A celebration of fine wine and food from Italy’s Abruzzo region was recently held at Harry’s Italian Bar and Restaurant on Gold Street in NYC. Amedeo De Luca and Antonio Patricelli, both third generation winemakers, introduced their organic wines while the wonderful Rosanna Di Michele presented beautiful regional dishes. Although it was rainy and dreary outside, the warmth of the Abruzzo sun shone on all of us gathered together to share the bounty of one of Italy’s hidden gems. Brindiamo! (Let’s toast!)
The region of Abruzzo is about 2 hours north of Rome. One third of its territory is set aside as national parks and nature reserves, which is the largest dedicated area in all of Europe. Because of this, seventy-five percent of Europe’s animal species are represented in Abruzzo. This appreciation of the natural world touches all areas of life in this beautiful region, including exceptional cooking and winemaking. For both of these art forms, the emphasis is on the quality of individual ingredients, the purity of the environment and precise timing to ensure perfect flavor.
The Collefrisio winery lies in the hills of the Chieti Province where wine has been produced for hundreds of years. The clay and limestone of its soil, favorable winds and temperature fluctuations combine to produce superior grape harvests.
Such wine needs to be paired with food that is crafted with the same loving attention. We were lucky enough to have our food prepared by none other than Rosanna Di Michele. Rosanna is a renowned chef and passionate advocate of the cuisine of her beloved Abruzzo region. She introduces American palates to her cuisine at various events in and around NYC: Whole Foods, Di Palo’s on Grand Street, CUNY, the Italian Tourist Board, New York’s Italian Consulate General and the Westchester Italian Cultural Center. You can learn some of her secrets at her blog at iitaly.org and her own website, rosannacooking.it. She splits her time between her hometown of Vasto in Abruzzo and Manhattan.
Here are the wine pairings we enjoyed at Harry’s:
Le Cave della Guardiuccia is a blend of 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot nero grapes. It is harvested at two different points of maturity, aged for 36 months on the yeasts and processed in bottles. The fruity-noted wine has hints of toasted almonds and the color of golden straw. A fresh, well-balanced wine perfect for celebrations, it was paired with bruschetta of melted fresh mozzarella and grilled zucchini drizzled with olive oil.
Collefrisio di Collefrisio White was my personal favorite. A blend of Trebbiano, Falanghina and Pecorino grapes fermented in small batches in oak barrels for 12 months. The hints of honey and vanilla are what captured my attention. This was paired with a classic Abruzzo dish: Spaghetti Chitarra with mushrooms, radicchio, walnuts and ricotta.
Confronto is a blend of Montepulciano and Primitivo grapes. It is harvested at two different points of maturity, aged for many months and processed for an additional 10 months in bottles. Complex and full-bodied, this intensely ruby red wine tastes of plum, berries and mascara cherries. This was paired with morsels of veal on a bed of arugula, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
Collefrisio di Collefrisio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. Perhaps the most famous wine from Abruzzo is Montepulciano. At Collefrisio, these grapes grow in almost continuous sunshine in dark and medium-bodied soil with organic residuals. The result is a full bodied, DOC designated wine brimming with velvety tastes of berry, cherry, spice and character. This was paired with slices of pecorino, parmigiano and fresh stacchino cheese and marinated dark olives.
All photos by Marzia Bortolin.