Thursday, April 15, 2010

VinItaly, Valdobbiadene, Venezia & Valpolicella

Let the Games Begin!

It was whirlwind 4 days filled with wine, meetings, learning, more wine, markets, interesting people, more wine, great contacts, beautiful countryside (and some not) and oh, did I mention wine?!

Tasting of "Wine Enthusiast" magazine's Top 100

Little Paradiso, as known as guide and sommelier extraordinaire, was my partner in crime, so I was in very good hands when in came time to meeting so many interesting people and their wines at VinItaly.

The masses waiting to enter each morning...

For those of you who have no idea what VinItaly is (and there are especially if you do not live in Italy), it is a 4-day wine fair in which wine producers from all over the country (and beyond) showcase their product for both buyers and the public. Each region is given it’s on “hall” where wine makers have, in most cases, elaborate displays/kiosks. You can visit Sicily and enjoy the wines of Donnafugata and Morgante. Or the Veneto with its Prosecco (yum) and Amarone (even more yum). Or go for the “norm” in Tuscany, trying the latest Chianti Classico or Brunello. Additionally, there are seminars and private tastings for the wine enthusiast (at an additional cost).

As mentioned, this is open to the public, so you can imagine what the place was like by 4:00PM. But we were there for work and what fun work it was! Here are some of my “highlight” wines from this experience:

“Sherazade” by Donnafugata - a light, very drinkable red wine, a good substitute for heavier reds in the summer, made with Nero d’Avola grapes.

“Lighea” also by Donnafugata - a refreshing wine white made from the Zibbibo grapes of Pantelleria Island. Note: they also have some of the best designed labels I've ever seen.

“Costasera” Amarone by Masi - An absolutely delicious, hearty red made by one of the Valpolicella’s most famous wineries (and the descendants of Dante Aligheri!).

“Valpolicella Classico” by Begali - A perfect “table wine” for meats, chicken and pork made by a small wine producing family (only about 60,000 bottles per year).

“Rosso” by Il Monticello - Probably the biggest surprise for me. A lovely, smooth table red made in Liguria of all places (much more famous for its whites). They are a small producer, not even a web site up and running yet!

My neighbors...

After our two days at VinItaly, we headed east to explore the “Prosecco Highway” of Valdobbiadene and a day in Valpolicella for more Amarone. While the Prosecco Highway has a way to go in terms of countryside charm (too much new construction going on in an area that would benefit from restoring its many dilapidated farmhouses surrounded by vineyards), the Valpolicella was a delight.

Amarone Vineyards

Just a 15 minute drive from Verona, you are in the gorgeous rolling green hills with a patchwork of vines and beautiful villas and palaces with the Dolomites in the backdrop. Now this is Italy! It is a wonderful area to base yourself in and do day trips not just through the wine region, but also to Lake Garda (30 minutes), Verona (15 minutes), even Venice (about 1 hour). Hiking, biking, hearty food and lots of open space to enjoy a good bottle of Amarone!

Lunch among the vines...

Valpolicella Living...

What a fun and educational “field trip”.

Thanks LP and looking forward to the next adventure!

Ciao da Venezia!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Re-blogging (just like a re-tweet!) @divinacucina...

My friend, the Diva, received a rather unwelcoming comment on her blog.


It really bothered me for some reason. Maybe feeling territorial about someone I consider a mentor and a wonderful representative of the expat community here in Italy. Or maybe because I am just sick of the Frances Mayes innuendo we “Italian transplants” all seem to end up with!

Anyway, I started to write a response to Mr./Miss Anonymous only to realize that the Diva herself had explained oh so well and with the right attitude.

Sei veramente eloquente Judy, brava...

Thursday, April 08, 2010


The years are passing fast.

Writing THIS post seems like yesterday.

The other “love of my life” and best partner ever is turning 12 today.

Tanti Auguri Lucy Lu!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Eating Well on the Riviera:

Barabba in White

Monterosso al Mare

As a local and also a writer for a couple of guidebooks on the Italian Riviera, I thought it might be a good idea to start a new series of blog posts called “Eating Well on the Riviera”. Actually there is another reason for this as well. There are a lot of mediocre, even crappy, restaurants in really good positions in the area (especially Le Cinque Terre). I am hoping a little of first hand advice from someone who cooks decently and eats pretty darn well, will do visitors some good!

First up: Probably the best pizza place in Le Cinque Terre. Located just a 5-minute walk from the train station in the new town (Fegina) and smack on the beach in Monterosso, is Barabba in White. It’s an airy and colorful “hot spot” run by an Italian-American, my girlfriend Daniella, with an emphasis on simple dishes and relaxing atmosphere. But the real specialty here is the pizza.

Barabba has the only wood-burning pizza oven in Monterosso (maybe all of the CT, correct me if I am wrong someone!) and their pizzauolo (pizza maker), Al Pacino, I mean Pino, makes a fantastic dough! Using fresh and quality ingredients, Pino creates some of the finest pizza in the area. My personal favorite is the Napoli with capers and local Monterosso anchovies. But for the meat lover, they also have the “Italia” which comes with arugula (the green), stracchino cheese (the white), prosciutto crudo (the red), making up the colors of the Italian flag, not to mention one mighty delicious pizza. In fact, there are about 20 different pizzas to choose from reasonably prices between 6-10 euro.

In the heat of summer, Daniela will be serving a nice breakfast for those looking for more than just a croissant and caffè (of which most the affitacamere offer). She makes delicious breads daily, fresh squeezed juices, yummy cappuccini and lots of “free” information on the area. There will also be an "aperitivo" (happy hour) and is certainly the perfect place for watching the sunset over a glass of prosecco!

Barabba in White

is open daily and throughout the day and evening,

except Monday

Sunday, April 04, 2010


I love this time of the year because it feels like things are a changin’. Even if it is not exactly gorgeous out today, I know it’s just around the corner. And for months. Love the spring!

Have a wonderful day...