Carol and I recently returned from a ten-day vacation in Italy with our good friends Tony and Anita. We visited the Amalfi coast, and a number of small hill towns in the Provinces of Avellino and Perugia. It was a great trip. Our ten days were filled with terrific meals and delicious wines under absolutely gorgeous Italian skies. As Tony likes to say, “Italy is a country in search of a bad meal”. This trip did nothing to negate his comment.
Our trip began with a four-night stay at the Palazzo Murat Hotel in the heart of Positano. What a terrific and reasonably priced hotel this is. Clean and spacious suites with a complete buffet breakfast for $330 Euro’s a night is indeed a bargain in this day and age.
Positano is a gorgeous seaside hill town in the heart of the Amalfi Coast. While it is a big tourist attraction, the restaurants do a magnificent job with fresh local seafood and pastas. On this trip we revisited a number of our favorites. At La Cambusa, one of the many beachfront ristorantes in Positano, we enjoyed an assortment of fried fish, eggplant parmigianno and spaghetti puttanesca.
|Calamarata alla Calamarelle|
No visit to Positano would be complete without diving into a plate of Spaghetti con Vongole at Buca Di Baco Ristorante. Made with fresh baby clams and a hint of tomato, this may be the ultimate pasta with clam sauce on the planet.
|Spaghetti con Vongole|
We drank some absolutely delicious white wines that complimented our meals in Positano and were very kind to our wallets. At about $20 a bottle Pieropan Soave 2010 is a crisp, fruity and delicious wine from the Veneto region of Italy. A blend of Garganega and Trebbiano it is one of the better Soaves produced in Italy. It is readily available in the states.
The Fiano grape is a white wine grape variety that is grown primarily in the Campania region of Italy. A De Conciliis Fiano Donnaluna 2011 was wonderfully vibrant on the palate and went beautifully with the Polpo Luciano. At about $20 a bottle, it is a bargain worth looking for. Try Italian Wine Merchants, NYC, DeVino, NYC and 56º Wine, Bernardsville, NJ.
Another Fiano that we enjoyed was a bottle of 2010 Pietracupa Fiano Di Avellino. It was wonderfully crisp and round on the palate. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be available in the states.
Most of my favorite Italian white wines come from Italy’s most North Eastern region of Friuli-Venezia. On the border of Slovania, the wines from this region are simply stunning. We enjoyed a number of them during this vacation beginning with a 2010 Schiopetto Colio Friuliano here in Positano. This wine is made with 100% Tocai Fruiliano grapes and is fermented and fined in stainless steel. It is crisp, fruity and has exhibits wonderful balance on the palate. Good availability at about $25.
A little further northwest is the Alto-Adige region of Italy, which also produces some wonderful wines, especially white wines such as Kerner. We enjoyed a 2010 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner. This bottle was round and elegant with a wonderful finish. Abbazia Di Novacella is a monestary run by the order of St. Augustine. The monks make all of the wine. Finding it may take some time, but at $15 a bottle it is well worth the effort.
As I alluded to previously, Positano wine lists are on the weak side, especially when it comes to red wines like Barolo. Conterno Fantino is one of the more modern style wine makers (he uses roto-fermentors and ages his wines in French Barrique) who’s wines I do enjoy. The estate Conterno Fantino Barolo 2005 is a blend of grapes from his single vineyards that do not make it into the single vineyard wines. The wine was okay but lacked the earthiness and complexity of more traditional Baroli. At about $75 a bottle, I would pass on adding this to my cellar.
Ocone Giano Greco 2010 was another local white wine that we thoroughly enjoyed. Made from the Greco grape it was crisp, vibrant, unoaked with good acidity and balance. It was a nice compliment to our Pizza Margharita and Gnocci alla Sorrentino at Basilica Ristorante in Sorrento. At about $15 a bottle, try it if you can find it.
The next day we visited Tony’s cousins in Santo Stefano de Sole Montevirgine in the suberbs of Avellino. What a delightful day. We really enjoyed meeting these wonderful people and in the tradition of genuine Italian hospitality we were treated to a feast at Sunday dinner with the entire family. The meal was prepared by Tony’s 77 year old cousin Sina and it was “off-the-charts”. We began with an antipasto of homemade soprasatta, salami and mozzarella. And of course there were ripe plump figs from their fig trees. This was followed by a fantastic homemade lasagna that I could have eaten all day long. Homemade eggplant Parmesan that was moist, light and brimming with flavor; beef braciole and peas with prosciutto, followed the lasagna. We tried to cry uncle, but to no avail as we were served medallions of stuffed Tacchino (turkey) in a savory gravy and complimented by roasted potatoes. Everything was cooked in cousin Luigi’s enormous brick oven lending that old world authenticity to the entire meal. Cousin Luigi’s homemade red wine, Alianico of course, from his current vintage complimented the meal to perfection. The wine had young, vibrant fruit on the palate with a clean and delicious finish. For dessert there was homemade Nocellino cake, Baba Rum cake and an assortment of grappas and other after dinner liquors. Needless to say we left there with full bellies and even fuller smiles.
|Cousin Luigi's Oven|
|Parslied Pasta w/ Vegetable Ragu|
|Salut a tutti!|