STBNY is beyond proud to present several outstanding guest blogs from Bene Cipolla, one of my favorite culinary and oenological partners in crime. Bene and I have been friends since we were 15 and together have experienced some serious lows (wine coolers, homemade wine in Naples) and highs (New Haven pizza, anything that’s come out of her kitchen). Bene lived, worked, ate, cooked and drank in Rome for 5 years and goes back to Italy fairly often. Just last month she was in Orvieto and Rome and kindly offered to share her experiences. Read on (and try not to get too jealous).
By now the “eat local” mantra tends to provoke eye rolls given the sometimes shrill proclamations of the locavore movement, but whenever I go to Italy it really does make sense (at least outside the major metropolitan areas, where you can often find a larger selection of products from all
over the country). Best of all, pretty much everywhere you go, you can drink local too.
And so my trip began at a lovely restaurant called Piazza del Popolo with a 2008 Febeo Orvieto Classico Superiore from Cardeto, a producer that’s gained a lot of notice over the past 10 years. It was mid-September and still warm that evening, and I was eager to make the most of the waning days of summer. With its fruity melon notes, the Febeo was a great match for my mood and my antipasto, house-made cured pork soppressata tossed with warm beans, celery and green onion. For my pasta course, local favorite umbrichelli with a pesto of basil, olive oil, fresh tomato and almonds, I enjoyed a 2007 Campo del Guardiano, a single vineyard Orvieto Classico Superiore from il Palazzone whose structure stood up to the slight bitterness of the almonds.
The owner cum sommelier, Tiziana Blasi, who had previously worked at Rome’s top-rated restaurant in the Hilton hotel, suggested an Antinori Nature Spumante Metodo Classico with my secondo, amberjack crudo with a warm broccoli sauce, and while that meant I was veering outside Umbria and into Tuscany, I trusted her judgment. Chef Giustino Volpe, who periodically checked in and chatted with me as he returned from smoke breaks, persuaded me to try his deconstructed tiramisu — dollops of mascarpone cream, coffee gelato, and whipped cream, topped with a chocolate sauce, crunchy brittle and ladyfinger cookies. One thing I love about eating out in Italy is the widespread dessert wine and digestivo selection. I strongly believe that we should all drink more dessert wine. And so I closed out my meal with a Planeta Moscato di Noto, which I’d never had before but intend to have again as soon as possible.
I woke up the next day to a slight chill in the air, and by lunchtime it was raining. I sought refuge in an old grotto turned restaurant with a glass of inky Fobiano, a Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from standout Umbrian producer La Carraia, which was a nice companion for my local salumi and Chianina beef ravioli with truffled pecorino. Dusk found me at a café huddled with a shawl and a glass of Salviano Orvieto Classico, which was more than decent if not as satisfying as my Cardeto from the previous night. By the time dinner rolled around, at the excellent family-style Trattoria del Moro Aronne, I was ready again for red. I took a look at the brief, simple wine list and chose a Tizzonero from La Carraia, a 50-50 Montepulciano-Sangiovese blend. On the nose it didn’t seem all that interesting, but once I took a sip I tasted notes of dark berries and what Italians refer to as “sottobosco,” or undergrowth. Its earthiness was a fitting match for the tartufo and porcini mushrooms in my umbrichelli pasta and the gaminess of my pigeon “alla ghiotta,” cooked in red wine with hints of vinegar, juniper and rosemary. Too full for dessert, I rolled back to the hotel vowing to eat less at lunch the next day, while visions of Rome danced in my head.