waiter wanted to serve us the antipasto, which included a slice of pizza, but I just wanted zucchini flowers.  He seemed to think he knew more than I about what I wanted and kept on suggesting dishes that were of no interest to me.  The menu has barely changed over the years and I always order the same things when I eat there.  It annoyed me and the experience was just not the same

We decided this year to give the restaurant another chance. On our way there, Michele said, “Let’s ask to sit inside because that is where all the Romans are.” When we arrived the owner offered us a table outside but we insisted on inside.  After moving a few tables around, we were seated. The restaurant filled up very quickly and Romans sat at every table inside.

Fragoline and Gelato

Fragoline and Gelato

Our waiter was very good considering it was a busy Sunday afternoon.  He only spoke to us in Italian which we preferred.  As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) to start. These were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella filling and more than a hint of anchovies.  I ordered the bucatini all’Amatriciana.  Along with one or two others, this is one of the classic Roman pastas. Some places serve it with rigatoni but it is not the same. Then I had abbacchio (baby lamb) roasted with potatoes. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin. For dessert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato. Michele loves fragoline and orders them every chance she gets.IMG_3159

The Barbera “Latina” 2007 from Cascina Castlet went very well with the pasta and the baby lamb. The restaurant had returned to form and produced the perfect traditional Roman meal. I was very happy.

Crostini

Crostini

Last year we went to restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Salita de Crescenzi, 3906 68880 3034, for the first time and liked it so much that we decided to go again this year.  Michele made a reservation on line and when we arrived in Rome we confirmed the reservation just to make sure. This is also a traditional Roman restaurant. We ordered crostini with truffles and quail egg, bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled lamb. Once again we had the fragoline with gelato for dessert.  Michele really likes the food here.IMG_3084

 The wine was the 2009 Montepulciano D’Abruzza, from Emidio Pepe.  At less than 40 euro, it was a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I expected. I should have asked them to decant the wine. Most of my experience with this wine has been with vintages that are 25 years and older.

Carbonara

Carbonara

Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. This is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and cheese. Michele likes the restaurant because it has the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome. It can also be very creative with items like the hamburger di bufala with grilled ham and a balsamic drizzle, and the burrata e alici. This time we both ordered the carbonara. Michele is right, it was terrific.IMG_3076

 The wine was the 2008 Cerasuolo (Rosè) 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro.

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. It was a chilly and cloudy afternoon in Rome as we made our way to the restaurant. We sat   inside in one of the small rooms that look onto the street.  I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci. The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. Michele had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Palatium- Enoteca Regionale Via Fattina 94   39-06-6920 2132. This is a restaurant run by the region of Lazio. All of the food is typical of the region. The wine is only from the region and a real bargain as most of them are between 10 and 14 euros. There is a very large selection. The restaurant was a few doors down from our hotel on the Via Frattina and as luck would have it we went there on the night that it rained. I had cacio e pepe which is a typical Roman dish and Michele had mozzarella in carrozza, a very large toasted sandwich.IMG_3197

We drank a bottle of Lazio I.G.P “Colle DE” Poggeri”  2011 from Cantina Stefanoni 100% Roscetto (Trebbiano Giallo). The harvest took place from 10 to 15 of October. Fermentation is on the skins for about 12 hours. The must fermentation is in wooden barrels for about two months. The color was yellow with golden reflections and the wine looked like it might have oxidized. This was not the case; it was fresh, soft and well balanced with good fruit aromas and flavors.  It is a bargain at 10 euros.

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Filed under Da Giggetto, Emidio Pepe, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Palatium-Entoca Regionale, Restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Restaurants Rome, Roman Restaurants, Roscetto, Roscioli, Valentini

Return to Sorrento

Michele and I have always been captivated by the scenery along the Amalfi Coast and especially the views from Sorrento. We decided to return to Sorrento again this year and rent an apartment with just such a view.

The view from our terrace

The view from our terrace

We found an apartment with a terrace and a fantastic view of Mount Vesuvius and the surrounding area. The cruise ships anchored right below the apartment, and at night so did the fireworks barge.  It looked like a private fireworks display just for us.  It was quite a sight!IMG_3101

The apartment did not have WiFi so we had breakfast in the morning and drinks at night at a cafè/bar called the Square and read our e-mail.  The first night in Sorrento we went for dinner to a restaurant called ReFood. There was a big display of fresh fish at the entrance that looked very appealing, though most of the tourists in the restaurant were eating steak.  Not a great idea.

Calamari

Calamari

We went for the fish and vegetable dishes which were very good.  I ordered an Etna Bianco Superiore 2006 Pietramarina from Benanti made from 100% Caracanti.IMG_3092

I had the grilled calamari and Michele had pasta with zucchini and cheese. Michele enjoys the zucchini in Italy because the variety they grow is less watery and has more flavor than the kind grown here.

One of the reasons we like to visit Sorrento is that it is easy to take the bus or the local train to visit surrounding towns and we don’t need to rent a car. One of our favorite places to go is to Restaurant Lo Stuzzchino, a scenic half hour bus ride from Sorrento in the town of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi.

The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio who is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was calling an order into the kitchen we would hear him holler “Mamma”.  It is a true family restaurant.IMG_3103

Last time we were there he introduced me to a wine made from the Caprettone grape from the area around Mount Vesuvius.  I really liked this wine and asked if he still had any. He said he had a wine made from this grape but from a different producer. So he brought over a bottle of the 2011 Caprettone from Casa Barone.

Ravioli

Ravioli

The food at Lo Stuzzichino is excellent. I ordered the ravioli again. There were six, two filled with cows milk ricotta, two from sheep and two from goat. Each pair had its own special sauce. Michele had pasta with potatoes and provolone cheese, a typical dish of the region, which she really enjoyed.

Antico Francischiello Restaurant is about 20 minutes by bus from Sorrento. It is a lovely restaurant with a great view of Capri and excellent traditional food so we returned again this year.

Antipasto

Antipasto

There was a group of Japanese tourists in the restaurant when we arrived that were having a very good time eating ravioli followed by whole fish roasted in a salt crust.  After lunch most of them ordered tea, which was served in teapots, and there were the small traditional teacups for them to drink from. The interior of the restaurant in very elegant and it is the only restaurant in the Sorrento area to be honored as one of the Historic Restaurants of Italy.

We started with a vegetable antipasto, which we had enjoyed the last time we were here, and it was just as we remembered it. The dish that was our favorite was home made pasta with artichokes and squid, something we have never had before.IMG_3142

They have a nice wine list but they were out of a number of things because they were waiting for a delivery. The owner recommended a Fiano di Avellino “Ventidui” 2011 from Villa Araiano and it was a good choice.

We also returned to Torre del Saraceno, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. The tasting menu that we ordered was 125 Euros a person but there were ten courses. My favorite course was the risotto topped with crispy seaweed.  It is a very elegant restaurant and the service is excellent. The chef Gennaro Esposito travels a lot, and in March we saw him outside SD26 in NYC where he was doing a special dinner.IMG_3132

The wine I ordered was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2006 Villa Bucci. 100% Verdicchio from vines which are 40 or 50 years old. This is a great white wine that I do not drink or write about often enough. It is aged for at least 1-1/2 years in Slavonian oak casks of 50 and 70 HL, very unusual for a white wine, plus in bottle for one year before release. It is very complex and elegant with hints of hazelnuts and honey and a touch of spice.IMG_3150

In Sorrento on the last day we returned to Restaurant Basilica. We sat outside in a corner table in the shade. I started with marinated white anchovies followed by pasta with scampi and tomatoes. Michele ordered mozzarella di bufala and said it was excellent. It looked so good that I had to order it, too.  It was delicious.IMG_3148

They had the 2004 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini, 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is one of my favorite white wines and it was about $55, less than retail in NY so I had to drink it. The waiter could not get the cork out of the bottle so he had to push it in.  Then he decanted the wine so there was no way to chill it.  We drank it at room temperature and I enjoyed it so much that I will never chill this wine again.

 

 

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Filed under anchovies, Antica Francischiello, Basilica restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Restaurant REfood, Sorrento, Torre del Saraceno, Villa Bucci

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn


When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived

IMG_2794

Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.

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Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore