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Discover with us  the magic of Italian wine heritage


krater-wineOenotria, “land of vines”, this was how the ancient Greeks called  Italy. Its variety of landscapes and climates, from the Alps to the shores of Sicily through  chains of hills, mountains and volcanoes, offers an astonishing range of grape varieties that have been cultivated for thousands of years  in their terroirs.

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Under the Romans,  vines were planted throughout the Empire, grapegrowing and winemaking techniques became more advanced, the varietals that best matched soil and climate were selected to improve  quality.

The concept of vintage already existed, as the ancient books report that the fabled Opimiam wine of 121 B.C., an excellent vintage of Falernum, was aged and drunk decades later. 

This red thread that leads to modern times was never cut, though invasions, wars and fights split the country into city states, duchies, kingdoms along two thousand years of entangled events . 

Enjoy a glass of History!


PostHeaderIcon Under the Tuscan Sun

During the summers  of the 50’s and 60’s Italians used to eat under the beach umbrella, preparing at home some food that could be easily carried and consumed on the lap . This food was usually made from leftovers of the dinner, recycled into meatballs, vegetable omelettes, cold pasta, cold rice with vegetables and salty pies. 

Only later came the bars and the take-aways on the beach, with their sandwiches and microwave meals.  Lack of time nowadays have changed our habits, most people buying industrial made dishes, the American way, and the results have been the waste of food and the epidemic of obesity among the young.

Now the issue is topical : against food waste Chef Massimo Bottura (World’s Best Restaurant 2016 is his Osteria Francescana) cooked the excess food of the Expo 2015 and the Olympics 2016 to feed those in need. But 25 years ago Gianni Mercatali, well-known and genial PR, was already regretting those wholesome habits and in memory of good old days, when families were used to healthy home-made meals even on the beach,  set up the successful event “ A Tavola sulla Spiaggia”, which he still organizes every August in Forte dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast.
bagno pieroThe venue is the exclusive beach of Bagno Piero, where aristocrats and wealthy bourgeois spend their summer holidays.  Having enjoyed Gianni’s brilliant company at a lavish dinner in Florence, both guests of Guido Serio - wine producer of organic Chianti San Fabiano Calcinaia-, I decided to have a nosey around his event in Forte dei Marmi. 

All dressed up in white linen, their feet sinking in white fine sand, many people  gathered around a long table covered in white, with candelabra ready to be lit at sunset.  Crystal clear sea , deep blue sky, the background view was astonishing too, staring beyond the tall pine-trees lining the promenade at the white spots of marble from the quarries of Carrara on the Apuan Alps. 

In this wonderful setting a jury of renowned cooks, restaurateurs and journalists examined the dishes prepared by those families who engaged in the competition for the best food on the beach (that’s the meaning of “a tavola sulla spiaggia”).pprinipe  President of the Jury was ubiquitous Chef Gianfranco Vissani, and among the jurors were Luca Landi (Lunasia, Viareggio), Cristoforo Trapani (La Magnolia del Byron, Forte dei Marmi), Giancarlo Morelli (Pomirou di Seregno in Brianza), Romano Franceschini (Romano, Viareggio), David Vaiani (Bistrot, Forte), Michele Marcucci (Enoteca Marcucci, Pietrasanta), Lorenzo Viani ( Restaurant Lorenzo) Giuseppe Mancino ( Il Piccolo Principe).

Much criticized was the “fish dripping” by Massimo and Pamela Gelati, a homage to Chef Gualtiero Marchesi who composed it in 2004 as a tribute to painter Jackson Pollock. pollock

Not exactly a dish ideal  to carry to the beach, definitely, though very beautiful to see.
More appropriate was the focaccia bread made with toasted wheat (now very fashionable "grano arso"), stuffed with the superb cheese Guttus and drops of runny quince jam, cooked by painter Grazia Danti.  Pierpaolo Taraschi and Antonella Giachetti (who recently restored the cultural bistrot Chalet Fontana in Florence) opted for a “sartù di riso al pesce”, a Neapolitan dish that can be made hours earlier : it’s a “cake” made of cooked rice, stuffed with anything salty you like – vegetables, meat or fish – shaped in a dome, covered with breadcrumbs and put in the oven until golden brown. Good idea under the beach umbrella.

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Then came Andrea and Carlotta with their salad of spelt and organic pecorino cheese from imvSardinia, and food writer Elena Tempestini with her aubergine and salmon rolls, sort of street food very gracefully displayed.

In my view one should use yesterday’s leftovers and reinvent it, as our grandmothers used to do, mixing the ingredients to prepare a different dish where the wasted food of the day before is not detectable.

I personally remember the fabulous “polpette fritte” (fried rissoles), made with the leftovers of the Sunday roastbeef, plus potatoes, herbs, parmesan and all that my grandmother refused to throw away. 
But we
have by now travelled and tasted other cuisines in the world, so we can enrich our tradition with new ideas, as Brando and Lucrezia did (notice what patrician names!)

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  offering their “onigiri” ( japanese onigiri with rice, mirin, prawn and coconut curry, but wrapped in Tuscan lettuce instead of traditional seaweed), very dainty and suitable for the beach.  coniglio farcitThe winner though was a simple “coniglio farcito” (stuffed rabbit) cooked by Moreschina Fabbricotti and Enrico Bruni (both in the fashion business).

moreschina enrico

The best dessert to win the prize  was “Cheesecake and Peach in a Jar” of Antonietta Pasqualino di Marineo, nephew of  conceptual artist Piero Manzoni, the provocateur who canned his shit as a work of art. They definitely like a  “container” for their works… Nice, and ideal to be taken to the beach.collavini

Most of the dishes were paired with the exceptional wines of Eugenio Collavini from  Friuli, Franciacorta di Marchesi Antinori Cuvée Royal, Campania’s winery Feudi di San Gregorio and its Metodo Classico dosage zero  Dubl Esse made entirely with the vine variety Greco di Tufo .

 

From Tuscany came Vermentino della Costa Toscana, Castello Banfi La Pettegola, Aurelio of Val delle Rose, Quinto of Colle di Bordocheo, Teuto from Tenute Lunelli . From Umbria Arnaldo Caprai Cuvée Secrète and Montefalco Sagrantino Passito, from France Champagne Basetta. 

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I left last the dish I preferred, “Pasta a l’Ammogghiu”, from the Isle of Pantelleria, made by Chiara and her father Antonio Lopinto, sculptor and art gallery owner, whose parents were from Pantelleria.  ribolla gialla

I swim for forty minutes almost every day in the summer, and this dish is exactly what I would like to find when I reach the shore! Once home from Forte dei Marmi I tried to cook it and I can assure you, it’s delicious. 

Here below I give you the recipe of the sauce called “pesto pantesco” ( ammogghiu in Sicilian) as it was explained to me by Antonio, a lovely Florentine with typical Sicilian features and  friendliness. You can try this sauce on the type of pasta you choose, as the one Antonio used is typical of the island, very good but hard to find outside Sicily. It is a “raw”, cold sauce, so it can season pasta that can be eaten cold, or be spread over toasted bread. It was paired with fresh and clean Ribolla Gialla Turian.

Pesto Pantesco (ammogghiu)
For four people

Six fresh tomatoes (500 gr. red, mature and saucy ones, like the San Marzano or Roma quality, or even cherry tomatoes if you can’t find the first ones)
10 leaves of basil
2 leaves of mint
A sprinkle of origan
A little parsley
A clove of garlic
A fistful of almonds
2 spoonfuls of capers (possibly from Pantelleria)
A touch of chilli pepper
A glass of extra-virgin olive oil

bappThe most important thing for this recipe is the freshness of the ingredients. If you can’t have savoury tomatoes, forget it.  Cut the tomatoes in halves, take out the seeds and put them in the oven  to dry up (180°). When they shrink and the skin breaks up, switch off. Let the tomatoes go cold and take the skin off, allow them to drain if there is any liquid left.

In the meantime finely chop the other ingredients (but it would be best to have mortar and pestle, which would extract all the aromas from the herbs : this makes the difference!).

Add the cold tomatoes and blend all the ingredients.  You better prepare this sauce some hours before to let the flavours blend.

Buon Appetito!

 
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