Feasting in Frascati

On our recent trip to Rome, Michele and I were fortunate to be invited to the home of Josephine Wennerholm, a food blogger and cooking teacher in Frascati. We follow her blog Frascati Cooking That’s Amore  and have always found it full of good information, not just on Frascati, but on Rome and the surrounding area.

Josephine’s husband Pino picked us up in Rome and drove us to Frascati, which is about 30 minutes from Rome, unless there is traffic. There we met a group of their friends, great food and wine lovers all. Josephine had prepared a real feast, and several of her guests contributed their specialties.

We started with an amazing assortment of antipasti. Josephine had made delicious suppli, Roman style rice balls, that were flavored with mushrooms and tomato and fried in a crispy breadcrumb coating.

Next we had little fried turnovers filled with greens and cheese.

There was focaccia filled with mortadella, or as the Romans say, mortazza.

A slab of porchetta from Bernabei, one of the best porchetta makers in the area, was next.

It was sliced and served in pizzette, in this case little rolls.

Alessandro Ferracci, a chef and the son of Anna Dente, who owns a famous restaurant in the area, prepared several dishes. This was a salad of boiled tongue, only the back part, which the chef said is the most tender.

He tossed the chunks of meat with a classic green sauce, made with parsley, garlic, and olive oil, and served it in more of those pizzette.

Chef Ferracci

We had two pastas. The first was a specialty of Chef  Alessandro, and a Roman classic, Rigatoni with Pajata. Pajata is the intestine of suckling lamb, which contains a delicate cheese since the lambs eat only milk.

It is a great delicacy in Rome and was actually illegal until 2011.  It takes an expert to prepare it properly and Chef  Ferracci’s version was excellent.

Josephine prepared the second pasta, one of our favorites. It was rigatoni with oxtail ragu, another Roman specialty.

Michelle Smith prepared the Roman style artichokes, which were simmered until meltingly tender with garlic, herbs and olive oil. Michelle is a sommelier and blogger at Easyfrascati.com



I had a long conversation with her about wine.

Next there was sliced  tongue, served with mostarda

and lamb alla cacciatore, cooked with vinegar and garlic.  Sorry,  no  photo.

Josephine also prepared another of my favorites, borlotti beans with tomato sauce and cotiche, pork skin.

Dessert included a salame del Papa, chocolate, nuts and crushed cookies formed into a log.

Josephine also prepared a Cassola, a ricotta cheesecake with raisins.

One of the guests also brought an assortment of  tempting pastries.

It was a great feast and one of the best parts was meeting so many people interested in food and wine and enjoying Josephine and Pino’s warmth and hospitality.




Filed under Frascati

Cantine Ciani: A Winery High Above Naples

Visiting Cantine Ciani

The weather in Naples was sunny with just a slight chill in the air as Michele and I with 3 friends waited for Armando Ciani to pick us up and drive us to his family winery high above Naples. I first met Armando at a tasting and dinner of his wines in NYC with Eugenio Cannata and Jef Quinn (Quintiliani) who are partners with Armando and the Ciani Family. They are helping to revamp the winery and export the wines all over the world.

Armando in NYC

I liked Armando’s wines and told him I would be in Naples in a few months. He said I must visit the winery, and so the visit was arranged. As we drove Armando told us about the winery, mentioning how different the weather was from Naples. As we got closer to the winery it became cloudy and it began to rain and it became much colder. He said this is because we were at 500 meters above sea level.

The family house dates back to 1700, and it has a wine cellar from 1300. Grapes were planted by the Ciani family in 1948 on vertical trellises in Irpinia.

Armando in the cellar of the winery. We tasted a number of barrel samples

In 2006 Armando completed the new wine cellar with temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There are about 180 oak barrels of different sizes in the cellar including French barriques and Italian tonneaux and botti grandi (large barrels). 

In the cellar were three large “windows” where you could see the layers of soil.

The wine corks depict the three windows.

After the visiting the cellar we tasted the wines in Armando’s home


Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2016 100% Fiano di Avellino from vineyards at 600 meters in Lapio Town (Arianello District). The grapes are harvested when fully ripe and are soft pressed and thermo-vinified at 15 C. The wine is aged 12 months in steel and two months in barrel before release. This is an elegant wine with hint of citrus fruit, almonds and floral notes. We also tasted the Fiano di Avellino “Elisir” 2010 which was showing no signs of age.

Greco di Tufo 100% Greco di Tufo 2018 The production area is Montefusco, Chianche and Petruro Irpinia. The grapes are grown at 500/600 meters and the training system is espalier. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and two months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with hints of citrus, apricot and a touch of honey. In NYC I tasted the 2012 – this is a white wine that can age.

At the dinner in NYC we also tasted the Greco di Tufo “Elisir” 2008 that was showing no signs of age. Armando said the Elisir is a special bottling of Fiano and the Greco.

Irpinia Rosato 2010 I tasted in NYC and it was showing no signs of age. I tasted the 2018 at the winery. Made from 100%  Aglianco. There  is a very light  pressing of  the  grapes to get a pale pink Lacrima Rosè. Harvest  is  between  the end of October and  the beginning of November. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and 2 months in bottle before release.

This is a rosè with  a lot  of character with hints of cherry,  currents, and  a touch  of strawberry.

Armando wanted the Rosato to have the color of a special onion that grows in the area

Taurasi DOCG 2008 100% Aglianico from the Mirabella Eclano area. The vineyard is on a steep slope and the exposure is west. Armando said this gives good drainage and good exposure to sunlight. Harvest takes place by hand at the beginning of November. The wine is aged for 14 to 16 months in Allier and Slavonia oak barrels) barriques, tonneaux and barrels of 25HL. The wine is then aged in stainless steel for 12 months and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a full and balanced wine with hints of blackberry, blackcurrants and spice with a long finish.

We also tasted the Taurasi Vinanda “Dicatus” 2006 which was showing very well and it is a wine that will age.

Everyone enjoyed the visit and the wines. Armando said the wines are not in the U. S. at this time but his American partners are busy looking for an importer/distributor and hope they find one soon.

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Eating around Rome


After spending an exciting week in Naples, we left for Rome. A friend who was traveling with us suggested we leave early so that we could arrive in Rome in time for lunch.

Michele suggested La Campana, a restaurant close to the apartment we had rented but also because she remembered the

roasted maialino. She ordered it again.  The meat was moist and fork tender while the skin was crunchy.  It came with potatoes roasted with rosemary.  It is a dish to remember.

Due Ladroni.  This  restaurant specializes  in  fish,  which  is  always  very  fresh.  For  a first course I had

Polpo con Patate.  The potatoes were mashed with olive oil and the grilled octopus tendrils were cooked perfectly.

Next, I had Spaghetti ai Moscardini.

Moscardini are similar to baby octopus, but they are very tiny.  They add a wonderful briny flavor to the sauce, which seemed to contain

little besides some olive oil and the sauteed seafood.

We liked the moscardini so much that we decided to share a plate of Moscardini Fritti.  The waiter explained that these were actually pennette, slightly larger moscardini.

L’Angolo Divino is my favorite wine bar in Rome. Every time I go, I enjoy discussing wine with the owner, Massimo. This time we talked about wines made from the Cesanese grape.     Massimo suggested a mix of 5 Affettati to go with the wine.  They included speck, prosciutto, coppa and a spicy salame.

We also had the Bruschetta Lardo

Assortment of Cheese

Then we had the classic Ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach in a butter and sage sauce

I have often written about Checchino dal 1887, one  of   my  favorite Roman  restaurants.

At lunch, I started with an Artichoke alla Romana, cooked with olive oil and herbs.

I also had a plate of Fagioli e Cotiche,  borlotti  beans  cooked  with  pork  skin  for  smooth  texture  and  porky  flavor.

Checchino’s Pasta Alla Matriciana is my favorite version of this dish.  I always have it with bucatini.

Our friend Daniele Cernili, known as Doctor Wine, happened to be in the restaurant that day and recommended we try the  padellotto, a plate of innards typical of the restaurants in this section of Rome that special in the quinto quarto, the so-called fifth quarter of the animal.  There were kidneys, sweetbreads, liver and intestines, cooked with vinegar and rosemary.

Il Matriciano is another old favorite that disappointed us recently by updating its classic decor.  But we are happy to report that the food is still delicious.  We started with a plate of fried zucchini flowers and carciofi alla giudea, deep fried artichokes.

Abbacchio al Forno con patate


The Friday special was Baccalà, salt cod cooked in a tomato sauce with raisins and pine nuts.

Lo’steria  is  new  restaurant  for  us.  We  loved  the  starter,  a paper  sack  filled  with  fried  vegetables,  fried  bacala,  a rice  ball,  etc.  

This was Michele’s Bombolotti alla Matriciana.

I opted for the homemade tagliarini with broccoli.

Trattoria Dal Cavalier Gino  This  our  first  time  here  after  a number  of  years.  I had a classic  spaghetti  alla  carbonara.

Michele had the homemade tagliarini with crispy artichokes.  Loved the crunchy vegetable on top of the creamy pasta.

Finally, we had the Pollo alla Romana, chicken cooked in a rich sauce with green olives, tomatoes and peppers

We still have 9 more days in Rome and Michele  and I looking forward to more wonderful meals.


Filed under Roman Restaurants, Roman restaurants, Rome

The Wines of DonnaChiara & Alois at a One Star Michelin Restaurant

Ilaria Petitto and Francesco de Rienzo (DonnaChiara Winery) and Massimo Alois and Talita de Rosa (Michele Alois Winery) invited Michele and I and a friend to have lunch with them. Last year when Michele and I visited the Alois winery we had a fantastic lunch prepared by Talita de Rosa, which I wrote about in a blog.

This year they decided to take us to Vairo del Volturno, a restaurant with one Michelin star since 2007.  It is located at Via  IV  Novembre 60, Vairano  Patenora, Caserta. 

The chef,  Renato Martino, made a special lunch for us based on the local ingredients from around the Caserta area.  With it, we drank the wines from DonnaChiara and Michele Alois Wineries.

DonnaChiara wines

The winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino

Greco di Tufo DOCG 2017, 100% Greco.  The soil is tufaceous, training system is guyot, there are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the second half of October. A soft pressing of selected grapes takes place and then a cold decanting of the must. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is an elegant wine with good structure with hints of pear, apricot, citrus and a touch of pineapple. This is a wine that can age for 15 years or more. It is one of my favorites.


To go with the wines, the chef prepared a series of small seafood dishes, including assorted marinated crudi, and bufala mozzarella topped with anchovy.  Though I have always enjoyed these wines with traditional Neapolitan food, with these combinations, the chef showed how well they can go with contemporary dishes.

Campania Aglianico IGT 2016 made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place in the first half of November. Malolatic fermentation takes place in barriques for 3 months. Ilaria said this is a fresh and pleasant wine due to a small number of  “follature” (pumping over) and to a short period of maceration on the skins. It is a wine that is elegant, warm and perfect with many different foods. The wine is fruity with hints of blackberries, strawberries and a touch of toast.

There was pasta of course, large tortelloni filled with local pork.

Taurasi DOCG 100% Aglianico 2016 The soil is clay and the training system is guyot. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place the first week of November. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225 liter French barriques and remains in the bottle for another 24 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and a touch of cacao. The use of barrique was subtle and did not mask the character of the wine.

Taurasi Riserva 2013 DOCG made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first half of November. This one is produced only in the best vintages. There is manual grape picking, a careful cluster selection followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Maturation is on the skins for 20 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques. This is a full intense wine with hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and coffee notes. It is on its way to becoming a great wine with a little more bottle age.

Michele Alois wines The winery is located at the foot of the Caiatini Mountains in the province of Caserta.

Pallagrello Bianco “Caiati” 2013 100% Pallagrello Bianco from a 2.13-hectare vineyard at 280 meters, soil is volcanic with minerals. The training system is guyot, there are 4,800 plants per hectare and the harvest is in the middle of September. Fermentation takes place on the lees for 30 days. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in the bottle for 4 months before release. It has hints of almonds, citrus fruit, melon and grapefruit with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

Pallagrello Nero “Cunto” Terre del Volturno IGT 2015 100% Pallagrello Nero. The vineyard is 1.46 hectares, the soil is volcanic with minerals, guyot training system and there are 5,200 plants per hectare. The harvest takes place the first weeks of October. Vinification in stainless steel with cold maceration on the lees and malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged in used French barriques for 12 months and an additional 6 months in barrel before release. This wine has hints of berries, especially blackberries and cherries and a long finish.

The lamb was a local variety prepared two ways roasted and grilled, and topped with hazelnuts.

Casavecchia “Trebulanum” Terre del Volturno IGT 2015 100% Casavecchia from a 1.5-hectare vineyard at 180 meters. The soil is volcanic with minerals, training system is guyot and there are 5,200 plants per hectare. Harvest is in the first weeks of October. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks with maceration on the skins for 20 days. Malolactic fermentation in large barrels (botti) for 18 months and it is in botti for 12 and 6 months in bottle before release. This is a big wine with hints of licorice, tar and smoke, a very long finish and a pleasing aftertaste.

After lunch we went to the Alois winery where we tasted barrel samples of the Pallagrello Bianco and Nero and the Casavecchia with Massimo Alois

We ended this most perfect afternoon at the winery with a wonderful version of Baba, a yeast raised pastry filled with pastry cream and soaked in rum syrup, which Illaria had brought from a bakery in Avellino.

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Filed under Aglianico, Alois Winery, Cassavecchia, Donna Chiara Winery, Greco di Tufo, Pallagrello, Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero, Taurasi, Vario del Volturo

My Favorite Restaurant In Rome

Every time Michele and I are in Rome we go to Checchino dal 1887 and have been doing this since 1983. This time we went with three friends on a Sunday afternoon.  The restaurant is owned by the Mariani family.

Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen and their sister Marina handles the accounting. Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world.

When we arrived and Francesco showed us to our table, he pointed to the table next to us and there was Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine and author of the Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019), his wife Marina Thompson, and Daniele’s mother and father–his father is 96 years old.

Francesco brought up me two magnums from the cellar.  I knew immediately which one I wanted, the 1975 Chianti Classico Villa Antinori Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori because I know it is a wine that can age. In 2016 I had the 1964 and it was fantastic. I asked Francesco to pour some wine for Daniele and was interested to see what he would say. I asked him about the wine. He said it was mostly Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo and a very small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. Antinori was just beginning to experiment with barriques and Daniele said a little of the wine was most likely aged in barriques.

The wine had great color and was drinking like traditional Chianti, with hints of red fruit, cherries, blueberries, leather and a touch of violets. We all agreed it was a wonderful wine!

I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense, that I cannot resist it.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is my favorite pasta dish and, as they say, “nobody does it better.” I always order it here.

Michele had the  rigatoni  with  oxtail  ragu.

Three of the best red wines in Italy are made around Rome.  They are Torre Ercolano, Fiorano and Colle Piccioni. The only one still on the list is the

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1983Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine was aged in large oak barrels. The wine has hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.

For my main course, I had Fegato di vitello ai ferri, thin slices of grilled veal liver with onions.  It was very flavorful and tender, and as a side dish.

I had an Artichoke alla Romana. 

Michele had,  at  Daniele’s  recommendation,  the  padelloto, a plate of assorted innards including kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, and so on, cooked with garlic, rosemary and a dash of vinegar.  It is the classic quinto quarto, fifth quarter of the calf that was eaten only by the poor people of Rome, though it is now considered a great delicacy.               

There was a cheese course  with  some  aged Fontina,  pecorino  Romano,  and goat  cheese.

Daniele sent over a bottle of port to go with the cheese

.Vintage Port 1970 Quinta da Roeda Corft.  The Quinta da Roêda is one of the great Porto vineyards. It is produced only in years of exceptional quality when a general Porto vintage is not declared. The grapes are trod by foot in granite lagares to minimize the release of harsh bitter compounds from skins and seeds. The wine spends two years aging in vats before bottling. It had hints of red berries, dark cherry, plum and spice and was a perfect combination with the cheese.

Checchino dal 1887 is the best restaurant in Rome for real Roman food. If you are in Rome this is the one restaurant you must go to. It is also Daniele’s favorite restaurant in Rome, and he is a native Roman.


Filed under Antinori, Checchino dal 1887, Chianti Classico, Colle Picchioni, Port

Eating around Naples

Michele and I visit Naples and the Campania region of Italy often because they have so much to offer.  This time we went to the San Carlo Opera House and saw a unique version of the opera Pagliacci, visited Herculaneum, saw the painting “The Seven Works of Mercy” and others by Michelangelo Merisi, aka Caravaggio, and enjoyed many fine restaurants and cafes of Naples. We arrived in the afternoon and could not resist the fried pizza at

The customers put in their order and leave a small tip on the paper 

This is the fried pizza we had for lunch

Restaurant Ciro a Santa Brigida is one of our favorites.  We went there the first night and I had a fantastic seafood stew.

We wanted to go to Nannella but when we got there it was closed so Michele remembered another restaurant nearby, Hosteria Toledo. We had the assorted vegetable antipasto, which included sauteed mushrooms, several kinds of eggplant, escarole with olives and capers, friarielli with garlic and hot pepper, roasted peppers, marinated zucchini and numerous other things.  Neapolitans really know how to make vegetables.

Michele and I had  pasta patane, pasta and potatoes cooked until creamy with scamorza cheese.

Our friend Ernie had the rigatoni with ragu and ricotta

Another day we went to La Taverna di Santa Chiara, a restaurant known for using local ingredients, and I had the  pasta Genovese, pasta cooked with a meat and onion sauce.


At Da Ettore, we had pizza, and then the owner suggested we try his fried pizza stuffed with pork ragu.  We couldn’t resist.

At Le Parùle near Herculaneum, we had a fantastic fritto misto which included fried onion rings, a nice touch

Then the frittatina,  fried macaroni 


Followed by Pizza Margherita 

Friends joined us for lunch at Europea Mattozzi in Naples

Michele has the Sausages and Friarielli (a type of broccoli rabe)

At Da Umberto we had this pasta with seafood, friarielli and little tomatoes.

Another day we enjoyed this gorgeous Baba cake  with Massimo Alois, Talita de Rosa  of Alois Winery, Ilaria Petitto and Francesco de Rienzo of Donnachiara Winery

We stopped in at Gambrinus cafe at least once a day, for breakfast, snacks or cocktails.  They make excellent coffee, which we enjoyed with sfogliatelle.

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Filed under Ciro a Santa Brigida, Naples

Herculanum Pizza: le Parùle

Ristorante and Pizzeria le Parùle http://www.leparule.it in Herculaneum, modern day Ercolano, near Naples, has a great reputation. I first read about it on Luciano Pignataro’s blog, www.lucianopignataro.it. A few years ago, I was invited to the area by Campania Stories to taste the wines of the principal zones of Campania, visit the wineries and have dinner with the winemakers at night. To my surprise and delight, one of the restaurants where we were scheduled to dine was le Parùle. The name means vegetable garden in Neapolitan dialect.

When I returned to NYC I told Michele that not only was the pizza fantastic but also the rest of the food on the menu.


One of the places we have never visited on our frequent trips to Campania was the ancient Roman city Herculanum, destroyed by the famous eruption of Mont Vesuvio on August 24th 79 AD.  On this visit to Naples, we decided to visit Herculanum in the morning and go to le Parùle, only a few minutes away, for lunch. I contacted Giuseppe Pignalosa the owner/chief/pizzaiolo of le Parùle to let him know that we were coming.

Giuseppe said he only uses the best ingredients from the Mount Vesuvio region.

We started as always with Pizza Margherita made with Neapolitan tomatoes, fior di latte dei Monti Lattari cheese, and olio extravergine d’oliva del Vesuvio “Villa Dora”.  Giuseppe said he uses Caputo “0” flour and does not use a biga (starter).

Next we had a pizza topped with ‘nduja, a spicy cured meat, and mozzarella.

We also had some fried things, including macaroni with bechamel sauce, peas, cheese and ham, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until crisp on the outside and melted within.

Then Fried calamari with onion rings

Montanara (pizza fritta) topped with Pomodorino del piennolo del Vesuvio, mozzarella di bufala Campana D. O. P., olio extravergine d’oliva del Cilento D.O.P. “Monzo” of Pietra Bianca and fresh basil.

I have been traveling to Naples, Italy for many years, and I think Le Parule has some of the best fried food and pizza I have tasted.



Filed under Pizza, Pizza Fritta, Pizza Restaurants