Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dinner da...Marennà with Chef Paolo Barrale

Thursday May 27. Around 6:30 pm. Paolo Barrale leisurely walks into Feudi di San Gregorio’s waiting room. I, along with my friend, Kate, have an informal appointment with the chef. Una chiacchierata, a little bit of conversation with him, about him, Marennà, (Feudi’s Michelin rated restaurant), and food in general. I had been looking forward to this appointment for some time. Besides being a big fan of Feudi di San Gregorio, I have also  been following Paolo’s career. Paolo Barrale, 36years old, Sicilian and Ligurian, has been ‘in the biz’ since he was about 14 years old. Helping out with his family’s pasta making business, then la scuola alberghiera (cooking/hotel school), various trattorias, hotels and resorts. Eventually hooking up with the acclaimed Chef Heinz Beck of Pergola, l’Altro Mastai in Rome, and la Torre del Saraceno in Vico Equense. The last five years, he has called Marennà home.

Paolo showed us around his ‘home’ instantly making us feel welcome. From the terrace of Marenna’s restaurant, we looked down on an immaculately kept herb garden. A chef’s dream with lavender, 2 types of sage, 2 types of rosemary, mint (wild and ‘domestic), blueberries, lavender, and spring onions to name a few. He pointed out the rosebushes, mentioning that this was the best time of the year to witness them in bloom.

We chatted about a wide variety of topics…from a recent street fair in Vico Equense where he prepared a delicious brioche with mandarin ice cream topped with mascarpone, to his love for quality products. And here we go…Paolo loves using local products. The prosciuttos, cheeses and salamis…local. The bread, cotto a legno…local. Fresh vegetables, meats, you name it,all have strong ties to the local community. And with these products, Chef Paolo and his kitchen staff (about 10) perform their perfect little miracles.

Kate and I were introduced to the dining room staff headed by sommelier Angelo Nudo who, along with Mario Ferrante, treated us to an appertivo with DUBL, a spumante made with Greco di Tufo. We enjoyed lightly aged pecorino cheese and salami before Mario led us down to a visit in the cantina. Here order is the name of the game. Classical music accompanied our tour, relaxing the wine, and ourselves as well. A passaggiata among the wine barrels and spumante bottles. Aglianicos aging, waiting to see what their next phase will be ---bottle or hang out a while longer and become a Taurasi DOCG.  Spumantis-Greco di Tufo, Aglianico rosè, and Falanghina also awaiting 'the next stage'. 

Back upstairs, time for dinner.

We began with a 'potato cappuccino' made with mushrooms and truffles.A variety of breads; plain, with black olives, dried tomatoes, and chicory sat beside our plate. I tried the offering with the pomodorini secchi, dipped in a little olive oil….buono.

Then another plate joined us. Baccalà on creamy caprino cheese, lemon peas, topped with a pea foam, lavender, and saffron. This one -a beauty to look at. I loved the presentation of all the dishes, actually, and before ‘digging in’, I would look at each dish, take a photo, perform a mini visual examination. Accompaniment-DUBL Greco di Tufo.

Two first courses-Fettuccelle with saffron, toasted pine nuts, fennel, and anchovies. Next, tortelli stuffed with polenta, topped with fresh asparagus and truffles. With these dishes, Angelo brought out Feudi di San Gregorio’s newest Falanghina, Serrocielo 2009. Fresh, smooth, with a light aroma of white flowers and fruit.

The next dish was a pleasure to observe…examine… look at from all angles. A mini tower of pork and pancetta with a lemon marmalade. Beside it on the dish were spring onions. Great flavor; a combination of crispy/croccante while tender/moist. Perfect. For this dish, a red was needed and a red was given. Piano di Montevergine Taurasi DOCG 2002. Smooth, balanced tannins. Aromas of red fruits such as plums and black cherries made this wine made with my Aglianico a perfect match.

From time to time, I would observe Paolo and his staff through the large glass windows that enclosed his immaculate kitchen. He always seemed calm, serene, composed. Every now and then we would exchange a smile, but then he was back to work. His team worked very well together, an obvious demonstration of his leadership as a chef.

Our desserts came, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Kate and I were served a dish of Schiuma di latte, topped with passion fruit ice cream and white chocolate. Visually it was divertente, because it resembled a dish of bacon and eggs. Afterwards, pistachio ice cream on a warm, creamy hazelnut/chocolate pie and various mini pastries. Two shot glasses of latte di buffalo and a sweet wine Priveligo 2007 helped us relax as the meal came to an end.

Meal over, un caffè with Paolo where I was able to express my appreciation for the entire evening. I stated how I was impressed how his sleekly designed restaurant, with excellent gourmet dishes, made me feel at home. From the attention to detail in the kitchen to the friendliness of the staff…Paolo’s response was that many of his clients come a long way to have a meal at Marennà…it is their pleasure to make their guests feel comfortable and appreciated.

And they did…and we did…

In fact, I am looking forward to the summer when Paolo will have cooking classes in Feudi’s Japanese garden. Or who knows? Maybe bump into him in Naples…

Now that would be nice…

Località Cerza Grossa
83050 Sorbo Serpico (Avellino)

Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.  Lunch only on Sunday.
To make a reservation, call 0825-986666 - 348.3639531.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Barocco di Vino- Castel dell'Ovo, 29 May 2010

Another chance to walk around the'Egg Castle' and try the best wines from Campania. Saturday the 29th of May from 1200-2000. Great music from the Baroque period as well.

Andi it's free!

NOT to miss...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Soaking up Springtime in Campania, with Terre Del Principe

Every now and then I get the chance to see my Campania through the eyes of American tourists. Americans on vacation from the ‘States’...looking for the best. The best food, the best wine, the culture. I had an occasion such as this recently when Brian Arnoff, a 23 year old chef from Boston’s Sportello came to visit Terre Del Principe.

Brian, along with family and friends wanted to absorb Campania. They wanted to spend a day away from the tourist traps, the noise of the city. The Arnoff party wanted something different.

So, I watched them soak up Campania…the countryside. I watched how they checked out Campania, the vineyards. I observed how they were awed by seeing a 20 year old Casavecchia grape vine with young bunches basking in the late morning sun. How Manuela Piancastelli explained that this grape, as well as the Pallagrello Bianco and Nero grapevines nearby, were rediscovered after years of hard work and dedication by Peppe Mancini.

I observed closely as they sat down to a wine tasting. How they were treated to 2 horizontals of Pallagrello Bianco –Fontanavigna 2008 and 2009 and Le Serole 2008 and 2009. I saw how they took in the colors, the aromas, the differences between the wines and their vintages. I watched as they examined the fantastic colors in a glass of Centomoggia 2007 (Casavecchia). How they experienced the explosion of aromas, the freshness, equilibrium between the tannins and acidity. Then Ambruco 2007, Pallagrello Nero...the more elegant red. Followed by a cru---Vigna Piancastelli 2007. A wine that took the best of each red grape-Casvecchia’s’s explosion of aromas and Pallagrello Nero’s elegance.

Slow food…Manuela is a firm believer in this philosophy. I watched and listened as her guests savored the fresh herbs, spices and ingredients in dishes such as pasta with fave beans and pancetta or lamb-slow cooked in a terracotta pot with fresh rosemary and oven baked potatoes.

I answered questions –to the best of my ability-about food, culture, lifestyle…At one point I even sat back and took in the excitement, wonder and appreciation that these guests had for a region that I have adopted…that has adopted me.

So I soaked it all in…the pleasure in the simple things that I sometimes take for granted. The good food, good wine, and good company that Campania has shared with me for nearly 17 years. The Campania that I am happy to share…

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Capua-Il Luogo della Lingua Festival-21 through 30 May

Hey...Capua is not that far away...

And from May 21st  to the 30th, The Luogo della Lingua Festival, an event promoted by Architempo involving the city of Capua, will take place.  An event held annually where literature is  surrounded by so many important tools: cinema, theater, visual art and the media, music in all its forms, architecture and sculpture. This year the festival reaches its sixth year, enriched by the first edition of "Falerno First Novel Award. The prize, dedicated to novice writers, combining wine and literature. Ghirelli Antonio, Mario Venuti, Marcio Rangel, Amanda Sandrelli, Blas Roca Rey, Francesca Melandri, Margaret of Rausa, Paoletta Pelagalli from RTL, Peppe Servillo, Fausto Mesolella are just some of the names who will take turns on  stage.

All the events are free.

For more info, check out the following web sites

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time Travelling Through Taurasi with Mastroberardino

It is not every day that one gets an opportunity like the one I had yesterday. The privilege to sit in on one of the most exclusive wine tastings at Vitigno Italia 2010. A horizontal wine tasting of Mastroberardino’s Taurasi.

An opportunity to try, side by side, my Aglianico in version Taurasi by one of the biggest names in Campania. The opportunity to listen to moderators such as Dario Pennino and Massimo Di Renzo from Mastroberardino, journalist Luciano Pignataro, and President Ais Campania Antonio Del Franco.

No front row for me this time…I wanted to be in the second row, to the left where I could experience the wine tasting from all sides. Appreciate the opportunity to sit among professional sommeliers, journalist, and restaurateurs. A chance to observe, absorb, reflect, listen, learn. And that I did. I watched how Gambero Rosso’s Paolo De Cristofaro took in the aromas of each glass, slowly, then would set the glass down and think about the wines. Fabrizio Erbaggio, Ciao Vino, was another person who I enjoyed watching. How he would wait patiently until he felt the wine was ready…important due to the age of the wines…then begin his wine tasting. Look at the glass against a white backdrop, smell, put it down, write a note or two, pick it up, smell again…no, not ready…wait…then taste.

The wines in order of service…

1) Taurasi Riserva 1968

2) Taurasi Riserva 1977

3) Taurasi Riserva 1980

4) Taurasi Radici Riserva 1997

5) Taurasi Radici Riserva 1999

6) Taurasi Radici Riserva 1999 (Cento Trenta)

7) Taurasi Radici Riserva 2001

8) Taurasi Radici Riserva 2003

Eight Wines, Eight Stories. Our moderators took us on a journey of each vintage, the challenges of each year, the satisfaction of the final product. Here are a few notes from the tasting…

In 1977, there was a lot of rain around harvest time. The age of this wine transformed the usual cherry aroma to one that was more concentrated as if in a jam.

1980-Once again, a lot of rain, but also an earthquake. In fact during the vinfication process, the winery lost electricity for a few days. Massimo Di Renzo, Mastroberardino’s wine maker, noted that this gave the wine that caramelized aroma. Dario Pennino “Ti vieni la voglia di mangiare” Paraphrased, while you drink this wine, you get the desire to accompany it with a meal. Pennino  said it evolves, then re-evolves, cambia e ricambia…changes and changes again.

This last point was well noted…Taurasi is a wine that transforms in your glass. The 1968 poured at the beginning of the tasting continued to show its diversity, its evolution during the 75 minute tasting. Taurasi is a wine that breathes, that lives.

1997- Luciano Pignataro pointed out that this was a new era in Taurasi, and for Mastroberardino. The Taurasi wine was only a DOCG for 3 years at this point. Massimo Di Renzo noted that the dry year brings out the perfect balance between the acidity and morbidezza (smoothness).

Two wines from 1999, the second released to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the winery. In these ‘younger’ Taurasis words such as ‘elegant, a complete wine, freschezza’ were spoken. These wines spent their period in the little barrique in respect to the earlier wines who spent time in larger barrels. Di Renzo, however , believes that this wine has plenty to share …with time.

2001 and 2003---young Taurasis, great Taurasis that, who knows, may be the stars of a wine tasting 30 years from now. Who will show that they, too have grown up as their older versions and have evolved with time.

That is the beauty of a wine such as Taurasi, a winery such as Mastroberardino. That is the beauty of experiencing a sitting like this.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shiro Aka---Wine and Sushi at Vitigno Italia


Two new wines from Villa Matilde made exclusively for Kukai and presented by Mariaida Avallone (owner of Villa Matilde, President Donne del Vino, Campania).  Kukai, a Japanese restaurant located in downtown Naples.  THE place for all things Sushi run by Massimiliano and Monica Neri.
Together at Vitigno Italia for a standing room only wine tasting led by Michela Guadagno (AIS Campania TV, Professional Sommelier).

Shiro-a Falanghina that was described as sweet to the nose.  Smooth, warm, flavorful, with a particular lunghezza.  Aka- an excellent red made with Aglianico.  This was also smooth and well balanced.  The tannins were not heavy, so it was perfect side by side with the beautifully presented sushi.

In the end, I was sold.  Not only on the wines, which I expected to be excellent.  But I was impressed by the whole experience.  The sushi, the presentation, the appreciation from the other participants in the wine tasting.  (Neapolitans are a tough crowd). I was also impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of  Massimilano and Monica--an excellent example of young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs.  Bravi

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wine and the City--Why Not?

It began as a thought, a challenge to myself and myself only. After I left Palazzo Reale on Friday afternoon, I decided to stroll through my old stomping grounds (I used to teach ESL on Via Chiaia) and window shop. Maybe even pop into a few stores and wine taste. Naples, in preparation for the big wine fair on the 16th hosted their Wine and the City. Many shops this week, besides displaying their merchandise, had wine tastings with some of the best names in Campania. I stopped by a few. I had a tight schedule. What I loved about Wine and the City is that it was a way to get people out…discover great wines in an atmosphere where they may feel more comfortable. While I was out and about, I met several interesting shop owners who were more than happy to share with me the history of Naples, the beauty of the language, the art and architecture. I wasn’t expecting that. Over a glass of wine, I tried finger foods and was absorbed in the hospitality of a city that I have called home for the past 17 years. Whether it was a simple glass of wine with the shop owner or clients I basked in the warmth of the evening. I even bumped into friends Alessandro Palmieri (Feudi di San Gregorio) and Pasquale Brillante (President, AIS Comuni Vesuviani). Up in Vomero, it was great to see Neapolitan creativity in the window displays and the double decker bus wine bar..complete with Luigi, an AIS Sommelier. If my watch didn’t tell me it was time to go home, the weather sure did. My last stop before a downpour was in Spartarella where we finished the night off with a toast.


I Vini dei Vulcani--Some like it hot

HOT—Naples was really hot Friday afternoon. Fitting for a wine tasting entitled ‘I Vini dei Vulcani’ Wines of the Volcanoes. A perfect position, on the terrace of Palazzo Reale in downtown Naples. Here tables with white tablecloths were waiting. Ice buckets full of Falanghina, Lacrimya di Cristo, white and rosè, spumante, Piedirosso and Aglianico all sat patiently waiting to be chosen by their AIS sommelier and poured into my glass. I tried a few wines that I hadn’t tried before…sticking with whites and rosès. Ischia, Campi Flegrei and the Vesuvius area were the stars of the show. They performed well…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cantine Aperte with Terre del Principe, 30 May, 2010

Each year, at the end of May, hundreds of wineries throughout Italy open their doors to the public.  Terre del Principe opens their hearts...

On the 30th of May, 40 guests/friends/amici will be treated to a day with Manuela Piancastelli and Peppe Mancini to experience their passions:  good food, good wine, good company, and good music.

The day will go as follows:

 10.30 to 11: Arrival in the winery

11 am: Welcome drink

11:30 am - Classic musical concert for strings: violin Peter Varallo and Vincenzo Di Lorenzo harpsichord. Scheduled sonatas by Vivaldi, Handel, Barbella, Anonymous Neapolitan century. XVIII. In collaboration with the Cultural Association "Ave Gratia Plena" of Limatola

12:30 am - Visit to the cellar with the story of the history of its wines and Casavecchia. Walk in the vineyard "educational" Mascioni of three different farming systems for the same grape.

Hours 13.00 - Dejeuner sur l'herbe, lunch in the permitting..

Picnic in the Mascioni vineyard with fried macaroni, eggplant parmigiana, potato salad and tomatoes, meatloaf with tomato, chicory and bread soup with beans, grilled meat and lots of other country goodies.

All accompanied by the following wines:

Fontanavigna 2009 Pallagrello Bianco

Rosato 2009 rosé from the Volturno (Pallagrello Nero & Casavecchia)  NEW!!

Castello delle Femmine 2008 (Pallagrello Nero e Casavecchia).

Reservation required, max. 40 people

Terre del Principe

Via S.P. SS Giovanni e Paolo n° 30

Castel Campagnano

81010 - Caserta

EUR 45 per person
Here are shots from last year's event

Don't Miss the Bus!!!

Hop on the bus!

On Friday, May 14, a red London double decker bus will be in Vomero on Via Luca Giordano from 1730-2030. Inside--AIS Napoli sommeliers serving THE best red and white Campania wines. Can’t make it Friday? On Saturday and Sunday, you’ll spot in going up and down the lungo mare making brief stops at Rotonda Diaz---Destination-Vitigno Italia which kicks off on Sunday, May 16th.

Don’t Miss It!!!

Spend the Night in the Museum!...15 May

"Notte dei musei". On May 15, from eight o’clock in the evening to two o’clock in the morning, you can visit, for free, 35 monumental sites of the region. From Pompeii’s excavations to the Castello di Baia, from the Certosa di Padula to the Grotte di Pertosa. Of course, among the pièce de résistance, are also Caserta’s Royal Palace, the museums of the Sannio, the ex Carcere borbonico di Avellino, just to name a few.

A calendar rich of events that will side the extraordinary opening of museums, monuments and naturalistic sites. Among the most suggestive offers are the Invito a Palazzo Reale di Napoli, the Comicon in Villa Pignatelli, the spectacular walks among Pompeii and Ercolano’s ruins. But also the Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Castello di Baia, the Antiquarium in Boscoreale, the historical and archaeological museum in Nola and that in Piano di Sorrento.

The initiative is the fruit of collaboration between Mibac and Campania Region, with the sponsorship of Artecard. A well-established collaboration, on the occasion of the twelfth week of culture, to promote and valorise the grand cultural heritage of the region.

Source:In Campania

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Vini dei Vulcani- Friday, May 14

Wine and culture are the stars of  I Vini dei Vulcani "The Wines of the Volcanoes", organized by the Consortium Wines Campi Flegrei chaired by Michele Emmer, in collaboration with the National Library in Naples. The event is part of the Wine and the City program and worth looking into.  One, for the wines  and wineries that will be on hand.  Two, for the location.  If you haven't visited the Biblioteca Nazionale (Natinonal Library)  it is worth a look.  Showtime begins at 1100 and continues until  1800 in the  historic rooms  of the National Library of Naples (inside the Royal Palace in Piazza dei Pebliscito),

No reservation required, just show up at Palazzo Reale and follow the signs.  On hand will be AIS sommeliers as well as winery representatives to assist you on your journey in discovery the best wines of the Vulcanic Campania region.

And the best part,

free admission!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Il Pirata in Praiano---Ci Mancava Solo La Luna


These are some of the thoughts, phrases, pensieri, that come to mind after spending 12 hours in Praiano. 12 hours on the spiaggia La Praia… 12 hours specifically at Il Pirata. Il Pirata is a restaurant that really knows the meaning of ‘location, location, location.’ This ristorante is located in a beautiful position on the sea, on the rocks, tightly hugging onto a cliff. Inside, candlelight illuminates the bar which is located inside a grotto, a cave. Here is where you relax. Here is where you order your appertivo. (Mine? A glass of Terre Saracene-Costa D’Amalfi-Ettore Sammarco 2009.) It is here where you wait for your friends. It is here where you exchange a word, a laugh with Rino Milano (owner), his sister Vera, and barman Sergio before you head to your table.

Your table. Overlooking the sea. Your table, that on this particular evening ‘ci mancava solo la luna’, only the moon was missing to make this photograph complete.

My friends arrived from nearby Tramonti with gifts in tow. Fave, salami and pancetta. Our first antipasti. Then Rino and staff showered us with antipasti from the sea. I am a firm believer that if you are eating at a restaurant on the sea---the menu should reflect that. And it did, nonstop. I tried pasta con pescatrice (monkfish) that I am still dreaming about…

My twelve hours at Il Pirata did not finish at dinnertime. After a bit of conversation, I headed up to my camera which I reserved for the night. This room was on the path above Il Pirata. This room also embraced the cliff. I wish I could share with you the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks, the seagulls, the wave and smile of the fisherman in the early morning. The warmth of the sun that greeted me and almost convinced me to stay awhile longer.

But all good things must come to an end. I said goodbye to Praiano, spiaggia La Praia, and Il Pirata and was back on the road….

Andiamotrips will be organizing a trip to Il Pirata soon, in the meantime, if you find yourself on the Amalfi Coast, check it out…

Ristorante Il Pirata
Via Terramare, Praiano (SA)
089 874 377

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ARCHENO---A Fusion of History, Culture, Food and Wine at the piedi of Vesuvius

ARCHENO: Vino e divino ai piedi di monte…..

A wine event custom made for the history buff and wine it was perfect for me.

A wine event which began around 11 am with a series of speakers who had the task of explaining to us the territory known as Somma Vesuviana. They explained in great detail the history dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. They explained  how the soil was dramatically affected by the various eruptions of ‘our’ volcano, Vesuvius. We learned about three wines; Catalanesca (bianco) and Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio (red and white). We heard from various speakers including acclaimed archaeologist Antonio Del Simone who discussed a project that he has been working for the past 10 years on with the University of Tokyo….basically excavating a site nearby of an ancient Roman villa that had been covered in ashes from the volcanic eruption in 79 AD. He presented slides, showing how wine was a way of life…how Dionysus, known by many names (Bacchus, Hebon, etc), the god of wine, was an integral part of the ancient Romans's life. He showed us evidence of how they aged wines in terracotta for at least 5 years, vases that held anywhere from 500-544 liters of wine.

We heard from AIS Campania President Antonio Del Franco, who took us back in time. He showed us, through his slide shows, that the 'elegance of the sommelie'r has been around since the ancient Greeks.

Pasquale Brillante, president of AIS Communi Vesuviani spoke in detail about the grapes and the wines that make up his territory. He added how important the sommelier is becoming…and how diverse their role is.

Then off to the ruins where we took a guided tour of the area, enjoyed appetizers and pasta dishes prepared on site, as well as wine taste. Our hosts for this incredible journey back into time, Cantine Olivella shared three wines with us;

Lacrimanero (Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (red) DOC 13%)

Lacrimabianco (Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (white) DOC 13%)

KATA’ (Pompeiano Bianco IGT 14%)

My first time wine tasting in the area…what a day….

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Three Evenings of Wine and the City at Enoteca Mercadante

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the week before Vitigno Italia, Naples hosts Wine and the City.  Enoteca Mercadante will have three special events on the 13th, 14th and 15th of May...

13 May:  Cheese Day.  An entire night dedicated to cheese. 
For info and reservations tel. 081 680964 - 334 7807377. 081 680964 - 334 7807377.

14 May; An Evening with the Winery; Firriato – Sicilia Firriato - Sicily

 Dinner with 4 wines : € 35.00
For info and reservations tel. 081 680964 - 334 7807377. 081 680964 - 334 7807377.


 15 May Live Music:  Mac and New Groove

A choice of 2 menus  € 25.00 excluding wine and dessert, begins at  21.30
 For info and reservations tel. 081 680964 - 334 7807377. 081 680964 - 334 7807377.

Enoteca Mercadante
Address: Corso Vittorio Emanuele n.643/644 - Zip Code 80121 - Naples
Telephone: 081/680964
Stefano Continisio Mobile: 334/7807377
Francesco Continisio Mobile: 393/4110761
 Fax: 081/680964



Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taurasi Road Trip--What a Ride!

I had the opportunity to share my Campania –my Taurasi, in the heart of Avellino, on Saturday, May 1st with a curious group of wine lovers. For many it was the first time in Taurasi, so I had to take them to see Vino e Caffè…my number one stop when I arrive. After a quick cappuccino and cornetto with my friend Oscar Santsuosso, we headed out the door. It must have been an interesting sight, 25 English speaking wine lovers heading down the sleepy street –destination-Cantine Caggiano. On our way, I saw Antonio Caggiano relaxing on his patio a few doors down from his winery. I waved, and he joined our little parade to the front door of his winery. I’ve known Antonio Caggiano for nearly 5 years. I’ve translated winery tours with him on dozens of occasions…it is always a blast…divertente to share his passions with his visitors, his guests. After a tour, our group strolled to the centro storico, to the Enoteca Regionale dei vini d’Irpinia for a visit of this medieval palace. Here, we were greeted by Alessandro Barletta, from Slow Food who hooked us up with an exclusive sensorial wine tour and wine tasting led by Emilio Di Placido. Our group participated in a mini wine tasting lesson, complete with interactive material on the senses of touch, sight, smell and taste. An introduction into the world of aglianico…the world of Taurasi. Then upstairs for a wine tasting. Nearly 27 bottles of the area’s best Taurasis and aglianicos on the table…and all we had to do was say, ‘I’d like to try that one.’ ...Magic.

Lunchtime—off to Agriturismo Taurasi. Peppe prepared an enormous table for us where we had a great meal that lasted nearly 3 ½ hours…including naptime on the lawn!

What a day!! Taurasi…you made me proud!

I invite you to click on the taurasi label to see earlier blogs I've written on one of my favorite Campania towns...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Una Serata a SUD--Quarto's Shining Southern Star

I walked into SUD Ristorante for the first time on April 29th around 9 pm ish. Almost a year after its grand opening on the 11th of May 2009.

SUD a big little restaurant in Quarto…beyond the shopping mall, past the fruit and vegetable stands, towards the montagna spaccata.

SUD, run by Chef Marianna Vitale and husband Pino Esposito.

SUD-THE place to eat this year.

In fact, I had wanted to go SUD for awhile. Friend and SUD’s wine consultant, Fabrizio Erbaggio has invited me several times, and finally, last Thursday, along with the Winerdì staff…Cinzia Dalmonte and Ezechial Merone I walked through the door.

Wow…and what was on the other side of the door!!! Fresh, white and black interior…clean…immaculate…

At first I felt a little out of place. It reminded me of my grandmother’s ‘guest dining room’, where we were allowed to look, but not touch. But Marianna and Pino made me feel at home…subito.

A before dinner drink outside on the patio…Pino pulls out a bottle of Bruno Paliard’s Premiere Cuvee. We made a toast alongside mozzarella topped with freshly sliced tuna and a sprig of basil.

I am not a food critic. I am not a wine critic. I am a person who enjoys being with friends and sharing the entire experience of good food, good wine, and good company. I instantly felt the warmth from Marianna and Pino. Down to earth people. I no longer felt like I shouldn’t be there…it was okay to sit down in ‘the guest’s dining room’.

Fabrizio chose the wine. We shared a magnum of Caracci Falanghina DOC 2002 from Villa Matilde and La Poja Corvina Veronese IGT 2003 from Allegrini. Marianna’s appetizers flowed from the kitchen: sautéed pancetta on top of warm ricotta cheese and sautéed leek, mozzarella wrapped in an egg omelet resting on a bed of cream of asparagus. Then there was my favorite, tuna steak with lightly sautéed zucchini cubes and ricotta. Marianna added fresh basil from her herb garden for this dish as well.

Next up, spaghetti with clams in a creamy sauce, followed by lamb served with a puree of pea soup with lightly toasted bread crumbs on top. As you can see in the slide show below, presentation is very important to Marianna. Each dish was a beautiful work of art. From the shape of the plate it was served in, to the colors that were rich...bright...vivace on the white platter it called home.

It was time for una pausa…I walked around the dining room. I enjoyed the fact that it was small, holds about 28-30 guests…comfy, cozy….I liked looking at the wines displayed proudly on the shelves. My Campania was well represented. I really liked watching Marianna at work through the large glass window that separated the dining room from the kitchen. I admired the black and white photographs that hung on the wall-which I later learned were taken by Marianna’s brother.

Time for dessert---we had two. A mela annurca puree served ice cold and a panna cotta with a strawberry puree. Very flavorful. Pino chose the accompaniment---Tal Lùc ( Verduzzo, Riesling) 2002 from Lis Neris. Serata a SUD. My evening with friends in an environment that was warm, divertente. Run by a young couple who are excited about their work. A chef who took the time periodically to sit down at our table and fa una chiacchierata.

I realy enjoyed my evening. I almost want to keep SUD 'my little secret'....too late,  too good....
SUD Ristorante

Via San Pietro e Paolo 8, Quarto (NA)

081 0202708

Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner (lunch by reservation only at least 24 hours in advance)

, Sunday for lunch. Closed on Mondays.

On the 17th of May, Marianna will be at Vitigno Italia—finalist for a prestigious award -the best new chef in southern Italy. I wish my new friend the best of luck…