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Drinking and Eating with Daniele Cernilli (Doctor Wine)

Michele and I spent a few days in Rome before going on a grappa press tour with “Hello Grappa” along with our friend, wine writer and grappa lover, Tom Maresca.

I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in Rome — Checchino dal 1887 — and Tom agreed. We invited Daniele Cernilli (Checchino is his favorite restaurant) and his wife Marina Thompson.

Daniele Cernilli

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, and Marina have been friends for many years. We have tasted a lot of wine together both here and in Rome. Daniele is true Roman, a Romano de Roma as the expression goes. He is one of the most important men in Italian wine and has been a wine critic for many years. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and for 24 years was the editor of Gambero Rosso-Slow Food Wine Guide. Daniele was the inventor of the now famous “Three Glasses” classification for Italian wines. Currently, he has is own web-magazine called “Doctor Wine” www.doctorwine.it. There are two versions, one English and the other Italian, and it covers both Italian and European wines. I read it regularly.

Checchino is a family run restaurant with Francesco Mariani on the floor and his brother Elio in the kitchen.  When we arrived at the restaurant, Francesco welcomed us as always.

Checchino has one of the best wine lists in Rome and Francesco is always ready to talk about his wines.  After we selected the wines Daniele presented Tom and I with copies of his Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019.

THE WINES

Le Vignole–Bianco del Lazio 2012 IGT Colle Picchioni made from Malvasia, Sauvignon and Trebbiano. Maceration is on the skins and the wine is aged in French barriques. The winery is located in Marino a short distance from Rome.  The wine remains  on the lees for some time and has  a slightly golden color. Tom said it reminded him of a Rhone white wine and I agreed.

Stilema 2015 Mastroberadino made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. 10% of the wine is fermented in barriques. This is Daniele’s description of the wine in his book: “Typical notes of flint, then fresh almonds, wild herbs, elegant and extremely clear aromas. Agile and savory taste dominated by a magical freshness that gives elegance and drinkability to the wine. Smooth and long persistence. Great Wine.”

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1982Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wine wAS aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1982 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as the 1983 I had the last time we were here.

Barolo 2010 DOCG Pio Cesare made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes are from family owned vineyards in Serralunga, Grinzane Cavour, La Mora and Barolo. Vinification is in stainless steel and skin contact and maceration is between 25 to 30 days. The wine spends 3 years in large oak barrels. Daniele said I would like the wine because it was very traditional in style and he was right.

After lunch, Daniele invited Tom and I to meet him at his favorite wine bar Il Goccetto that night to taste some wine.  Here is what we drank:

Franciacorta Brut NV Mosnel Metodo Classico made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Noir.  From the following vintages:  70% 2012, 20% 2011 and 10% 2010.   30% was fermented in wood and the wine was on the lees for 40 months. Dosage, Brut 3.5 g/l and disgorged in Jul 2016. The wine had nice fruit with hints of white flower and peach.

Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige DOC Terlan made from 100% Pinot Bianco from vineyards at 500 to 900 meters, with a south, southwest exposure. The soil is sandy porphyric gravel. The grapes are hand harvested and a gentle pressing of the whole cluster and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation takes place. Slow fermentation at a controlled temperature is in big oak barrels of 30HL. Malolactic fermentation follows and the wine ages on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The wine has hints of wild flowers, pear and honey with a touch of almonds and hazelnuts.

It is always interesting to taste and drink wine with Daniele because he comes up with wines and producers which I have not had before. The 3 whites and the Brut were all new for me.

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Corte Dei Papi & Argillae: Father and Daughter Wineries

On the Hello, Grappa press tour in May, Michele and I visited the Bonollo Distillery in Torrita di Sienai inTuscany. Bonollo is a very large operation and the Bonollo family own distilleries in other parts of Italy.  In Italy it is against the law to produce distilled spirits and wine on the same property. So Bonollo not only makes grappa under its own label but also for some of the best producers in Tuscany such as Castello Banfi.

At the distillery we were greeted by Maria Carla Bonollo and her daughter Giulia di Cosimo.

Giulia

After a tour of the distillery we had lunch with Giulia Di Cosimo, and her mother At lunch Giulia offered us wines from Argillae Winery, also owned by her family.

Giulia told us about the Argillae estate.  Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, founder of the biggest Italian Distillery, Bonollo, Spa. Today his granddaughter Giulia manages the Argillae estate.

I liked the wines and Michele and I visited the Argillae wine, which is in Umbria in May.

Giulia said she would be in NYC in September because her importer Vias was doing a tasting event. She said that the wines of Corte Dei Papi owned by the Di Cosimo family and managed by her father Antonio would be there. We told her we would see her in NYC for the tasting.

At the Vias event we met Giulia and she introduced us to her father

Antonio

Antonio spoke about the Corte Dei Papi (Court of the Popes) Winery.

The Winery is located between the towns of Paliano and Angani, in the heart of the

Cesanese del Piglio DOCG zone. in Lazio. The state covers almost 190 hectares with 25 hectares planted with vines: Cesanese d’ Affile(localCesanese), Passerina, Malvasia Puntinata, Mavlvasia di Candia , Trebbiano and Sauvignon Blanc.

All of the grapes are harvested by hand and vinified immediately.

He said they were inspired by the symbolism and the accuracy of the floor of the Cathedral of Anagani constructed by the Cosmati a Roman family of artists who became famous for the beauty of the mosaics in the 12th century.

The Wines of Corte Dei Papi

Passerina Del Frusinate IGP 20017 made from 85% Passerina. and 15% Viognier. The vines were planted in 2008. There are 3,500 vines per hectare, at 300 meters and the training system is spurred cordon. The soil is red clay from mountain erosion and volcanic layers. Soft pressing takes place at controlled temperatures. Fermentation lasts from 18to 25 days at 17degreesC with constant remourage. The wine is then stored in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 1Degree C. for 6 months and I month in bottle before release. This is a fresh dry white wine with fruity aromas and flavors and hints of citrus, apple and good acidity..

Colle Tricchio DOCG 2016 made from Cesanese Affile and Cesanese Comune with vineyards located in the municipality of Anagni at 300 meters. The vines were planted in 2005, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature., maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. The wine remains in stainless steel for 3months and in bottle for 1 month before release. This is an easy drinking red wine with hints of red fruit and a touch of cherry, plum and violet. The name comes from the Italian word for sparrow; legend has it that a sparrow would only eat the grapes from the Passerina vines.

San Magno DOCG 2015 made from 100% Cesanese del Piglio from selected vineyards in the municipality of Anagni. The wine is vinified at 25 to 26 degrees C and there is frequent pumping over to obtain optimal extraction of color and aromas. With the wine still in contact with the skins, a post fermentation hot maceration is carried out. After malolactic fermentation the wine ages for 16 to 18 months in barriques before being bottled. This is a well structured wine with nice red fruit aromas, hints o f cherry, spice and floral notes. It is a wine that will age.

We told Giulia we would be in Rome in February and she invited us to come to Anagni, visited the Cathedral and the winery.

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Dinner at Home with Friends

Michele and I have decided to have more dinners at home and invite friends to join us. This weekend, we invited old friends, wine writer Tom Maresca and food writer Diane Darrow. Tom said he was bringing a “surprise“ red wine and was sure that I would like it.

We started with Champagne.

Champagne Deutz Rose NV () made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It has hints of red berries, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of cherry.

For a light starter, we had bites of sweet honeydew melon wrapped in prosciutto, plus olives and Sicilian almonds.

 Monte di Grazia Rosso 2009 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!

Our first course was Penne with Zucchini, a recipe from Tommaso Verdillo of Tommaso’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. It is made with a fresh tomato sauce, zucchini, prosciutto and pecorino romano cheese. I liked it so much, I ate three servings.

Taurasi Radici 2000 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino 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, the wine 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 1998 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.

Our second course was assorted grilled sausages: cheese and parsley, sweet Italian and goat chorizo, with a mixed tomato salad and potatoes fried with sweet peppers.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 Dave Caparone – I first discovered the wines of Caparone a few months ago when Tom Maresca organized a tasting of their Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico from the 2014 and 1996 vintage. Tom wrote to the winery about the 1974 and  Marco Caparone asked his father Dave and this was the reply.

“In 1973  decided to make wine.  For 6 years I was an amateur winemaker working at home.  During this period, I tried to learn as much as possible and I developed ideas about style and method that we still use today.  The 1974 Cab was a product of those efforts.  Of course, these amateur wines did not have the packaging format of commercial wines.  That wine was bottled in 1976 and has not been recorked. 

Beginning in the late 1960s there were new plantings of wine grapes in California’s central coast region (Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties).  these plantings were in places that wine grapes had never been grown before.  Most of the people involved had little or no experience in grape growing or premium wine making.  Needless to say there was considerable concern at the time about the eventual outcome of these efforts and the market for wines from such a new region.  As you can see from the ’74 Cab, they need not have worried.  Tepusquet Vineyards was one such planting.  I believe 1974 was only their second harvest.  My first commercial wine in 1979 was also from Tepusquet grapes.  The vineyard was later purchased by Robert Mondavi and is located about 12 miles East of the city of Santa Maria.”  .  We are beginning harvest (Zinfandel came in yesterday) and so far everything looks very good.  This will be my dad’s 45th harvest.”

This is a lovely well balanced wine, showing no signs of age with very nice dark fruit and hints of eucalyptus and a touch of bell pepper. 1974 was a classic vintage in California and this may be the best example it was my pleasure to drink. Tom can surprise me with wine like this any time/

.

The  1974 Cabernet Sauvignon, this was the surprise. Tom said it was sent to him from the Caparone winery as a gift with other wines he ordered.

Tom was right, I really liked the wine. With the Cabernet Sauvignon we had two cheeses a soft and aromatic taleggio and a wedge of pecorino Toscano. This last is one of the most misunderstood cheeses I know. It’s a perfect cheese for eating and cooking, full of flavor and has none of the sharp saltiness associated with other pecorino cheeses.

For dessert Michele made Grappa Brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. These were dark and fudgy and not too sweet. She served them with raspberries and vanilla ice cream, but their flavor was so good, they could really stand alone. A glass of grappa was a perfect complement.

Grappa La Trentina “Tradizional” – Grappa Giovane  -Marzaddo Distillery– This is traditional grappa at its best.

 

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Sandro to Dino

Dino Tantawi is the CEO and founder of Vignaioli Selections, an importer and distributor of fine Italian and Austrian wines. I know Dino for many years and have a lot of respect for his wine knowledge and portfolio.

One day, I was having lunch at Tarallucci and Vino in New York City with Elisa Bosco of PR Vino, and Sandro Tasoniero  from the Sandro De Bruno winery near Verona when I spotted Dino across the room. I introduced him to Elisa and Sandro and told him how much I liked Sandro’s wines, especially his Soave. Dino mentioned that he was missing a Soave in his line and so I invited him to taste Sandro’s wines. Dino said he liked them and would be in touch with Sandro. The next time he was in Italy, he visited the winery and spoke to him about bringing his wines to the United States.

Elisa, Sandro and I enjoyed our lunch and Sandro told me about his winery.

The winery is located in Pergola di Montecchia di Crosara just outside of Verona and the vineyards are in Montecchia di Crosara and Terrossa, where there are 12 hectares of vines at 600 meters on Mount Calvarina, a dormant volcano. The soil is lava, enriched with minerals.

Monte Calvarina is an area with a unique and ideal microclimate with a range of temperatures between night and day. Good rainfall, daily sun exposure, constant ventilation and perfect drainage.

Sandro said they always apply the principles of sustainable and integrated agriculture in the winery and try to create a natural balance without interfering with nature. No chemical products are used and this also goes for the weeding. It is the perfect combination between organic and conventional farming.

These are the wines we had that day.

Soave Doc “Scaligeri” made from 100% Garganega from small plots of land located on the slopes of Monte Calvarina. The vineyard is at 4,000 meters and the average age of the vineyards is 20 years. The training system is Pergoletta Veronese and the exposure is south. The soil is volcanic. There is manual harvesting using crates, grape sorting, de-stemming, grape selection, then a slow crushing of the grapes and pressing with nitrogen saturation. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel. This is a wine with hints of pear, figs, and almonds with good minerality.

Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Pietro” 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, white pepper and vanilla. This soave can age, I tasted a few bottles from older vintages and I was impressed with all of them. Sandro said all of the wines remain in the cellar for at least one year before release. This is why the wines age so well, even the whites. Sandro makes some of the best Soave I have ever tasted.

Pinot Nero “Nero Fumo” IGt Veneto made from 100% Pinot Noir from Monte Calvarina at 580 meters. There are 7,000 vines per hectare, the training system is guyot and the exposure is south. The soil is volcanic with basaltic rocks. The name Nero Fumo, black smokeis the typical color of the basaltic rock in the vineyards. There is a manual harvest using crates the third week September. There is a grape selection, de–stemming and a selection of berries. Fermentation is in conic vats and the must is punched down for 30 days. This is a fruity and full-bodied wine with hints of red berries and spice.

Lessini Durello DOC Metodo Classico “Durello” made from 85% Durello and 15% Pinot Bianco. From Monte Calvarina at 600 meters. The soil is volcanic, there are 4,000 plants per hectare, the average age of the vines is 30 years, the training system is Pergoletta Veronese and the exposure is south. Fermentation takes place in 30hl oak barrels for the Pinot Bianco and stainless steel for the Durello. The wine remains on the lees for 36 months. This is a wine with nice bubbles and hints of white flowers and citrus fruit and a mineral undertone.

A few days ago I was informed that Dino is now bringing in Sandro’s wines, and they will soon be available in New York City and other parts of the United States. I was very happy to be the matchmaker for this fine importer and a maker of wines I really like.

 

 

 

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The Perfect Summer Lunch

Michele and I were trying to decide where to go for lunch with our friends Tom and Donna when Donna invited us to join them for lunch in their beautiful garden since it was going to be a beautiful day. Tom and Donna have a brownstone in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. Donna is an excellent cook and Tom has a good wine cellar. We gladly accepted the invitation.

The first course was figs, which I love, with prosciutto.  The figs were ripe and sweet and the prosciutto freshly sliced.  It’s always a great combination.

Their were also French breakfast radishes to eat plain or with coarse salt and sweet butter.

We  had Champagne  Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV  Made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has tiny bubbles and a fruity delicate freshness. It has become one of my favorite champagnes.

For the main course, we had a Nicoise salad.  The fresh tuna steak was cooked to perfection, charred on the out side and pink on the inside.

On the side there potatoes, eggs, olives string beans and tomatoes.

With the steak we had Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco 1999.   Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy. It has roots going back to 1894 when there were 19 members, but the co-op as we now know it dates from 1958.  Today there are 52 members. Over the years, a few members have left the co-op to go out on their own. The wine is aged for two years in large oak barrels. It has hints of cherries, plums and faded roses with a touch of leather it was a perfect combination with the tuna steak.

For dessert we had homemade strawberry and blueberry ices with raspberries and a splash of grappa.  It was an idyllic summer afternoon with good wines and old friends.

 

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Pecorino Toscano and Winery Beer

J63 Tasting Beer and Pecorino Toscano DOP

Recently Michele was invited on a press trip to Tuscany for Pecorino Toscano DOP and I went along.  Pecorino is produced from sheep’s milk and it comes in many varieties.  We had an opportunity to visit several producers and learn about the production.

One of the cheese producers we visited was Caseificio Busti located near Pisa. It is a very large operation and includes a retail store and a restaurant.

To accompany the cheeses, we were scheduled to taste some locally made beers made by a winery.  One of the beers actually contained a small percentage of wine.

After touring the Busti facility and seeing how the cheeses are made, aged and stored, we headed to the cantina for lunch.  We tried at least a dozen different types of pecorino Toscano, including fresh cheeses, aged cheeses, and flavored cheeses and everything in between.

The beer is produced by the 500-hectare Torre a Cenaia Antica Tenuta  in the municipality of Crespina Lorenzana in the Val Tora at the foot of the hills of Pisa not far from Pisa and Livorno.  During the tasting we met Ester Filippone, the export manger for Torre A Cenaia, and she told us about the beer known as J63.

The J63 Craft Agricultural Brewery is in a country house in the village of the Torre a Cenaia estate. It is brewed from barley grown in the fields of the estate so the raw materials are right there. The beer is not pasteurized or filtered. The Estate is a member of the COBI-Italian Cosortium of Producers of Beer and Barley. The mark Birragricola issued by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture is on the back label of every bottle.

Julia

The beer is named for Julia, a martyr, and later a saint in Livorno. At some point, her body was stolen from Corsica and brought to Brescia. In 763 her body reached Torre a Cenaia where it stopped for one night.

The #63 is the house number of the Brewery, Julia arrived in 763 and in 1463 Luca Pitti, ancestor of Count Robert Pitti of Cenaia, was appointed Captain of commons and acquired in his coat of arms the Red Cross which today distinguishes the brand and the products of Torre a Cenaia. So the beer is called J63.

Ester said J63 production is inspired by the Belgian style whch captures the specific character from the use of our territory and the ideas of the brewmaster Lucca Briganti

 

Pecorino Toscano DOP

 

JIPA Birra Agricola Toscano– style Pilsner made from Water, barley, malt, hops-Premiant(CK) Saaz(CK), Strisselspait (FR) and yeast which is low fermented. The color is straw yellow and slightly hazy. The foam is white, fine, compact and very persistent. The alcohol is 5%. The beer has grassy and delicate malty notes with hints of honey and green apple.

JLIPS Birra Agricola Toscana con mosto di Vermentino made from water, barley malt, wheat flakes, hop yeast (Top fermentation) and Vermentino grape must 5%  Style Italian Grape Ale. The Vermentino must is added fresh while boiling. Vermentino grapes are grown on the estate. The color is golden yellow and the foam is fine, compact and persistent. It has fresh floral notes with hints of white fruit and grape aromas and nice minerality and a light taste of malt. The Alcohol is 6%. This was my favorite — the addition of  Vermentino  made it very mellow. 

It  goes very well with aged Pecorino Toscano 

 

 Jrubra Birra Agriciola Toscana made from water barley, hop (American Pale Ale for hops) malt (Doppeblock for malts, yeast- low fermentation. The color is orange with red highlights and slightly hazy. The foam is fine, abundant and persistent. Alcohol is 7.5%. There are herbal aromas, malted notes with fruits in alcohol, and dried fruit flavors.

Pecorino Toscano

One of the cheeses was aged in fine straw which gave it a grassy quality.

Meditation Beer


JBlack made from water, barley, malt, coco beans, hop and top fermentation- Belgian abbey yeast. The style is Belgian Dubbel The color is very dark, clear with fine abundent and persistent foam- Esther described it as the color of a monk’s frock. Alcohol is 8%. The beer has toasted notes, licorice, coco and fruits in alcohol. Esther said most of the flavors are produced by selected Belgian yeast. Esther said this is an important mediation beer perfect for long winter evenings and with a good cigar. This was the heaviest of the beers. This beer goes very well with sharp  cheeses.

Pecorino Toscano cheeses are full of flavor and range from mild to sharp.  They are quite different from the salty pecorino cheeses used in other parts of Italy for grating.  They are excellent with wines, and this was the first time I had them with beer.  It was  very interesting and enjoyable experience.

 

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Pizza in the Shadow of Vesuvius

When Michele and I were in Rome last month we took the fast train to Naples one day to visit our friend, journalist Marina Alaimo.  Marina drove us to Cantine Matrone in the Vesuvius National Park to meet Andrea Matrone, the owner/wine maker.

After our visit to the vineyards, we were anxious to taste Andrea’s wines, so Marina, knowing our passion for Neapolitan pizza, took us to Sakura Piscine Magma Pizzeria in nearby Torre del Greco.

The pizzeria is part of a hotel complex with a large swimming pool popular with tourists and locals alike. It was a warm afternoon and we sat at a table overlooking the pool. Ciro di Giovanni, the owner and his wife Nicoletta joined us.

He told us that his pizzas are made with local ingredients.

Ciro suggested we try the Sakura Cocktail, a specialty of the house. It was a tasty combination of San Marzano tomato sauce, vodka and ginger beer, garnished with fresh basil.

As always, we started with a pizza margherita. This one was a classic, with an airy, tender crust, sweet tomato sauce and the freshest mozzarella fior di latte. The pizzaiolo, Claudio di Siena, told us that he lets his dough rise for 24 hours.

We let Ciro order the rest of the pizzas for us. Next up was a Pizza Radio Siani, named in memory of a young radio journalist who was martyred. The topping includes the piennolo tomatoes grown on land confiscated from the Camorra, provolone del Monaco, and fior di latte mozzarella.

Andrea Matrone enjoying the pizza with his wine

 

Then we had a Pizza Riso, or smile pizza, so called because the toppings included peperoncini di fiume, small red or green peppers that look like happy smiles, provola (smoked mozzarella) and tomatoes from Vesuvio.

There was also a Pizza Orto, garden pizza topped with yellow cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mozzarella and thyme.

We ended our pizza feast with slices of a fried pizza turnover filled with ricotta di buffala, ciccoli (nuggets of pork) and mozzarella fior di latte.

It was wonderful afternoon  of  eating and talking about pizza and wine in the shadow of  Vesuvius.

 

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