We’re back in Italy filming season 2 of Eat! Drink! Italy! with Vic Rallo! Stopped in Soave for lunch on the way to Friuli. Enjoyed two bottles of wine, spaghetti with bottarga, gnocchi gorgonzola, and roasted baby chicken.
During our recent two-week trip thru Tuscany and Sicily, we shot approximately 30 segments for the upcoming PBS series, Eat, Drink, Italy with Vic Rallo. I must say it was hard work, but we did eat and drink very well. While I was cooking, Tony was either on the couch or comfy chair taking a nap, or looking in on the filming of the recipe and cooking segments for the show. But while we were eating, he continually took food and wine related notes on napkins. Tony is an expert in all things Italian, especially wine, and is involved intimately in the show when we interview wine makers and winery owners, or are simply talking wine. And like all great Italian wine lovers, the food is just as important to Tony as the wine. Unlike any other country in the world, Italian wines and food are meant to go together. This is the way it has been for a thousand years or so, and like his Italian predecessors, Tony loves the beautiful marriage food and wine creates. As we traveled thru Italy, Tony created a book of napkins on which he scribbled his notes. Below is his review of the food and wine we drank and ate on our last trip transcribed from his napkin notebook.
What follows is an account of how we wined and dined throughout Italy from October 13-24, 2012 while shooting, Eat Drink, Italy with Vic Rallo.
Your first observation may be that we were on the wrong side of gluttony. Actually, our meals were served over a time period of 2-3 hours each, occasionally more. Much of the time we spent planning our next shoot with Allison, our fixer, Mark and Mario, who manned the cameras and set up the lighting, and Massimo (aka Max), the sound man. They joined us for just about every meal. We would all joke about the “light” lunch which we had requested. Several times we ate food which Vic Rallo had prepared. There was always the opportunity and temptation to overdo things, but it would have been counterproductive and unprofessional to do so. We are always professionals; well, almost always.
We drank the wines of the producers whom we visited. This is not a bad situation, since we were forced to taste the wines of Nozzole, Tenuta Sette Ponti, San Felice, Castello di Ama, Tolaini, Badia a Coltibuono, Nardi, Casanova di Neri and Fattoria di Magliano. Often we tried older vintages, dating back to 1970. At restaurants we always ordered local wines. Two whites stand out in my memory: Donnafugata Damarino 2011 in Sicily and Mancini Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2011 in Fiumicino, near Rome’s airport (well, Sardinia is almost local to Rome).
You will note the shift in gears from Tuscany to Sicily. You can get excellent seafood in Coastal Tuscany, but we were mostly inland in Montalcino and Chianti Classico with only one short side trip to the Maremma. We were offered beef from the Chianina breed, Tuscan prosciutto, wild boar and beans – special, local white beans of Zolfino cooked in fresh olive oil and sage, and served with lots of salt less Tuscan bread. It was enough to make us all mangia fagioli (bean eaters).
Sicily offered us fish and crustacean of every type, shape, and form. You feel that you are dining as the ancient Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians did on timeless, fresh seafood. You had to leave room for desserts: cannoli, cassatta, exotic melons and fruits, such as fichi d’india, prickly pears that bloom out of local cactuses. I noticed a special glow in the eyes of Mark Ganguzza, our producer. His family is of Sicilian origin.
Which do I prefer, Sicily or Tuscany? I’ll take them both; you will, too. They both sing of the food culture of Italy, which changes every 10 kilometers. The message is always the same: local breads, local olive oil, local recipes, local materie prime (prime ingredients). “Zero Kilometers” is alive and well throughout Italy.
Tuscany, October 13 – 20
Saturday, October 13, Lunch with Giovanni Folonari at Mangiando, Mangiando Restaurant in Greve, Chianti.
Chianina Beef Tartar
Risotto with Porcini (Rice with Porcini Mushrooms)
Peposo (Stewed Beef with Black Pepper Sauce)
Stracotto (Beef Stew)
Pollo Cacciatore (Chicken Hunter’s Style, Tomatoes, Herbs)
Ricotta with Candied Fruit
Saturday, October 13, Supper with Antonio Moretti at Sette Ponti near Arezzo, Tuscany.
Mozzarella di Bufala (Water Buffalo Mozzarella)
Rosticceria di Pollo, Collo di Maiale e Pane (Roasted Chicken, Pork Necks and Bread)
Ice Cream – Zuppa Inglese Flavor (Trifle Ice Cream)
Sunday, October 14, Lunch with Antonio Moretti at Sette Ponti near Arezzo, Tuscany.
Crostini al Fegato di Pollo (Toast with Pureed Chicken Livers)
Pappardelle al Sugo di Anatra (Ribbon Pasta with Duck Sauce)
* Boneless Chianina Prime Rib
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
Insalata Verde (Green Salad)
* Ice Cream – Cassatta Flavor (Cannoli Cream Ice Cream)
Sunday, October 14, Supper at a Pizzeria in Arezzo, Tuscany with Stefano Maggini.
Calamaretti (Fried Baby Squid)
Zeppoli (Fried Dough Balls)
Calzoni e Pizze
Monday, October 15, Lunch at San Felice, Castlenuovo Berardegna, Tuscany.
* Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Cacio Cheese and Black Pepper)
Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Finocchiaro
Monday, October 15, Supper at San Felice, Castlenuovo Berardegna, Tuscany.
Chianina Beef Tartar
Potato Gnocchi with White Meat Ragu, Pistachios and Raspberries
Cinta Senese Suckling Pig
Orange Puff Pastry with Burrata Mousse, Chestnuts, Orange Sorbetto and Chocolate
Tuesday, October 16, Lunch at Castello di Ama, Gaiole,Tuscany.
Fusilli Pasta with Pesto and Tomatoes
Chicken in White Wine
Melanzana – Ratatouille Style
Tuesday, October 16, Supper at Castello di Ama, Gaiole, Tuscany.
Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato Soup, Olive Oil, Bread)
* Farro, Porcini and Ceci Soup (Grain, Porcini Mushrooms and Chickpeas)
Peposo (Beef Stew with Black Pepper Sauce)
Wednesday, October 17, Lunch with Lia Tolaini at her estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany.
Assorted Panini (Sandwiches)
Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Olives
Castagneta Torta (Chestnut Pie)
Wednesday, October 17, Supper with Lia Tolaini at her estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany.
Chicken Spezzatino and Polenta (Chicken Stew)
* Ravioli di Zucca con Burro e Salvia (Pumpkin Ravioli with Butter and Sage)
Thursday, October 18, Lunch at Badia a Coltibuono with Emanuela Stucchi-Prinetti, Gaiole, Tuscany.
Zuppetta di Pesce e Spinaci (Fish Soup with Spinach)
Crostini of Zucca, Finferli, Cheese and Fegato (Toasts with Pumpkin, Chanterelles,
Cheese and Liver)
Patate Arrosto con Pesto (Roasted Potatoes with Pesto)
Terrine, Pate, Prosciutto, Finocchiaro (Finochiaro is Fennel Salami)
Insalata Mista (Mixed Salad)
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
* Pears Poached in Red Wine
Thursday, October 18, Supper at Badia a Coltibuono with Emanuela Stucchi-Prinetti, Gaiole,Tuscany.
We ordered from the menu. I had:
Cabbage Soup with Pancetta (Bacon)
* Veal Cheeks with Potatoes and Finferli (Chanterelles)
Friday, October 19, Lunch at Silvio Nardi with Emilia Nardi in Montalcino, Tuscany.
Prosciutto and other assorted Crudi
Cinghiale with Onions (Wild Boar)
Friday, October 19, Supper at Casanova di Neri in Montalcino, Tuscany with the Neri family.
Antipasti of Speck (Smoked Prosciutto) and Cheeses
Bistecca (Grilled Steak)
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
Pappardelle with Capriolo Sauce (Pasta Ribbons with Wild Roebuck Sauce)
Saturday, October 20, Lunch with Agostino Lenci at Fattoria di Magliano in the Maremma, Tuscany.
* Crostino of Radicchio, Pignoli, Grated Parmigiano and Olive Oil
Crostino of Chicken Livers
Crostino of Diced Tomato and Olive Oil
Cinghiale and Polenta (Wild Boar)
Sicily, October 20 – 23
Saturday, October 20, Supper with the Asaro family at Da Vittorio in Porto Palo, Sicily.
Caponata with Swordfish (Eggplant Salad)
Polpettine di Pesce (Fish Balls)
* Spatola al Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Gambero Rosso Crudo di Mazara del Vallo (Raw Shrimp, similar to Ceviche)
* Neonati Fritti (Fried Small Fish)
Insalata di Cozze e Polpo (Mussel and Octopus Salad)
Spaghetti con Gambaretti e Pistachio (Small Shrimps and Ground Pistachios)
* Spaghetti al Ricci (Sea Urchins)
Desserts, including Cassata Siciliana and Cannoli
Sunday, October 21, Picnic Lunch with the Asaro team in an olive grove near Partanna, Sicily.
Caponata (Eggplant Salad)
* Fresh Ricotta
DOP Black Bread
DOP Vastedda di Belice Cheese
Bottarga (Tuna Roe)
* Busiate Pasta Trapanese (Small Fusilli Pasta with Almonds, Tomatoes, Basil)
Salsiccia al Forno (Grilled Sausages)
Fichi d’India (Prickly Pears)
* Fragoli Fruit (Looks like a Lime, tastes like a Strawberry)
Cucidati Cookies (Holiday Cookies)
Sunday, October 21, Supper at London Ristorante in Menfi with the Asaro team.
Couscous Trapanese (Sea Food and Couscous)
Carpaccio di Pesce Spada (Raw Swordfish)
Pesce Spada Affumicata (Smoked Swordfish)
Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad)
Arancino di Riso e Pesce (Rice and Fish Balls)
Gamberi Crudi (Raw Shrimp)
Triglie Fritte (Fried Fish)
* Smoked Tuna and Yellow Melon
Spinach and Cheese in Filo Pastry
Spatola Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Ricciola al Olio (Fish in Olive Oil)
Cozze al Vino Bianco (Mussels in White Wine)
* Occhiata e Calamari (Assorted Sea Food)
Sorbetto Limone (Lemon Sherbet)
Monday, October 22, Lunch in Sciacca, Sicily with Vincenzo Recca at Ristorante del Faro.
Alici al Olio (Sardines in Olive Oil)
Spatola Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Cozze Marinara (Mussels in Tomato Sauce)
Polpette di Gamberi (Shrimp Balls)
Polpo in Umido (Steamed Octopus)
* Spaghetti con Le Sarde (Sardine Sauce)
Spaghetti con Ricci (Sea Urchins)
Pesce Spada con Pommodoro e Cipolle (Swordfish, Tomatoes, and Onions)
Sarago Grigliato (Grilled Fish)
Giri (Beet Greens)
Monday, October 22, Supper in Castelveltrano, Sicily at the home of Nino Asaro, with his family.
Panella (Chickpea Squares)
Arancini al Sugo di Carne (Meat Sauce Balls)
Arancini al Formaggio e Prosciutto Cotto (Cheese and Ham Balls)
Salsiccia Pasqualora (Easter Salami)
Caponata (Eggplant Salad)
Vastedda di Belice DOP Cheese
Scamorza Affumicata (Smoked Cheese)
Ricotta Salata al Forno (Baked Cheese)
* Spaghetti Macco di Fava (Fava and Pea Sauce)
Salsicce al Forno (Grilled Sausage)
Tortino di Patate (Potato Tart)
Braciola con Carote e Cipolle (Stuffed Beef Rolls with Carrots and Onions)
Fichi d’India (Prickly Pears)
Melone Giallo (Yellow Melons)
Casadelle (Sfogliatelle Fritte – Fried Stuffed Pastries)
Pignolata (Struffoli, Fried Dough Balls with Honey)
Tuesday, October 23, Lunch at Antica Focacceria di San Francesco in Palermo, Sicily with Tommaso Asaro.
Arancini al Ragu con Piselli (Meat Sauce and Peas)
Arancini al Ricotta e Prosciutto Cotto (Cheese and Ham)
Pianini di Panella (Ceci – Chickpeas)
* Pianini di Milza (Spleen)
Sfincione (Local Flatbread/Pizza)
Involtini di Melanzane (Stuffed Eggplant)
Tuesday, October 24, Supper at Pisicchio Ristorante in Fiumicino, Rome.
Cozze e Vongole in Vino Bianco (Mussels and Clams in White Wine)
Fried Fish Balls
* Moscardini Fritti (Fried Baby Calamari)
Shrimps with Lettuce and Mayonnaise
Salmone Affumicato con Ricotta (Smoked Salmon with Ricotta)
Alici al Olio (Fresh Sardines in Olive Oil)
Salmone Affumicato con Radicchio (Smoked Salmon with Radicchio)
* Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci (Spaghetti with Clam Sauce)
* Tagliolini con Frutti di Mare (Thin Homemade Pasta Strips with Mixed Seafood and
* Sorbetto di Limone (Lemon Sherbet)
Everything we tasted was fresh, local and excellent. I have inserted an asterisk (*) in front of dishes that I thought were extraordinary.
Where the Hell is Victor Rallo?
This is a good question and I don’t have an answer! However, I do know where he was! Piedmont, Alto-Adige, Emilia Romagna, Trentino and Lombardy; Victor was zigzagging his way across Northern Italy in search of the very best food, wine, and life for his new show “Eat, Drink, Live Italy with Victor Rallo” set to air this winter on PBS.
Victor’s pursuit is to bring you the best of Italy! Not only will he be delving into such items as truffles, pressing olives, and finding the perfect cheese caveau, he will be eating some of each region’s top food and drinking the finest wine. And yes, he’s even keeping an eye on Burlisconi and Italy’s bees. So, stayed tuned for news on the upcoming show, and to keep tabs on his antics throughout Italy.
On his most recent trip, of the hundreds of wines he tasted, the following are the ones you cannot miss!!!
Paolo Scavino Barolo, Langhe Nebbiolo and Langhe Bianco
At Paolo Scavino in Castiglione Falletto, Piedmont it is a family affair. Sisters, Elisa and Enrica, sit beside their father, Enrico, producing historical wines vintage after vintage. I love the base Barolo; it is an outstanding value. Also, try the Langhe Bianco 2011, it is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon and 2011 is the first vintage with viognier in the blend.
The Paolo Scavino winery was founded in 1921 by Enrico Scavino’s grandfather Paolo. Today Enrico runs the winery with the help of his daughters Enrica and Elisa. The winery is located in Castiglione Falletto, one of the eleven communes of the Barolo appellation, in the historical Langhe hills. The Scavino winery is rare in their possession of grand cru’s in six of the eleven villages of Barolo. The Scavino family owns grand cru vineyards in the townships of Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, La Morra, Roddi, Verduno and Serralunga. This diversity of terroir gives the Scavino’s a unique opportunity to produce wines of extraordinary quality. The single vineyard crus have been a personal mission of Enrico since he conceived and created the Bric del Fiasc single vineyard label in 1978: The first Scavino cru. The uniqueness of each vineyard’s terroir today can be tasted in their four esteemed single vineyard bottlings.
After a jet-lagged first day in Italy and only 5 hours of sleep the night before, we left the hotel Antares in Villafranca, just outside of Verona at 7:15am Thursday morning bound for the city of Soave. I knew that spending the day with the Pieropan family at their infamous winery would be memorable, however I didn’t anticipate that the ride to their estate would become one of the most memorable of all my trips to Italy. Groggy, determined, and slightly hesitant, we set out for Soave. Granted this wasn’t my first trip to Pieropan, but it would mark the first on Rallo Navigation vs. TOM TOM. During our late first night, we left our car unlocked and someone stole our GPS right out of the rental car. Maps in hand, my team and I headed off, looking forward to seeing my friends and favorite soave producers, and to tasting one of my top 5 white wines, Pieropan La Rocca Soave.
Feeling pretty proud for managing to get us off at the highway at the proper exit without the TOM TOM, I knew we were close when I saw the giant BOLLA SOAVE, which guided us off the Autostrada. After following the signs, we ended up outside the walled city of Soave and I recognized the road we were on from my previous visit. The only thing that stood between us and Peiropan, which I knew was around the corner, was a one way street and the giant medieval walls of Soave. So while part of me knew that driving through an exit only was not the best idea, the risk taker thought differently and won the battle so I hit the gas and went for it! Half way through the entrance, not only was I greeted by a car that was heading towards us, but closely behind the car was the Carabinieri, the Federal Police of Italy.
Instinctively, I pulled on to the sidewalk, placed the car in park and emerged from it with my hands up. The Carabinieri asked me for my license and papers and after scanning it demanded I speak to him in Italian. He insisted, your name is Rallo, you must speak Italian.” I assured him that while I could do many things in Italian, speaking was not one of them, He did not like this response and soon we have 2 more Carabinieri arrive on the scene. All I could think about is that Dario and his family where right around the corner and would either hear about this or be next on the scene. I tried to reason with the police in a mix of broken English and horrible Italian, which had my team laughing behind me, explaining that I had an appointment with the Pieropan Family and had made a terrible mistake entering the one way the wrong way.
Finally, I saw recognition, a reaction in the smaller more compact police officer and he instructed me to get back in the car and follow him. I did as I was told, especially since the Carabinieri still held my license and passport. Part of me was panicked that this officer just took off with my documents and I may be following him to jail, the other part of me couldn’t help wonder how I was going to explain to my wife that I got arrested my first few days in Italy. So as I wondered where the officers were taking us, I noticed that we were circling the city and headed towards Pieropan. In usual Victor Rallo fashion, I made a hell of an impression entering the Peiropan Estate with a police convoy leading the way. Dario Pieropan was the first out the door, followed by his mother and father. And I simply stated, “Dario it is just me, Victor” The police laughed and decided against sharing my minor infraction and simply stated to the Pieropan’s that their visitors had arrived. The police man shook my hand, handed my documents back and walked down the path to the gate at Pieropan. They say always make a grand entrance and that we did, a grand entrance for a grand tasting.
Part 2 coming soon…
THE BEST ON THIS PLANET
In the center square in Marzemami in an unassuming stone building with a beaded entrance. Behind the beads lies the best granita on this planet. Everyone knows that Italy has great gelato and Sicily is the best of Italy, but what I did not know was that granita, frozen ice (no milk) made with real fruit, nuts, coffee etc. was the bomb.
So after lunch we walk into the square and we notice a line of people streaming out of this beaded doorway and we immediately gravitated to the gathering. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason young, old, fat and skinny Italians savoring the most beautiful granita in the world, semi frozen, succulent and juicy, the pits and all.
Now it was our turn to order. The choices were anguria (watermelon), fregola (strawberry), mandorlo (almond), ciocolato (chocolate), espresso, melone bianco (honeydew) fichi bianco (white fig), fichi nero (brown fig), pesca (peach) and limone. This ice cream store Italiani was much different from its American counterpart in that it only had 9 flavors all made fresh, no preservatives , no sugar, no color added. Only La Materia Prima. What would I choose – would I be back again?
As always being the foodie that I am, when presented with one of these delicious dilemmas, I order one of each flavor. I had plenty helpers my wife, a gelato/granita junkie, my daughter Eli a sweets lover, and rounded out by Jack and Jake. I tasted and savored each flavor, one flavor better then the next, one thing is for sure every flavor tasted exactly like the pure ingredient frozen. I know that you expect a final choice, so here it is: peach and strawberry were my favorites, but they were all great and each one was better then anything I have tasted in the USA.
One of the last things you expect to see in modern day Sicily is a sheep herder, especially right next to a highway.
Join Victor on his latest trip to Montalcino & Poggio al Tesoro in Italy!