Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let's Hear it for Campania!!!

Recently I've been closely following Tom Hyland's web site on Italian wines. His most recent post is a list of his top wines of the decade. It is great to see wineries from Campania such as Feudi di San Gregorio, Mastroberardino (no surprise there), and Cantine Marisa Cuomo. Click here to read the full article.

WAIT!! There's More....

After publishing yeaterday's blog on the finest sparkling wines, I heard from some friends with their thoughts on the subject.

Francesco Continsio, Enoteca Mercadante, said that his number one seller is French champagne, a weakness for him as well. Topping the list Laurent Perrier Brut, in the sans annèe category and right after that, Pommery Noir, exclusively produced for the Italian market, fresh, full bodied.In third place, we Italian spumanti from Franciacorta, Monterossa Brut Cuvèe and Bellavista Brut Cuvèe.

I’m new to this bollicine world and I was a little surprised (maybe disappointed) that I didn’t see more Italian bubbly on the list. Then I opened an email from Giulia Cannada Bartoli, journalist and event organizer. She is a fan of these Italian offerings: Grotta del Sole Asprinio di Aversa Spumante Brut, Cantine del Mare Falanghina Brezza Flegrea Spumante Brut, and Fiano sSumante Cantine i Favati.

I also read an article by Angelo Di Costanzo(Campania Region’s best sommelier) that popped up on Luciano Pignataro’s web site today (here) where he lists his top 10 Campanian bollicine. The article is in Italian, but it is easy to follow. There you will see wineries such as Feudi di San Gregorio, Grotto del Sole, Cantine Astroni, and DeConcillis to name a few.

We can’t try them all tonight, but keep them in mind for your celebrations during 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Finest of the Season!

I’ve had the good fortune of attending two amazing sparkling wine tastings over the last several weeks. Ever since then, I have become very interested in the subject. With New Year’s Eve coming up, I was curious what the bollicine scene was like around Naples, so I called on a few friends for their input. Here are their responses:

Tomasso Luongo, professional sommelier and president of AIS Napoli (Association of Italian Sommeliers, Naples) likes Italian sparkling wines, but when it comes down to it, he is a big fan of champagne “Mi attraggono per la capacità di esprimere: grande finezza aromatica, sferzante acidità e vellutata cremosità delle bollicine. In other words, he is attracted by its ability to express itself; great aromatic elegance, striking acidity, and the velvety, creaminess of the bubbles. Viva la France!

Mimmo Brasiello, voted the Campania region’s best nonprofessional sommelier, picked Italian sparkling Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. I looked this up on the Italian Wine Hub website and I learned that ‘the wine is made with Chardonnay grapes cultivated in the Trentino region, following the lead of Giulio Ferrari, who first planted the variety there at the beginning of the 20th century, after experimenting with the variety in France. To the nose it reveals perfume of lavender and orange blooms, melon and bergamot. In the mouth it is fresh and long lasting. A precious wine for special occasions.’ Hmmmm.

But what are people buying?

The best selling bollicine this season according to Fabrizio Erbaggio,professional sommelier and owner of Ciao Vino, are as follows: in the category of champagne; Dom Ruinart 1996 - Krug – Crystal. As far as Italian Champenoise; Giulio Ferrari - Annamaria Clementi - Monte Rossa Cabochòn. According to Fabrizio, these are top quality wines, and it is hard for him to pick a favorite. He, for example, has an emotional attachment to Bruno Palliard, particularly the Assemblage Millésimé 1996. He has been sharing this champagne with friends on numerous occasions in the past few weeks thus adding the memory of good times shared con i amici to his overall experience. Isn’t that what celebrating the New Year should be about? Well said, Fabrizio!

Tanti Auguri!

New Year’s Concert in the Heart of Campi Flegrei

Saturday January 2, 2010

Villa DI Livia, Pozzuoli, 1930

It will be a magical evening in an unique location. A concert to celebrate the beginning of the new year. Opera, classical Neapolitan music, Disney instrumentals (for the kids!), and more performed by "Onde Armoniche Ensemble". Afterwards, we’ll toast the New Year with spumante ‘malaze’ offered by Cantine Babo.

What a way to immerse yourself in the culture while we still have the Christmas spirit! Admission is free but you just need to reserve your spot by emailing - or calling 3496537921. Idid!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Natale con i toui, Capodanno con chi voui.....or What Can I do this New Year’s Eve?

In Naples, Christmas is spent with the family (i toui). New Year’s Eve, on the other hand is spent with whoever you want (con chi voui). This was something I learned my first Christmas in ‘famiglia’. So, If you are still deciding, here are a few ideas…..

There are many restaurants throughout the area that are having their big Cenone dinners. See if your favorite place is celebrating that evening, grabs some friends and go. A few years ago my family was in town. I took them to an agriturismo in Avellino where we rang in the New Year with a huge meal, great wine, and Chinese sparklers. Agriturismos are great, especially if you reserve a room and spend the night. Many places have packages which include an overnight stay, dinner, and breakfast the next morning. ( is one place to look for ideas) Another popular idea is to have dinner at a friend’s house. This is a great time to get together with your buddies and reflect on the past year. I have chosen this option and am excited (if not somewhat nervous) about preparing my part of the dinner. As far as fireworks, a Napoli, you can’t escape them, I’ve seen great shows from my balcony in Varcaturo. Piazza Plebliscito is also a great place to go. Take public transportation downtown and enjoy the concert in this huge piazza as well as their firework display.

So get out and enjoy yourself. All these options are great because I can feel free to bring my son to any of them ......Capodanno con chi voui….

Pinot Noir Night

The next Winerdì at Ciao Vino is scheduled for the 15th of January at 8 pm. Mark your calendars because the theme for the evening will be Pinot Noir. This grape is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. Come and taste some of Italy’s finest in the comfort of Enoteca Ciao Vino located in Varcaturo, Via Madonna del Pantano 50.

The cost of this evening is € 25 which includes a wine tasting of 4 wines as well as an amazing buffet.. For more info, call 348 590 7349 or email

Monday, December 28, 2009

Its Not too Early to begin the New Year's Countdown!!!

December 29, 2010 at 2130 hrs

Ais Napoli and Enoteca Ciao Vino want to help you get a head start on you New Year's Eve Celebration. Tomorrow evening at BAG (Bacoli Art Gallery) you can begin your celebration with live music by Cock 'o' Drills, a rockabilly band. Entrance to BAG is free, and you can order off their pub-stlye menu. If you have something particular in mind toast in the New Year, then call Fabrizio at Ciao Vino to reserve that special bottle of bubbly. For more info or to reserve, call Ciao Vino at 081 509 0425 or 333 726 7080 or BAG at or 081 523 7080

BAG: Piazetta Adriano #5 Bacoli (NA)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cauliflower-My New Friend

Growing up in the states, cauliflower wasn’t the most exciting vegetable around. The Jolly Green Giant presented it in a couple of ways. Boiled with a melted cheese sauce on top was not one of my favorites. (Sorry, Mom) In Naples, however, cauliflower plays an important role on the menu during the holiday season. It is the backbone to the famous insalata di rinforza. Each family has their own variation to the recipe. After 16 Neapolitan holiday seasons, I finally came across a version that I had me asking for seconds. Wanda Ranieri (Fabrizio Erbaggio’s mom), cooks her cauliflower until it is morbido morbido (very soft), then adds vegetables which she has marinated herself; peppers anchovies, mushrooms, capers, and olives to name a few. Then, just the right amount of olive oil before she mixes it all together. Wow! I’ve had the opportunity to try this dish on several occasions during the last couple of weeks, and Wanda, you have made cauliflower my new friend!

Tom Hyland's take on Camapania Wines

Since I started this blog a few months ago, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people. One person who I’ve gotten to know, (virtually) is wine writer/photographer Tom Hyland. He is an American living in Chicago who has a vast knowledge of Italian wines. He has several blogs and writes for magazines such Decanter, Drinks, and Quarterly Review of Wines. Recently he wrote an extensive piece for Sommelier Journal on Campania wines. He sent me the link (here) and I’m happy to pass it on to you. It is great to see the Campania region getting recognition in the states, particularly wineries such as La Sibilla (my Winerdì partner, Vincenzo’s winery), Feudi di San Gregorio, and Villa Matilda. The article is very informative, with great photos as well as his wine tasting notes. Tom has been to Italy about 40 times, his next visit is in the spring. I hope to get a chance to take him around to some other great Campania cantinas or at least an evening at Ciao Vino. Until then, I’ll just have to follow the blog!!! (

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Year's Eve

What do you have lined up for Capodanno (New Year’s Eve)? Still undecided? Here’s an idea. Spend your Cenone (dinner) at one of the best restaurants in Naples, Veritas on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Here is what they have in store for you on Thursday, 31 December beginning at 2030 hrs:

Blinis di polenta, mantecato di cavolfiore, e uova di salmone

Baccalà fritto allo zafferano, crema di patate alla maggiorana, praline di pasta soffiata olive e capperi

Polpo affumicato, giardiniera in agrodolce, spremuta di papaccella

Paccheri di Gragnano in soutè di vongole pomodorini e bottarga

Pasta e fagioli alla pescatora

Cilindro di calamaro ripieno di scarola uvetta e pinoli, salsa all’acciuga

Spuma di fichi secchi

Bavarese al roccocò, granita di Carpano Antica Formula e coriandoli di frutta candita.

The evening costs 60 euro, and does not include beverages. For more information, or to reserve, call Info 081 66 05 85 or 329 721 97 42.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hollywood meets Ciao Vino

Ok. Here is the scenario. You are a group of actors from Hollywood visiting Naples for a couple of days to thank the ‘troops’ for all they do. During your visit, you have a strong desire to try the best Italian wines the country has to offer. What do you do? Where do you go? One answer-CiaoVino.

Monday evening, Fabrizio Erbaggio, Vincenzo De Meo, Cinzia Dalmonte, and I had the pleasure to present Italy throughWine to a group of very special people from the ‘States’. Wanda Colon from TLCs ‘Home Made Simple;’ Bill Brochtrup from NYPD Blue; Daphne Reid from Fresh Prince of Belair; James Reynolds from Days of our Lives; and Lissa Layng from movies ‘Say Yes’ and ‘Night of the Comet’ were ready to embark a journey through this beautiful country with us.

Fabrizio enjoys talking about wine. I am always excited to see what he chooses to degustare during our wine tastings. He selected well, even Vincenzo was impressed.

First Round –White Wines. We began in Fruili with one of their most popular indigenous grapes; Ribolla. The wine was Ribolla gialla from producer Girolamo Dorigo. A fresh, young wine that none in the group had tasted before. Next up, a winery close to our hearts, Feudi di San Gregorio from Campania. Fabrizio picked their Pietracalda made with the most popular white grape from the region, Fiano di Avellino. Very impressive. The group noticed instantly the difference in aromas and how this wine had a fuller body than the one previously tasted. Once again, a new wine for our small gathering of friends. Finshing off our first round was a big white from Siciliy-Insolia (Sauvignon). Vincenzo explained that though the Sauvignon grape is an international one, its characteristics have changed somewhat due to the growing in the volcanic Sicilian soil. So, Nozze d’Oro from producer Tasca d’Almerita was a good choice as well.

Second Round-The Reds. What a selection! Fabrizio felt we should start in Piemonte with a Barolo from FontanaFredda (2000). Mmmmmm! The aromas, the body, everything you would want in a grande rosso made from the Nebbiolo grape. Next wine-Tenuta Silvio Nardi with their Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese grape, Tuscany region). A little smoother, a year younger. Finishing off the reds was THE red of the south-Taurasi Radici Riserva from Mastroberardino 1999 (Aglianico grape, Campania region). I was speechless. One of the smoothest Taurasis I’ve tasted. The cherry aroma is still imprinted in my mind. What a way to end the wine tasting!

The tasting was over, the evening wasn’t. We learned that James and his wife Lissa were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary that evening. Fabrizio pulled out a couple of bottles of a French champagne from Bruno Palliard, Rosè Première Cuvée S.A. We drank a toast to the happy couple.

Cinzia, at this point, opened the buffet. E che buffet!!! Pizza, insalata di rinforza (made with cauliflower, olives, peppers, and acnchovies), gateau (a potato dish made with pancetta and cheese), a beautiful braid of mozzarella, and a crowd favorite-lasagna all contandina ( a lasagna made with potatoes and pumpkin).

All good things must come to an end. After a great meal and great conversation, we said our goodbyes. At the end of every Winerdì, Fabrizio always wants to know which wine was the favorite-the decision was split. Daphne Reid was hooked on the Brunello while Bill loved the Ribolla gialla. James, he was already a Barolo fan so the choice was not so hard for him. Wanda, Lissa, and I loved Bruno Paillard’s Rosè. An amazing bunch of people who we had the pleasure of sharing a small part of Italy (and a little bit of France) for a couple of hours one cold rainy, Napoli evening.

Fabrizio, Vincenzo, Cinzia, and I began this Winerdì series a few months ago. What a great way to end the calendar year. I can’t even imagine what is in store in 2010!


Le Bollicine!!! Winerdì, December 18th

Ciao Vino officially kicked off the holiday season with an evening dedicated to sparkling wines. Vincenzo Di Meo and Fabrizio Erbaggio guided a packed house through a wine tasting from prosecco to French Champagne. First-a mini lesson on metodo charmat and metedo classico.; the two ways to produce the wines that we would be having that evening. Next- a wine tasting with the following wines:

· Prosecco di Conegliano-Nino Franco, Veneto

· Dubl Greco- Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania

· Franciacorta Metodo classico Cuvèe Storica 61-Berlucchi, Lombardia

· Champagne Premiere Cuvèe-Bruno Paillard, Francia

It was interesting to note the differences as we tried each wine; from the quantity of bubbles, the diverse aromas, the different flavors, the various blends…I could go on. Our hostess, Cinzia Dalmonte, then laid out a buffet that Ciao Vino is famous for complete with pizza from Stefano Pagliuca as well as trippa alla napolitana. Fabrizio paired our buffet with Nero di Lambrusco from Cantine Ceci.

The favorite of the evening? It was hard to decide-everyone had their own opinion. I’m a big fan of Feudi but I also enjoyed the Nero di Lambrusco. Regardless of our choices, we left Ciao Vino ready to face the holidays with a clearer idea of the world of sparkling wines.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

WAY too much going on this weekend.

It will be hard to choose, lets start with

· Winerdì at Ciao Vino, December 18th. This week we will tasting sparkling wines and champagne and discussing the wine making process on our quest for the best holiday bollicine. I hoped you signed up because it is sold out.

· My home away from home is having a big weekend. The 18th through the 20th , Taurasi (Av) will celebrate the grand opening of its Enoteca Regionale. There will be guided visits in the local cantinas, Castello Marchionale located in the centro storico will host guest speakers, AIS Campania, Slow Food Campania and Gambero Rosso Campania will be on hand as well. There will be a dinner based around themes such as Sapori della tradizione rurale campana”, starting from the Terre di Mezzo (Irpinia, Sannio, Matese, Vallo di Diano e Monti Picentini), onto Le Terre del Fuoco (Aria Vesuviana e Campi Flegrei) then dell’Aria (Terra di Lavoro e Piana del Sele), finally arriving at Terre dell’Acqua (Cilento, Penisola Sorrentina, Costiera Amalfitana e Isole del Golfo). I got this info from my friends at Ais Napoli. For more details call 0827.74757 o 345.0603342 or email

· Maybe you want a break from the usual wine tastings. Well, on Sunday the 20th at at Citta della Scienza, beginning at 1000 the will be focusing on the fine art of tea. Visitors, with the aid of tea trader Antonella Spiniello, will learn how to recognize the various types of tea leaves, where they originate from as well as preparation techniques.

· Perhaps you would prefer a day enjoying nature. Sunday, then would be a great day to spend with AIGAE, Associazione Italiana Guide Ambientali Escursioniste. The day will begin with a tour of the borghi medievali of Monte Caievola. Afterwards, a walk through through acropoli sannita di Pietravairano. Then you can finish up with a lunch –km zero-at the Agristor “Le due torri” in Presenzano. The menu: Stringata e Prosciutto nero casertano – Salumificio Esperia di Roccamonfina, Mozzarella di Bufala – Caseificio La Fenice di Presenzano, Tubetti di Gragnano con patate di Letino e lardo di Suino casertano, Reale di Vitello Marchigiano – Fattoria Carpineto di Presenzano, Degustazione di Formaggi Caprini e Pecorini – Caseificio Optimum Sancti Petri e Crumble di Mela Annurca e crema. The cost is 30 euro per person(excluding beverages), including a guided tour of the borgo, entrance and tour to the museo di scienze nazionale “Natura Viva” del Parco Regionale Roccamonfina – foce del Garigliano di S. Clemente di Galluccio. Reservations must be made by 1200 on Friday, December 18 2009 at Natura&Cultura: 3807991091 and

· Berardino Lombardo, chef of the famous Terra de Conca,(Contrada Piantoli Tel. 339.5928649) Conca della Campania (Ce) has an excellent line up for the 19th and 20th. The weekend is programmed around the caponne-(eel) a typical neapolitan dish served during the holidays.

Saturday the 19th

1030: Mercatino of local products including tastings

Esperia Salumi

Formaggi Optimum Sancti Petri
10 oli extravergine di oliva del frantoio Maciariello
Verdure della Masseria Tuoro
La Colombaia, castagne e confetture
Azienda San Teodoro
La Calenna, mele annurche.

Tastings of Brodo di Cappone

2030 Traditional cooking with local products by Berardino Lombardo e Angelo D'Amico, ristorante Barry di Montesarchio

Sunday, December 20

1030: Mercatino of local products including tastings

Tastings of Brodo di Cappone

1500 Cappone auction Luciano Pignataro andDante Stefano Del Vecchio

Coordinamento misteryapplecommunication di dante stefano del vecchio.

These are just a few of the events in the area. SO, do something different this weekend. Enjoy the culture!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is There Life After Aglianico?

About a month ago, friend and mentor Fabrizio Erbaggio, and I were having a conversation about a wine tasting that was held at Ciao Vino. I mentioned that I didn’t really like one of the reds that he served. He asked me why. I said that it didn’t taste like Aglianico. Wrong answer? OK, I know over the past couple of years I have been playing it safe. I found a wine that I liked and I stuck with it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I have other ‘favorite ‘wines; Piedirosso, Pallagrello Nero and Bianco, Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina. They are Campania wines, but it’s a big world out there; I felt I needed a little help to expand my horizons. Last weekend I was at Fnac, a bookstore in the heart of Vomero. There I think I found un pò di aiuto. I purchased 101 Vini Da Bere Almeno Una Volta Nella Vita-spendendo molto poco by journalist and author Luciano Pignataro ( . This book has been out for a few weeks and it looks like it will be a great resource for me to ‘discover’ wines from all over Italy; reds, whites, sparkling wines, rosés, etc. Luciano has chosen 101 wines that are of high quality and low price .He has provided the reader with information such as which grapes are used, and data on the aging process. Addresses and phone numbers are included. He shares with us his wine tasting notes as well as particulars on the wineries and owners themselves.

101 Vini Da Bere Almeno Una Volta Nella Vita-spendendo molto poco is in Italian only, but maybe Mr. Pignataro will think about putting it into English one day. In the meantime, I will take this book as an invitation to get out and try new wines and visit wineries that are off the beaten track. I can’t wait!!

P.S. Wine #74 is an aglianico !

Monday, December 14, 2009

Celebrate Eating Locally-Terra Madre Day at Cantina Astroni, December 10

I really didn’t feel like going out Thursday evening. I had papers to grade, it was cold, and the last time I went to Cantina Astroni in Agnano, my car started to slide as I drove up the very steep driveway. I even got stuck in traffic on the way between Varcaturo and Licola. But, I continued on. I’m glad I did.

Last week, I wrote about my impressions of slow food. I learned Thursday evening that my thoughts were only the tip of the iceberg. I was treated to a mini lesson on Terra Madre (mother earth) and Slow Food by experts from the Campi Flegrei area.

The evening began with a short film on Terra Madre-a movement that highlights the importance that we, citizens of the planet earth, have a responsibility to take care of the earth so that it can take care of us. Highlights from a Terra Madre convention in Turin, Italy in 2008 showed speakers pushing their local products and their livelihoods. One speaker in the film said that if the land is sick, we become sick. A point well taken considering the problems with pollution in the Campania region.

Hostess Emanuela Russo introduced a series of guests who shared their experiences and points of view. I only have space to mention a few here.

What a treat to hear from Stefano Pagliuca. He spoke of his Slow Food philosophy, focusing on tradition. How he learned pizza making from his mother and how he transformed her passion into his. His use of ‘lievito madre’ or mother yeast (a topic for another blog), copper pans, wood burning pizza oven and a great determination and drive make his pizzas and breads some of the best in Naples. Stefano’s pizzas are a must on our menu for Ciao Vino’s Winerdì series.

Another noteworthy figure was Luigi Di Meo (Vicenza’s dad from La Sibilla). He did not talk about his wine that evening, but discussed la cicerchia, a bean that has all but disappeared from the mainstream. A soup prepared with this legume was on the buffet table afterwards. I had two helpings!!

Ferdinando Salemme from Abraxas (an osteria in Pozzuoli) had several points he wanted to drive home. He feels that it is extremely important to have a strong relationship with the land. The product comes afterward. He bases the menus at his locale on what is available at kilometer zero-his own neighborhood. Nando stressed that we need to educate the new generation-they are the future of our territory.

What event on Slow Food would be without a grande buffet? Besides a wide variety of Stefano’s pizza, and the soup made with la cicerchia, we had a great marinated pumpkin dish, and a lasagna prepared by La Campagna de Ragu (Giugliano) to name a few. All this accompanied by Astroni’s Piedirosso and Falanghina.

I left that evening with a desire to learn more about Slow Food ( I left that evening with a craving to discover not only the recipes, but the methods, that as one speaker put it, which must be passed on. This afternoon I will go grocery shopping. I will remember what Nando said about kilometer zero and think twice as I fill my basket.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Slow Food (Crock Pot Excluded)

A couple of years ago, I heard the slogan ‘Slow Food’ for the first time. I really wasn’t sure what that meant. A few weeks ago, I was in the company of my friend, Manuela Piancastelli. Manuela, journalist and winery owner, teaches cooking classes as well in her ‘bed & wine’ in Castel Campagnano. Watching her as she cooked, I think I’ve figured it out. Good food, I mean really good food, needs time. Time in planning. Time in preparation. Time in enjoying the meal with and sharing it with a great group of people. One of Manuela’s recipes that evening was carne alla pizzaiola, meat in tomato sauce. I watched in admiration as she placed two (fresh) steaks in a terracotta pot and placed them with a couple of tomatoes and parsley (from her garden), garlic, and a splash of house wine. She lit the burner underneath and we left it for an hour as it took its time cooking. What we found afterwards was beef so tender in an amazing tomato sauce. Slow Food. One of my favorite dishes from Agriturismo Taurasi is their onion soup. The owner, Giuseppe, gave me the recipe. Basically, you sauté onions in butter until they are softened, add white wine, and let simmer for about…6 hours. Slow Food. Food that uses fresh products. Food that uses produce that is in season. I know it’s hard to find the time to cook. As Americans, it seems that we have to squeeze the time in for just about everything. We are always looking for that great recipe that requires little time. But I ask you to think back to a couple of weeks ago when we celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday. Remember the great smells coming out of the kitchen when you put the turkey in the oven. The entire house smelled great for hours as the bird slowly roasted. Slow Food. I have often tried to reproduce this grande sensation of aromas by using my crock pot. At the end of a long day, I open my front door, and smell the aroma of food that has been cooking slowly throughout the day. But the result is not the same. Something is missing. In a way, I am looking forward to the holidays when I will have more free time to try recipes passed to me by friends. Sitting in front of the fireplace in a warm kitchen and enjoying the company of those I am with over a great zuppa di fagioli or pasta e patate. Slow Food.