Category Archives: Italian Restaurants

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Maiolica Nera

Happy New Year. This year I am going to try to be very prolific on this blog and write about all the wines I have tasted and been sent over the past years. Let’s see how much I get done. This is also the year of wine grapes with the letter “M” on Avvinare. There are many of them and I believe it will be 2018 before I get to the letter “N.” I look forward to the journey.


This week’s indigenous variety is Maiolica Nera which grows mainly in Abruzzo, in  Le Marche and in Umbria. The word Maiolica to me used to mean ceramics before I heard of this particular grape variety. It is usually blended with Montepulciano, the signature red grape from Abruzzo.

It is not a very tannic grape and doesn’t have a lot of acidity but it brings floral and spicy notes to the blend.

I haven’t visited Abruzzo in a long time but I think I am due for a visit. I need to put that on the calendar for 2017, along with many other things. So much wine, so little time….


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Filed under Abruzzo, Indigenous Varieties, Italian indigenous varieties, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, wines

Upcoming Italian Events In NYC: “BARRIQUE…The Third Life of Wood” at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York -BOOTH 2809-Level 3 & Italian Dine Out Week

For those who are attending the Fancy Food show in NYC this coming week, you have a great opportunity to try wines from some of Italy’s best producers who together with San Patrignano have been showing their wines throughout the country during this past month. I worked at their opening event in New York last month and will be at the Fancy Food show this month as well. The producers are from all over Italy including wines from Falesco, Di Majo Norante, Gianfranco Fino, Argiolas, Serradenari, Castello di Cigognola, Masciarelli, Botolo, Castiglion del Bosco, La Vis, Scubla, Feudi di San Gregorio, Anselmi, Velenosi, Les Cretes, Cantine del Notaio, Lunae Bosoni and San Patrignano.

The wines were part of a larger exhibition that involved furniture made in the workshops of the Communita di San Partrignano by those that live in the community and designed by world famous architects, all using wood from former wine barrels. The furniture won’t be shown at the Fancy Food show for obvious reasons. San Patrignano does wonderful work helping former drug addicts to get their lives back on track. They grow food and make wine, all activities that some of the former community members continue when they leave the group. If you plan on coming to the show, stop by the booth. Or come to the show for these wines, very worthwhile…

Also, don’t forget New York City’s first ever Italian Restaurant Week to celebrate Italian gastronomy and the culinary arts in the United States through an exciting 11-day dining event, from June 26 through July 6. Twenty three of New York City’s most authentic Italian restaurants will offer diners exceptional 3-course prix fixe menus at special discounted prices: $26 for lunch and $40 for dinner. To appeal to New Yorkers’ preference for convenience, the Italian Dine-Out has partnered with to afford diners a one-stop venue to peruse participating restaurants’ menus, make reservations, and find all program information in one place. Some of my favorite NYC Italian restaurants are taking part, including Aroma, I Trulli, SD26, Tarallucci e Vino and The Leopard at Des Artistes, among others. I am going to try a few that I have never been to including Gradisca and maybe Roc Restaurant.

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Filed under events, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, New York, wines

Local Wine Shops In New York City: Long Island City

This week I am dedicating my blog to New York. I lost a member of my family recently who was a true New Yorker – a Brooklynite and Dodger fan at the outset of his life, an inhabitant of the West Village for decades and an attorney on 42nd Street/5th for most of it. New York was his home but he loved to travel extensively as well. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him in Italy during the years that I lived there. Like all members of my family, he had a particular affinity for all things Italian be it leather goods, art or great shoes.

I also love to travel and do so as often as budget and time allows. When I can’t travel somewhere on a plane, I try to “travel” locally, visiting neighborhoods that I don’t usually frequent. A few weekends ago, I dragged my sister to Long Island City. Unfortunately we missed the new flea market which my friend Lana Bortolot wrote about so beautifully here but we did get to check out some cool wine shops.

My favorite was Hunter’s Point Wines & Spirits where owner Paul Huston holds court. He had an amazing selection of wines and what looked to be a cool area to taste them. I also found a very helpful sales person in a smaller store right near the subway at Vernon Wines & Liquors. I was curious to see what wines were stocked in these stores and the prices. While a bit cheaper than in Manhattan, I found them to be more or less in line with what I find in my neighborhood. Here is a list of wine shops in Long Island City.

I also noticed a few restaurants that I would like to try, chief among them Manducatis. I will have to have a return visit for this long standing Italian favorite. I love discovering New York and all it has to offer, just like any visiting tourist to this fair city.

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Filed under Italian Art, Italian Restaurants, italy, New York, wine stores, Wine Tasting

Sweet Saturday: Be Still My Heart – Vivoli Comes To Town

I am jumping out of my skin today. Partly because it’s snowing, it should be spring and because I am participating in the New York Half Marathon tomorrow. No I am not running, I am walking it as part of Team in Training’s team that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The other reason I am excited is because Vivoli, a Florentine institution and my favorite gelateria in Italy is now in New York City. I couldn’t be happier.


Vivoli was one of the first places I visited that fated visit to Florence at 20 years old that changed my life forever. I love their gelato, old-fashioned, artisanal, real flavors that I recognize. Stephanie Teuwen told me about the opening yesterday and I had to check it out for myself.


What I found, in addition to all the flavors I love, was a huge restaurant that I can’t wait to try, Stella 34 at Macy’s in Herald Square. The New York Times wrote this piece last month on the opening.

Stella 34

I felt like I was in Italy, maybe even on the last floor of Rinascente in Milan or at the bar in Como that I visited last month. I felt like I would look out the window and see the Duomo in Como (below).
Instead, I saw the Empire State Building which has its own fascino…


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Filed under Art, Gelato, Italian recipes, Italian Restaurants, Memorable Events, Travel, Tuscany

Women in Wine: Laura Brunelli of Gianni Brunelli Winery

There are many women who work in the Italian wine industry whom I respect and admire. Some of them are friends of mine, others acquaintances and still more that I don’t know. One woman though is so particular that I always smile when I think of her, her wines and her restaurant – Laura Vacca or Laura Brunelli. Laura owns the Gianni Brunelli winery.

I’ve written about Laura often in the past as have a number of other people, including this comprehensive piece by Erin Scala on her blog,

I’m thinking about Laura today not because I am drinking one of her great wines but because her restaurant was just mentioned in the New York Times, Osteria Le Logge.

I had one of the best meals of my life at that restaurant with Laura and Gianni in 2007. A truly unforgettable experience and one I highly recommend.

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Filed under Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, Travel, Tuscany, wines, Women in Wine

Back In The Eternal City – Roma

I’m back in the eternal city and too excited and overwhelmed to sleep. I’ve in fact been up reading since 400am but no matter life is to be enjoyed “anche durante le ore piccole” or the wee hours of the night.

I’ve been in town just two days staying with riends from Italy and hanging out with  friends from the States who were in a Master’s program with me in Bologna. In fact, Zach, Julia and their great kids Sam and Jules but not little Elena and I spent part of our afternoon in Piazza Navona.

We also went to look at the Caravaggio’s in a nearby church, San Luigi dei Francesi. Somewhat overcome with all the emotions of the beauty of Rome, we settled down to have fabulous gelato near the Pantheon. My favorites are always the same, coco e caffe but the chose was difficult.

San Luigi dei Francesi was one of the stops on my dear friend Teresa’s family tour of Rome. Her father, Brunello, loved Caravaggio and it was with Teresa that I first went to that church. I got to spend an amazing day with her family on Friday in Zagarolo.

I was Teresa’s testimonio di nozze in 2008 and I’m glad to be here for her fourth anniversary, more or less. I’m sorry that I will be missing the annual festival of the Tordo Matto. I tried this local delicacy for the first time at Teresa and Filippo’s wedding and while I am against eating la carne equina (I can’t even write it),I must say that this dish was particularly memorable and part of me is sorry to not have the opportunity next weekend but I’ll be in the North.

Teresa and Filippo have introduced me to some of the most incredible restaurants and chefs that I have ever met. Top among them were Sor Anna, Antonello Colonna and the famed sommelier turned restaurateur Pipero. Who you might ask are these people?

A trio of noted Roman food & wine notables. Anna Dente is the owner and maestra of the Osteria San Cesario.

Sor Anna is the “quintessenza della Romanita’.” I know not everyone reads Italian but I just found this amazing entry about Sor Anna on the blog Le Forchettine by the multitalented author of This is such a perfect description of Sor Anna and a beautifully written blog post, worth reading with a dictionary to catch some of the underlying things that make Rome great.

Sor Anna is particularly enamored of Filippo and I have always had royal treatment when I have been at the restaurant. Sadly much of the menu are things that I don’t have nell’anima. Someone who I have always thought was her son but am now less sure asked me if I didn’t like eating the “menu macabro” or a menu of internal meats much to my dad’s chagrin.

I have never forgotten that statement nor have I ventured towards any of the items on that list but if you are in Rome and like those dishes, Sor Anna is a must.

Antonello Colonna I met at his restaurant in a town called Labico outside of Rome. It was the first “ristorante di alta cucina italiana” that I had been to in my many years in Italy. Filippo was the assistant sommelier when interviewed Colonna in 2005 and was fascinated with his conceptual ideas of the kitchen, food and the like. I remember him telling me about his plans to open a resort and I see from his site that his dream has been realized. I will have to check it out. He also runs a famed restaurant in Rome at  Palazzo degli Esposizioni.

Alessandro Pipero, un altro personaggio storico and good friend of Teresa and Filippo’s is perhaps the perfect incarnation of a restaurateur. He also catered their wedding so I have been able to see his work on in the intimate setting of his restaurant as well as at a wedding for 100+ people. This blog post about his new restaurant Pipero al Rex, also in Italian is just dreamy and makes me want to eat immediately, even through it’s only 730am. Not only would I trust all of his food recommendations but wines as well without blinking. Truly a memorable experience, you must meet Pipero at least once in your life and eat in his restaurant drinking wines that he has chosen for you. He also happens to be very funny so it really is a truly memorable evening.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, I’m staying with my lovely friends who are Rome transplants from Emilia and Milan, Cristina and Giuliano and their three delicious children Emma, Camilla and Giacomo who wasn’t born at the time of the photo in 2009.

Cristina is among the loveliest and brightest people  I know as well as one of the best cooks I have the pleasure to count among my friends. It’s always a joy to be in her house with her family and her food. Cristina comes from Emilia, Borgo Taro, specifically which is home to the mushroom. In fact some of the best meals I have had in Italy with mushrooms have been at their houses.

We’ve been friends since 1998 and I went to my first Cantine Aperte  with them to Alba. I had my first Barolo from Oddero and my first Brasato al Barolo with Cri and Giuli, other moments that remain in my heart. Here in the Boggiali house in Rome in the incredible neighborhood of San Saba, I have rediscovered the joy of being with old friends once again and spending time with 2, 8 and 10 year olds and their passions. For years I have visited Cristina and Giuliano in Rome, in Milan, in Levanto, and in Gressoney. Always welcoming and generous, I also was first introduced to wines from the Valle d’Aosta, Donnas Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ,   with them and the particular varieties from their area of Liguria, Levanto, wines I love from Colli di Luni.

All of these wine and food discoveries have been part of the conversation and experience but never the main event, perhaps that is why I never realized just how many things they have introduced me to during the course of our long friendship. In just two days in Rome, I feel completely back to myself, my Italian life and of course more enamored than ever of this eternal city. Happy that I am just at the beginning of my trip, I may have to leave Rome soon otherwise my friends will have a guest “a vita.”

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Filed under emilia romagna, Friends/Family, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, lazio, Liguria, Memorable Events, Piedmont, Sommeliers, Travel, Valle d'Aosta, wines

Italy in New York: Alta Cucina Opens for Lunch

I have been missing Italy a lot these past few days. It’s the holiday season, Sant’Ambrogio, the beginning of le citta’ adorned with Christmas lights and of course missing my friends. What I always miss is the ease of eating a good meal at lunch without paying a fortune. When I worked in Italy, you could go out for a relatively quick bite to eat and have something healthy as well as enjoyable while sitting down and chatting with a friend.

I am happy to report that the same is now true near my office in New York City. Alta Cucina is open for lunch from 12:00 – 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday. This lovely little Italian outpost is in an interesting area with a dearth of good lunch options, East 38th Street right off of Madison Avenue.

Alta Cucina, which is also open for breakfast Italian style – coffee and pastries – from 700am on, has been a resource for me in many ways since I moved back to New York and they opened their doors. Alta Cucina sells Italian specialty products and also holds cooking classes. I started my Italian indigenous grape variety series for their website and then moved it to this blog.

I don’t like to eat a heavy meal at lunch nor to spend a lot of money midday unless I am doing something festive. Alta Cucina has salads, soups, pasta and pannini at very reasonable prices which is also a joy. I ate there today and had lentil soup and a salad for a modest sum and felt like I had spent lunchtime in an Italian local. While nothing beats going to Italy, I am happy when I can find a touch of il Bel’ Paese here in New York City.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian recipes, Italian Restaurants, italy, Memorable Events, Restaurants