Walking into the Eataly Italian food emporium is always analogous to experiencing an immediate close encounter with Italian gastronomic reality—sans jet lag. The store’s Wines of the Veneto event, the kickoff of the U.Vi. Ve.’s (the Union Consortia of Veneto Wines) month-long roster of wine and culinary doings highlighting the great wines of the Veneto (a prolific wine-producing region in northeastern Italy), was authentic to the extent that some of the Italian Consortia’s representatives needed English translators. The superb food and wine on offer needed no translation.
The aroma of Italian sauce drew me into the store’s cooking classroom, an interesting space replete with schoolroom-esque rows of seats, a complex cooking area, and a screen which enables viewers to see straight into the pots. Each place setting included sparkling and elegant wine glasses. Just in case the guests were hungry or thirsty, they were immediately offered crusty Italian bread, olive oil, and bottled water. A sign which says “eat to learn, learn to eat” was displayed on the wall above the cooking area. I like this motto. Chef Alicia Walter explained each of the three dishes she created, accompanied by Dan Amatuzzi, the Wine Director at Eataly, and Arturo Stocchetti, President of the Soave Consortium.
So, Italian was being spoken in profusion, the wines were being poured in a cascade, and the tantalizing cooking aromas were permeating the room. Ensconced within this Italian food culture tumult, I wondered how non-Italian speaking absolutely non-expert vis-a-vis wines me could manage to know what was ensuing re which wine was which and what all the Italian meant. And then I was saved.
An Italian wine expert sat next to me—and he is a New York resident who just that morning got off the plane from Italy. Perfecto! Mr. Andrea Fiano relished explaining the proceedings to me. I must share our initial conversation with you.
Him: “Are you Italian?”
Me: “Nothing about me is Italian.”
Him: “No one is perfect.”
This exchange exactly describes Eataly in general and the Veneto event in particular: Italian food cannot be replicated; the only thing to do is literally to transport the authentic items here.
Thanks to Mr. Fiano’s help, I can correctly describe exactly which wines were presented—with all the names spelled correctly!
Course One: Fritto Misto (Mixed Seafood and Vegetables)
Accompanying Wines: Mionetto, Prosecco di Treviso Brut DOC NV and Montelvini, Tullia Prosecco di Treviso Brut DOP NV
The freshly caught Long Island stripped bass, shrimp, and squash were served with sparkling straw colored wines imbued with apple, peach, and wisteria aromas.
Course Two: Risotto al Radicchio (Risotto and Red Wine)
Accompanying Wines: Zenato, Lugana DOC 2012 and Cantina di Soave, Re Midas Soave 2012
The parmesan cheese and butter flavored rice was served with delicate yellow still wines which are gentle on the palate. I enjoyed learning that Midas wines evoke King Midas’ golden touch.
Course Three: Pollo in Salsa Peverada (Chicken with Peverada Sauce)
Accompanying Wine: Cesari, Mara Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC 2011
The juicy pancetta (meat resembling prosciutto) wrapped chicken breast imbedded in polenta and topped with pungent sauce was served with a full-bodied red wine which evokes ripe fruit and cherries.
Thanks to Mr. Fiano’s kind assistance, I came, I saw, and I conquered this to me at once initially daunting and ultimately awesome authentic Italian food culture experience. Translation: I ate the whole thing—and spelled all the wine names correctly. (I hope!)
– Marleen Barr
Photos by Stephen Colangelo/Colangelo PR