A day in the country – Italy at its best

October 8, 2010

There is nothing more beautiful than a leisurely day in the Italian countryside. These beautiful long summer evenings with olives, figs and prosciutto, and , of course, an insalata caprese with mozzarella di buffalo.

What should the wine be? Well, there are many choices. If it is still hot and warm, I would have an Italian white, an aromatic wine from Alto Adige, or a Frascati or a Pinot Grigio.

But that particular evening, we had a red wine, a bottle of Cannonau di Sardegna by Sella and Mosca. It is claimed that the grape variety came from Spain to Italy in the 14th century. This is very likely because Cannonau is the local term for Grenache. And Grenache is of Spanish origin. It is one of the most widely planted grape varieties and makes delicious wines.

The modern style of this variety is lower in alcohol than the traditional one. It is a very enjoyable wine, full of forest fruit with fine tannins and a good balance. You should try a Riserva, though. We had only the simple “country wine” version. Anyway, it was just ‘a day in the country’

2007 Pongelli – Villa Bucci, Le Marche, Italy

August 30, 2010

2007 Pongelli, Villa Bucci

I have written about a wine from Villa Bucci some time ago (it’s Verdicchio). When I bought wines from Il Grappolo Divino and Alessandro Mauceri in Frascati, I also choose a red wine from Villa Bucci, the ‘2007 Pongelli’. This wine is a blend of 50/50 Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes with 13.5% alcohol.

I served it slightly cooler than normal. Well, it was one of these hot days in Rome where you come out only in the evening. We had it without food, just like that, while sitting under the olive trees. It was a great experience to taste it.

The colour is a strong ruby red. Raspberry aromas were there with some hints of vanilla and leather. The tannins are soft and mellow. The wine has a good structure, is full bodied and has a strong finish. The Parker-point-fans give him 86-88 of 100. My verdict: if I only could get my hands on some bottles of this wine here in Bangkok.

If you are in Rome you are in a better position. Just go and visit the Castelli Romani; stop by in Frascati and see Alessandro Mauceri and his new wine shop: Il Grappolo Divino. There you can also buy the ‘Pongelli’ (among many other treasures).

Il Grappolo Divino
Via dell’Olmo, 37
00044 Frascati
Tel.: +39-6-89026061

Restaurant review: Taverna Cestia, Rome, Italy

August 25, 2010

While working at FAO and living in Rome at the end of the 1980ies, our main restaurant was Taverna Cestia, near Piramide, just a couple of blocks from the United Nations. We went often and all the waiters knew us very well. Usually that meant that we did not have to look at the menu (they knew what we liked to eat), and if we stayed longer than the opening hours permitted, we were somehow accommodated (usually the offering of burning ‘Sambuca’ signaled that it was time to go home).

So it was clear that when in Rome, we would go and eat there. And that’s what we did during our summer vacation 2010 as well. It was a very hot day. We had shown our daughters the Terme di Caracalla. We were thirsty and needed refreshment. ‘Melon with prosciutto’ and ‘bruschetta di pomodori’ are just the right stuff to start a meal.

Ham and melon

Tomatoes on grilled bread

Olives in a coat

Taverna Cestia is famous for it’s ‘spaghetti alle vongole’, but I always liked also the ‘penne al arrabiata’.

Penne al ragu

Spaghetti alle vongole

In the past we always ordered a liter of house wine, usually a white wine in summer (a refreshing Frascati) and a red one in winter. Also this time we had a bottle of this divine liquid. We did not regret our choice.

Frascati wine by Casalgentile

The back label of the Frascati by Casalgentile

That the food at Taverna Cestia is very good is proven by the next picture. Tripadvisor awards four out of five stars.

Taverna Cestia Di Salvi Gioacchino C.
Viale della Piramide Cestia, 67
00153 Roma, Italia
Tel.: +39-6-5743754
Subway: Piramide

Garbatella highlights: Pizzeria ‘Er Panonto’, Rome, Italy

August 23, 2010

Address Pizzeria ‘Er Panonto’ in Garbatella

I have told you about Garbatella, the neighbourhood in Rome where I once lived. I have also mentioned our old pizzeria, Er Panonto. Frankly speaking I have no clue what ‘Er Panonto’ stands for. But the place is just great, a traditional family affair, a Roman pizzeria at its best.

We had dinner there when we visited Rome in July this year. The following pictures give you an idea of the food which is very traditional and needless to say: super delicious.

Antipasti buffet

Bruscetta di pomodori

What a delicious pizza

Frascati wine from Colli Albani near Rome

I love the wines from the Colli Albani, the Albanian hills, as they are called around Rome. ‘Er Panonto’ buys the ready made wine and bottles it for its pizzeria. Some people claim that Frascati wine has been made in this region for more than two thousand years. I guess that’s true.

Frascati wines are usually blends of two-three varieties. According to the DOC laws about 50% of the wine needs to come from Malvasia biance di Candia grapes. The rest is from Trebbiano, Malvasia del Lazio, Greco, Bellone and other local white varieties. I like the wines because they are fresh and light with high acidity; in short they are ideal summer wines.

Restaurant review: Orazio, Rome

July 15, 2010

It is wonderful to be again in the town which was my home for three years (1988-90). Rome is just stunning, a wonderful city. In 1990 I witnessed here the soccer world cup. Ten years later I was invited as visiting professor by the Food and Agriculture Organization to conduct a study on property rights in Asia. In 2010 I am back because my children thought that the celebration of my 20th wedding anniversary deserves a special treat.

Everywhere I go, I am also somehow confronted with my past. As all old man, I am reminiscing. One special place is the restaurant ‘Orazio di Caracalla’. It was here were we had – after the ceremony at the “Campidoglio” (capital hill) – our wedding lunch. The restaurant is located right at the end of the Terme di Caracalla on the way to Porta Latina. It has a splendid garden and a big car park with old trees.

Menu of ‘Ristorante Orazio’

We casually strolled in after visiting the Colosseum on a beautiful summers day with blue sky and temperatures around the mid thirties.

As with many good restaurants in Rome, little changes over the years. Interesting I also find that the waiters seem to be part of the place. So it is at Orazio. They are observant and discreet, and very friendly.

Mixed starters

On hot days, plates of antipasti are always a welcome start of a meal. Both dishes (above and below), the mixed selection of starters and the melon with ham, were just delicious.

Melon and ham


Although not in the “carcioffi” (artichoke) season, we could not resist ordering “Carcioffi alla Romana”. I had to go for “penne al arrabiata”, one of my favorite pasta dish.

Penne al arrabiata

The local wine we selected was, of course, a Frascati. This blend of Malvasia and Trebbiano (sometimes other white varieties are added) is ideal accompaniment of Roman food on a hot summers day.

Casalgentile is a very well known producer of the Castelli Romani. It’s ‘Agrospino Bianco’ blend has earned various awards. So have many of Pietro Mergé’s other wines.

A wine from Lazio: Frascati

Family lunch

As the photo above shows, we had a great time.

Ristorante Orazio
F.lli Valentini
Via di Porta Latina 5
Tel.: +39-6-70492401
Fax: +39-6-77207339
Closed on Tuesday

I love Frascati – Poggio le Volpi

July 12, 2010

My Frascati – Poggio le Volpi ‘2009 People Frascati Superiore’

It is hot in Europe. Since our arrival in Rome there was not a single day without sunshine and blue sky and temperatures between 32 and 38 Celsius. This makes you tired. Today I am even to tired to blog.

But I enjoyed a bottle of ’2009 People Frascati Superiore’ from Poggio le Volpi, Frascati which we had bought last week from Alessandro Mauceri at his wine show: Il Grappolo Divino.

Poggio le Volpi is run by the enologist Felice Mergè, third generation wine maker of the Mergè family with about 30 ha under vines.

The ‘2009 People Frascati Superiore D.O.C.’ (13% alc.) is, as all wines from the Frascati region, a blend of 70% Malvasia bianca di Candia (late harvest), 20% Trebbiano 20% and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. It is a fruity wine with some lemon aromas, fresh and clean, just the right drink for a hot summers day (or any day, I guess).

When in Rome, do as the Romans do: drink Frascati wines!

Il Grappolo Divino
Via dell’Olmo, 37
00044 Frascati
Tel.: +39-6-89026061

Poggio le Volpi S.r.l. – P.IVA: 08491921006
Via Colle Pisano, 27
00040 Monteporzio Catone, (Roma), Italia
Tel. +39-6-9426980
Fax +39-6-9426988

Frascati: vini, vini, vini

July 9, 2010

The main square of Frascati

While strolling through Frascati, the small town in Latio, central Italy, on the Alban Hills about 20 km southeast of Rome, we found the a “enoteca”, a wine shop in the historical center. Like a magnet it drew us in.

Il Grappolo Divino wine selection

Inside a friendly young man helped us with the wine selection. His name was Alessandro Mauceri and it turned out that this was the very first day of the opening of his shop, and we were his very first customers. How auspicious can it get?

Margit with Alessandro Mauceri

We selected a couple of bottles, as many as we could carry in about 35 degree heat to the car which was parked at the other end of town. Alessandro carries a wonderful selections of wines from the main Italian wine regions. He expected a major delivery from Frascati itself that;s why his selection of local wines was still small. Alessandro advised us on the following selection (all wines between 7 and 16 EURO):

– ‘2009 People Frascati Superiore’ from Poggio le Volpi, Frascati

– ‘2008 Epos Frascati Superiore’ from Poggio le Volpi, Frascati

– ‘2008 Bucci Classico Superiore’ from Azienda Agricolo Bucci in Ostra Vetere

– ‘2007 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano’ from Azienda Agricola Poliziano

– ‘2007 Bucci Pongelli Rosso Piceno’ from Azienda Agricolo Bucci in Ostra Vetere

– ‘2007 Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco’ from Langhe in Piemont

The treasure I carried home

More on the wines in my next blog entry.

Il Grappolo Divino
Via dell’Olmo, 37
00044 Frascati
Tel.: +39-6-89026061

From Shakespeare’s kitchen

May 11, 2010

Today I will share a recipe with you. Francine Segan produced this marvelous cookery book titled: “Shakespeare’s Kitchen – Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook”. We cooked from this book the most wonderful fish.

Red snapper with Caviar is the dish called.

From the outset I have to admit that our supermarket had only sea-bass on offer and instead of caviar we had to be content with ordinary fish roe. Indeed, Francine remarks that the original recipe was based on roe, not caviar, which was not well understood in Shakespearean times.

– 4 small red snapper or trout with head on
– 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
– salt and freshly milled black pepper
– 12 dates, minced
– 1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger (cam from my own production on my terrace garden)
– 8 ounces of caviar or roe
– 8 ounces fresh red currant or barberries
– 1 table spoon sugar
– 2 table spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

How it’s done:

– Preheat the grill, brush the fish inside and outside with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, combine the dates with the ginger and gently fold into the caviar/roe, spoon the mixture into the cavity of the fish, grill of about 405 minutes on each side until the flesh is firm
– Place currant, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan, simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened, puree until smooth
– Place the fish on a plate and serve the sauce in a small dish next to it. Finished. Enjoy.

And this is what the dish may look like:


Beautiful roe

The side dishes came also from the same cooking book. They were sweat onions (six different kinds of onions) and artichokes in vinegar with herbs.

The sweat onions


The wine we had with the food was not Shakespearean. Instead, we had a very simple wine with it, a ‘Frascati superiore’ from Rione. Ever since we lived in Rome about 20 years ago, I love the young white wines from Frascati,especially on hot days, the wines are refreshing and uplifting. It was a good complement to the “heavy” Shakespearean food.