Monday, April 11, 2011

The Wine List, Please-Abraxas Osteria & Wine Bar, Pozzuoli (Na)

I remember the first time I went to Abraxas. I brought a few friends for a real girls' night out…away from the husbands, kids, and boyfriends. It was my choice, I felt a little responsible, but I had only heard positive things about this osteria located in the outskirts of Campi Flegrei. A place that had a great menu…and an amazing and diverse wine list. I remember being handed that list by Nando Salemme, owner of Abraxas. I can still feel the eyes of my girlfriends on me as they expected me to choose a wine from this large carta dei vini. I chose…we wined and dined…it was a great night.

Since then, I have bumped into Nando on numerous occasions outside of Abraxas. On the streets of Taurasi’s centro storico on a hot summer evening. At various wine fairs, lunches, dinners and Slow Food events. And each time we bumped into each other, I was always fascinated at his passion for tasting and trying new things; from wines, to cheeses, to salamis and jams. Nando Salemme-always on the look out for something new, something different to bring back to his osteria in Campi Flegrei.

Fast forward: April 2011. I pull into the parking lot of Via Scalandrone # 15, in Pozzuoli at about 1615-but this time without my girlfriends. This time I brought my Nikon, a notepad and a pen. I wanted to have a chat with Nando about his carta dei vini. Un caffè, a glass of Ferrarele and Nando began his story.

A story that began about 9 years ago when Abraxas was just a small wine bar, with a small menu. Over time, by popular demand, the menu expanded and Abraxas became an osteria serving pasta, cheeses, salamis based around the Campi Flegrei territory that he calls home. Slowly..steadily his wine list of a modest 80 wines developed into 800. 800 wines…800 friends. Nando, sommelier and enthusiast for anything and everything under the sun has a passion for exploring. He travels often in his camper with his wife and daughter and with his friends. He travels throughout Campania, Abruzzo, Basilicata, and Tuscany to name a few adventures. He walks the vineyards, gets to know the producers, the wine makers, the wine. All out of an enthusiasm and desire to bring back a product that he feels that his customers, his friends, would like.

Skimming through his wine list is like opening up his travel diary, Wineries throughout Italy. Wineries who are internationally known as well as those who are unknown…all wineries that meet the Abraxas test. The list is divided by region beginning with the vini al bicchierri. A selection of 7 to 8 wines that you may order by the glass. A great way to try a new wine that is unfamiliar to you or an option for those who may not want a full bottle. Then the ultimi arrivi. Abraxas’s latest wines choices. A quick way to see what’s new to the mix. Skimming through the pages, I saw a large selection of Campania wines, particularly those from Campi Flegrei. Nando feels that it is important to support the territory, his territory. A territory proudly displayed from Abraxas’s garden which overlooks Lake D’Averno. Nando feels a strong tie to Campi Flegrei, to its wines and other products. Making people aware of the culture and traditions can help to preserve a region.

There is a section for Abraxas’s recommended wines. These are for those who are unsure of what to order and usually include Italy’s smaller wineries with an interesting quality/price ratio. About 70 international wines have found their way on the list with France being up front and center. I continued to browse the light brown album which held his wine list. But my Nikon was getting restless. I wanted to walk around.

Nando at this point pulled out a set of keys and opened his cantina. An area to the left side of the bar, hidden in the corner. A small area behind iron bars with two tables set up for dining. Modest, dimly lit. I was immediately interested in what each shelf had to offer. So a took a few minutes, okay, about a half an hour, roaming the shelves. Wines from all over. Wines that had their own story. Wines that Nando chose himself and brought home to Abraxas. Grappas, whiskeys, dessert wines, and all sorts of after dinner drinks. All resting in the comfort of Abraxas’s cantina. Aging in the bottle, relaxing on the shelves.

Relaxing as I did a while back with my girlfriends. On a girls' night out…without husbands, kids, or boyfriends. I even remember the wine that I chose that evening. And I saw it there..
A Piedirosso Riserva from Campi Flegrei…I think I chose well.  I mean, it was hard not to...

Abraxas Osteria & Wine Bar
Via Scalandrone # 15
Pozzuoli-Lucrino (Na)
081 854 9347

Italian Version

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