Italian food and wine pairings — does it get any better than that?
I recently celebrated my 50th birthday at Il Fornaio, a great Italian restaurant that does a wonderful job of highlighting regional dishes and wines.
According to Maurizo Mazzon, Il Fornaio’s executive chef, there are 20 distinct regions in Italy! Il Fornaio changes its regional offerings monthly, often using ingredients and wines unavailable elsewhere in the U.S.
From Dec. 6 through Dec. 19, the Il Fornaio menu is featuring the best recipes from the past year’s regional menus.
Being the food and wine lover that I am, I was in seventh heaven. It was incredibly fun to try new dishes and new wines. What a great way to celebrate my next 50 years!
Great Italian Food and Wine Pairings
I started with a delicious butternut squash and potato soup served with a gorgonzola-topped crouton. The soup was mouthwateringly good. It was a rich, deep soup that was seasoned perfectly. The gorgonzola croutons were amazing.
The recommended wine was a 2009 Vermentino, Argiolas Costamolino from Sardinia, an island near Corsica. The wine was described as a wonderfully perfumed white that is crisp, dry and refreshing with delicate floral and citrus aromas and flavors and a lovely, lingering finish.
The wine on its own tasted like a low-acidity Riesling. It was perfumy and refreshing. With the soup, it was perfect. Both the soup and the wine got better from the pairing, which is the ultimate goal of any wine and food pairing.
The next course was a grilled Forelle pear salad with arugula, shaved Montasio cheese, radicchio, pomegranate dressing and Parmesan cheese croutons. Heaven on earth! The dressing was to die for. The grilled pears were out of this world.
The salad was delicious with the suggested 2009 Grecante, Arnaldo Caprai from Umbria, a wine made from Grechetto grapes, which are planted throughout central Italy. The Grecante wine was described as a refreshing, minerally dry white with citrus aromas and flavors, balanced by a crisp, clean finish.
For the main course, I chose the half-moon ravioli filled with grilled pears (I loved the salad so much, I had to have more pears), mozzarella and Parmesan, topped with asparagus-crescenza cream sauce and sprinked with toasted walnuts.
The creaminess of the sauce made it hard to taste all of the wonderful flavors in this dish. In hindsight, I should have requested a reduced amount of sauce.
The recommended wine for this course was also the 2009 Grecante, Arnaldo Caprai from Umbria. The pears in both the salad and the main course paired beautifully with this wine.
Because I’m a red wine lover, I switched wines midstream and tried a 2006 Valpolicella Ripasso, Masi Campofiorin from Venice. This wine is concentrated and full fruited, produced from very ripe bunches of five different grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, that were partially dried prior to crushing. The wine was lush and velvety with notes of prune, plum and earthiness. It was nice with the ravioli and went very well with my chocolate birthday cake.
Last night gave me a wonderful taste of Italy. I would love to hear about your favorite Italian wine and food pairings.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!