Emilia-Romagna: Heartland of Ingredients. Think of your favorite Italian ingredients…pasta, olive oil, parmesan, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and cured meats. These are the cornerstones of Italian cuisine and they are what make Emilia-Romagna one of the most important gastronomic regions of Italy. Italians have an innate sense of place. Land is of upmost importance as the source of ingredients for their century’s old recipes. It is the root of their heritage and their cuisine – an expression of local values. This week’s menu showcases these mainstays and more of Italian regional cooking and brings me back to some fun memories as a young American roughing it in the Italian Apennines.
Albana di Romagna "Neblina" Bianco Giovanna Madonia, 2018. The wine is medium bodied, fresh and lively. Flavors of stone fruits and melon mix with white flowers. This is a textbook example of Albana, if you have never had one you may have a new favorite summer go-to.
Just like in the film "Big Night," the Ricchi's had the opportunity to serve a dinner that would forever change the trajectory of their lives. Only after a month of opening their Tuscan restaurant, newly inaugurated President George Herbert Walker Bush came to dinner, creating a media buzz that would firmly establish them as Washington's newest authentic Italian restaurant. This week's menu highlights i Ricchi dishes that were relatively unknown when they opened in 1989 but which have become customer favorites.
Teunta Arceno Chianti Classico 2017. 2017 was a one-of-a-kind vintage. An incredibly hot August brought the grapes close to ripeness. Then, as it happens in Toscana, the rain came in quickly and in one day the season changed from summer to fall. September cooled off allowing the Sangiovese to fully ripen, slowly and perfectly. The weather conditions brought low yields with deep concentration. It is a powerful Chianti Classico with big, bright fruit and high acidity. The aromas display ripe berries, roses and vanilla bean with undertones of cypress and white pepper. On the palate, there is a soft entry while the finish shows tart citrus character with hints of black licorice and clove.
Leave the gun, take the cannoli! Many Italian-Americans grow up thinking the specialties prepared by their grandmothers are authentically Italian. Though certainly rooted in recipes from the “old country,” many were changed as immigrants adapted to their new home in America and to the ingredients they could find. Much of mainstream America was introduced to this immigrant culture through movies like “The Godfather.” This week’s menu highlights some of the most beloved dishes made famous by the movie.