Lago di Garda
NO TROTA in BARDOLINO
In the Spring of 2001 I took a most wonderful Wine trip. An Italian Wine Trip. I had been on a couple of these trips before, but this was one turned out to be extra special.
My cousin Joe Macari and I had planned it for several months. We would go to VinItaly, the World’s largest wine exposition. Vinitaly is thee Italian Wine exposition that takes place every April in the Italian fair city of Verona. It’s a five day affair of Italian Wine, Italian Food, Italian Wine, and more Italian Wine. It was going to be a blast, but things came up and Joe was not able to make it. So my good friend Jimmy Starace took Joe’s place.
We were unable to fly over together as I was flying on Tuesday and Jimmy had to shoot a Scotch Commercial that very day. I flew Swiss Air to Venice with a stop at Zurich in-between where I picked up a box of nice Cuban Cigars and some Chocolates in the airport.
I arrived at Marco Polo International Aero Porto after a 50 minute flight from Zurich, took the water-taxi to Piazza San Marco, hopped a Vaporetto to the Rialto from which point I walked a couple blocks to one of my favorite hotels in Venice, The Albergo Guerrato. Guerrato is a charming little place I discovered on an exploratory trip to Venice in April of 1995. The location of this hotel is incredible.
It is literally in the heart of the famous Rialto Market, which has been in continuous operation for over Six Hundred Years. The market purveys the freshest fish, fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry to the citizens and Restaurateurs of Venice. If you walk out the door of Guerratto and take a right-hand-turn, walk a mere 10 feet, you will be Smack Dab in the Middle of the World’s greatest, most interesting food market of all, the “Rialto of Venice.”
In the Rialto, you will find thee most fantastic assortment of Sea Creatures of every size, shape, and color imaginable, and ones you’ve never even dreamed of. They are there. “It’s amazing!” One of the most wonderful of sights in La Serenisima, and just like walking into St. Marks Square, it is absolutely free.
It is quite an adventure just walking around the market, seeing all the vibrant colors of the fruits and vegetables, scoping the various types of fish, Shrimp, Crabs, Mussels, Clams (Vongole), and all other Sea Creatures. You walk, watch, and listen to the sounds of the Rialto, the Merchants of Venice yelling and singing as they hawk their many wares. “Carciofi,
Carciofi, Scampi, Tutti Pesci, Polpo, Polpetti Fresca!” It is quite the spectacle.
So I arrived at Guerrato, checked in and took a quick shower to refresh and revive. I had to get out, take a nice little walk around the “Magical City.” Along the way I’d have some Cichetti and a glass of local wine, maybe a nice Cabernet Franc. Speaking of Cabernet Franc, quite a lot of it is grown in North-Eastern Italy, especially in the Veneto and Friulli as well. So much is grown that many wine bars and restaurants in and around Venice serve Cab Franc as the house red. Imagine that. Yes it’s a big local variety. I might have a glass of Cab Franc or maybe I’d drink the Valpolicella from one of my friends, either, the Valpolicello Classico from Allegrini, Zenato’s Ripassa, or “Brolo” from the esteemed House of Masi.
I stop at the first nice Bacaro I come across and order a some Cichetti of little fried Meatballs, Melanzane al Forno, some grilled Calamaris, and little Gamberetti dressed in lemon and olive oil. I followed this nice little plate of Cichetti with a tasty Spaghetti Vongole and yes I did drink some of the fine Cab Franc of the Veneto. By the way, Bacaro the Venetian dialect for wine bar, which translates to House of Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine.
I had the most amazing time as always, walking through the labyrinth that is Venice, through this calle (sidewalks) and that, along the fondamentas (walkways next to canals), and up and over one beautiful little bridge after the other. Venice has some 450 of “them,” bridges that is. Checking out all the whimsical Mask Shops (Mascara), art galleries, fantastic print shops, and shops that make exquisite hand-made writing paper. You’ll find fine clothing stores, pastry shops, trattorias, ristorante, Wine Bars (Bacari), and all manner of shops selling antiques, Murano Glass, Lace from Burano, Italian ceramics, and all sorts of astonishing little trinkets and things. It’s a shoppers Paradise, Venice.
Cichetti e Vini
Cichetti & WIne at Do SPADE
CASANOVA 'S Favorite VENEITAN WINE BAR
After making that long journey from the great city of New York, having lunch and taking a long walk, exploring Venice once again, I was a bit tired so I made my way back through the maze of Venezia to The Albergo Guerrato. I needed a little nap.
I awoke after a hour and a half, took another shower, then made my way over the Rialto Bridge
to San Polo and had dinner at Trattoria Antiche Carapane. My dinner started with an Antipasto Misto de Mare that consisted of tiny little Adriatic Shrimp, Crab Salad, and Sarde en Soar. I followed the antipasto with a perfect bowl of Spaghetti Nero (Spaghetti with Squid Ink and Squid) while drinking some tasty Venica Tocai. The dinner was excellent. I didn’t have any dessert. I strolled back to Guerrato to sleep the night away and Dreaming of the Mystical Magical City.
The next day I arose early as I always do when I’m in Europe. I do not want to waste any precious time. I had a my nice little Guerratto Breakfast in the charming dining room that looks like it has been stuck in a Venetian time warp from the 1920’s. Very young considering that the whole of Venice is an “800 year old time warp.” This dining room is really cool, with its terrazzo floor, old Paintings & Photographs, and a beautiful ornate credenzas and mirrors from the 20’s. Did you know, “Mirrors” were invented in Venice and that the process of making them was “Top Secret? Way back when, if a Venetian glass-blower tried to leave the city of Venice with his mirror and glass making secrets, he would be hunted down and an assassin would plunge a Glass Knife into his back." Scary!
The Guerrato Breakfast consist of a perfect Cappuccino ( “you’ve never tasted one so good”), apricot yogurt, a Cornetto ( a Italian Croissant), a banana, and some delicious fresh squeezed Blood Orange juice from Sicily. “Yum!” After breakfast I went wandering around Venice,shopping, taking lots of pictures, and making wonderful new discoveries every couple of minutes or so.
After strolling around Venice for a couple hours I made my way over to my favorite restaurant in the entire World, Harry's Bar. Seriously, I love this place, and it is without a doubt my favorite in the World. I had a marvelous lunch at Harry’s of; Beef Carpaccio and Tagiolini, washed down with a couple of Harry’s famed Bellinis, then I wandered over to one of the World’s great caffe’s to rendezvous with my bud Jimmy. Our designated meeting time was 1:30 PM at Florian’s Caffe, smack right dab in the middle of the Piazza San Marco, the World’s most beautiful square. Florian’s has served the likes of Antonio Vivaldi, Napoleon, Churchill, Hemingway, Katherine Hephurn, Verdi, and Wagner since Florian first opened the caffe doors way back in 1720, and the place has been going strong ever since. Just a few years until they celebrate their 300 Year Anniversary. That’s Venice for you, they have a place where you can go for an Espresso, Cappuccino, Prosecco, or Campari, and this place (Florian’s) has been operating for close to 300 years. Besides serving you, over the years they have served Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Princes, Princesses, Rock-Stars, Movie Stars, you and me, everybody and anybody. That’s Florian’s.
I sat at a table outside under the portico at Florian. Jimmy arrived on time, and we relaxed with a couple Negronis before lugging his bags over to the hotel. That night we had a nice dinner of antipasto of shrimp, mussels, and razor clams, followed by some Gnocchi Pomodoro. We drank a bottle of local Refosco at a cool little trattoria near in the Rialto. The next day we arose early to have our Guerrrato breakfast before heading to the Santa Lucia Stazzione to catch the train to Verona and Vinitaly.
It’s a quick hour and fifteen minutes by train from Venice to Verona, home of Romeo and Julietta, Gnocchi, and Italy’s Greatest and most famous Wine Bar, the Bottega del Vino. Verona is also home to one of the World’s best preserved Roman Arenas, and Vinitaly, the World’s largest wine exposition, in bigger than the one in Bordeaux. From the train station we caught a local bus to the show.
Vinitaly was great. First, we walked about for a few minutes before we came across the booth of my friend Anna, whose family makes Prima Uva Brandy. Prima Uva is a Brandy that is served like Grappa, though technically it is Brandy. We sat down for a few minutes to chat and drink a bit of the Prima Uva.
I was trying to meet up with my friend Pietro Cavallo who’s a representative for Donnafugata, Fatttoria Barbi, and Fontana Fredda. We kept missing him as we went to each booth.
We went over to the Fattoria Barbi exhibit looking for Pietro. He was not there so we visited with Serena Columbini whose husband’s family owns Barbi, one of the oldest producers of Brunello in Montalcino. We drank a good bit of their fine Brunello while munching on their delicious Salami that made at the Barbi estate. We had a great time hanging out with Serena, she has a marvelous personality as most people in the wine business do. In actuality, it seems as though the proprietors of most vineyards are exceptionally warm and friendly people, and Serena certainly was no different. We thoroughly enjoyed Serina’s company and warm hospitality. It was a memorable visit munching on their tasty home-made Salami, sipping their fine Brunello, coupled with the presence of the always bright and charming Serena.
We were quite happy with our good fortune of being entertained so wonderfully by the owners of one of the oldest and most celebrated Houses of Brunello, Fattoria Barbi. It may be a cliché, but it is oh-so-true, “It just doesn’t get any Better than That!” Needless to say, we had a great time hanging with Serena, but it was time to move on. Other friends to see, and a whole lot more wine to taste.
Speaking of warm wonderful people who own vineyards, we went over to the Terrabianca booth to visit with good friend Roberto Gundelar. When I say booths, sometimes they are booths, while others like Terrabianca’s are almost like you’re in the home of the producer ( producers being the Proprietors of a wine estate). We sat with Roberto and his daughter Maya for a nice half hour visit. We chatted as Roberto took us through the Terrabianca line-up of Chardonnay, Croce ( Chianti), Fonte, and one of my favorites “Cipresso” made with 100% Sangiovese.
Of course we had the famous Super Tuscan “Campaccio” made with 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, a great bottle of wine. As Roberto poured each wine for us, telling us about each one, the time came for a new Super Tuscan they had just come out with, “Cepate” made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a qualified knockout, blockbuster wine that can compete with the World’s best. The wine is packed with incredible lush fruit from vines that have very low concentrated yields. It’s a powerhouse to say the least.
As I must often say, simply because I’m put into so many memorable occasions, “It doesn’t get much better than this.” Drinking some of the World’s great wines, which are being poured by the man that produces them as he explains each one to you, personally entertaining you. Can you beat that? Again, my pal Jimmy was astonished at the graciousness of such a renowned host and my good fortune to have such special relationships with so many prominent people of Italian Wine World.
We finished the tasting with Roberto’s fine Vin Santo before going on our merry way. Over to the Zenato booth to see Nadia Zenato who as many girls of family’s who own wine estates in Italy, she handles promotions, sales, and marketing for the family's winery. Her father Sergio makes their famed Amarone along with a truly fine Ripasso, and other wines.
We visited a number of friend’s booths in the two days we were at Vinitaly, including Alesandro Landini of Fattoria Vitticio, Antonio Rallo of Donnafugata, and Giannpaulo Venica, whose family makes some of Italy’s very best white wines, including their prodigious Tocai and famed Sauvignon Blanc, Ronco d’ Mele, “The Hill of Apples.”
The best things about being at Vinitaly are not being at the show itself, which to sum up in a nutshell is to be up on the latest happenings in the Italian Wine World, is to smooze with the Italians as well as your peers from New York or wherever they may be from. Speaking of New York, by far the largest foreign contingent of people from anywhere around the globe at Vinitaly, is the contingent from New York Italian Wine people, NY Italian Restaurant Owners, sommeliers, and Wine Directors like me. This is one aspect that appeals to a New York Italian Wine Guy, such as myself. Hanging out in Verona, in Italy, at Vinitaly; conducting business, tasting wine, eating wonderful Italian food, and having a good time. Well it’s not all fun and games, it can actually be quite grueling. You get up early in the morning, have breakfast, then make your way to the exposition, Vinitaly. Most will get there sometime between 10:30 and 11:30 AM. You go from booth to booth. You taste wine, an average of about 70 in a day. At some booths you may not know anyone there, this can be good. You will know people at some of the other booths and at these ones you might spend fifteen, twenty minures, maybe a half-hour with your friends, chatting, tasting, socializing, in general having a great time. Having friends and hanging out with them has its good points and bad ones. The bad point is that you spend a lot of time with them and less time seeing other things, especially when you visit with numerous friends all in one day. The good points are obvious. Number one, you are not treated like just another “Joe Smo,” you're somebody. Someone of importance to them. Actually, you’re usually treated like a King. You don’t stand in front of the counter tasting with the masses. You sit with the owner at a table. You relax and are given a great deal of attention, tasting their wine, getting little snacks, maybe some homemade Salami and Cheese from the estate’s private stock. It’s quite a lot of fun, being treated so royally. Who doesn’t like that? So I may be I’m a little vain? Isn’t everyone? “Sue me!” Besides, working in restaurants, you may make decent money, but nothing all that great. Not like the cash the make on Wall Street or whatever. However being a top Italian Wine Buyer from New York, you do have some perks, like going to special wine tastings, people bring you wine, you're invited to luncheons and very special Italian Wine Dinners and other events. And when you're at Vinitaly or at any wine estate in Italy, you are treated royally. So at least these little perks (also free wine, and other gifts), the lunches, dinners, and being treat royally at Vinitaly and at the various states, you got to enjoy it when you can, and believe me, "I do."
So you socialize with the “Big Shots,” and you make plans to go visit vineyards after the exposition is over. Here, again, the “Red Carpet” will be rolled out, and you will be treated Royally touring their Estate. These are some of the best aspects for going to Vinitaly. Also, just the fact of being there, it gives you more cachet amongst your peers as well as the producers ( Vineyard owners ) that you buy wine from. Each trip also adds to your personal bonds with others and increases your life’s experiences with memories of grand times. Not too shabby?
After being in Verona a couple of days, doing Vinitaly, going to the famous wine bar Bottega del Vino where the Italian Wine World meets. You have a few nice meals in various trattorias, as well
as eating tasty Porchetta Sandwiches outside the fair grounds, it was time to leave.
It wasn’t easy, but we left the fair city of Verona, the Roman Arena, Bottega del Vino, Romeo and Julietta. We made our way to Lago di Garda for a day of checking out the Valpolicella Classico region, the place that makes the renowned wines of Amarone, Bardolino, Valpolicella, and Recioto de Valpolicella. We were in for another treat. Amarone, one of Italy’s most prestigious wines is made in a very special and unique manner were by the best grapes in the vineyard (Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara) are picked and then dried on racks for two to three months before being vinified into wine. This process reduces the water content of the grapes and intensifies the flavors of which you get figs, raisons, and prunes, over ripe fruit of bitter cherries and perhaps a touch of dark chocolate. Amarone is one of the World’s premier wines and here we were in its domain, ready to explore and drink of this fine nectar with some of the top producers of this one of the World’s most celebrated wines, Amarone and its most renowned producers of the wine; Masi, Dal Forno, Qunitarelli, Allegrini, Zenato, Bertani, and others. This people, is pure bliss.
We had breakfast in a grand caffe at the water’s edge, in the town of Garda on the picturesque shores of Lake Garda. The Alps shooting up majestically in the background was quite a sight, beautiful.
After breakfast, we stopped in at a local butcher shop and bought Speck and some of the famous local olive oil, which is one of the World’s most northerly produced olive oils in the world. We then hopped back into the Scotto Fabio and drove all around the zone of Valpollicella. We drove high up into the mountains and stopped in at a wine bar that was on top of some mountain that had a beautiful view of Lake Garda and the valley below. We drank Tocai, and I’m certain in this remote location that we were probably the only Americans to have ever stepped foot inside this rural little bar. We were looking for the legendary Giuseppe Quintarelli whose vineyard is in the small town of Negar, high up into the mountains. His wines are at the pinnacle of the great Amarone Sphere, and Giuseppe is the God
of Amarone and the region (Kingdom) of Valpolicella Classico.
Quintarelli’s legendary wines are produced in small quantities and are very hard to come by, either in Italy or in the States, and if you do find them and would like to possess them, you must pay dearly, not with your life, but with some cold hard cash. Giuseppe and his vineyard are mysterious and mystical, and I guess it should not have been a surprise to us that although we were in the town of
Negar and asking the locals how to get there, nobody knew who he was or where the vineyard was located. I found out a year later that the locals are tired of people asking them how to get to the Quintarelli estate. They don’t even want to help a poor stranger out, so they lie and say “No,” they don’t know where he is or how to get to the vineyard. “Ce la Vie.” Not long after this, there was a picture in the Wine Spectator or some other magazine that was of a house in Negar with a sign that the owners put up that read “Quintarelli is Not Here.” You see?
Although we drove all around Negar, and tried our best to find Giuseppe, we couldn’t. It just wasn’t in the cards.
So we made our way over to the beautiful estate
of Serego Alighieri which is owned and operated by descendants of the famed Florentine Poet, author of The Devine Comedy, Dante Alighieri. The property is gorgeous and in no way second-fiddle to Quintarelli, and as the years pass, and I get a little wiser, I have come to know and love the Amarone of Serego Aligieri even more. Along with the Amarone made by Sergio Zenato, they are my own two personal favorites.
We toured the vineyards and cellars filled with rare Cherry Wood Cask. We savored the excellent Valpolicella and Amarone in the tasting-room, and before we left, we picked up a few bottles of their fine wine to bring back to New York to drink at one of our celebrated dinner parties.
The Amarone’s of Serego Aliigheri are some of the finest, most wonderful Amarone’s in the whole zone of Valpolicella Classico (the only area in the World where Amarone is made). They are aged in large the rare Cherry-Wood Cask, which give these wonderful wines unique aging characteristic, as the pores of
The thing that makes barrels and cask made Cherry Wood different than those of oak is that the pores of Cherry Wood are a bit larger than those of oak, which helps the wine mature a bit faster than oak does, thus making a 6 year old wine taste more like a mature 7 years of age.
Something I’d like to say about the wines of Valpolicella. Because of the fact that Valpolicella, along with Bardolino, and Soave became so commercial and popular (too popular) in the United States back in the 1970’s because the firm of Bolla and a few other producer were making it in mass quantities, marketing, and selling millions of bottles every year, and selling it through massive TV Ad campaigns, these wines lost all respect from wine drinkers and the Wine World. They were looked down upon in disdain for over twenty years. It is true that for a time there were very few producers of good quality Valpolicella, Bardolino, and Soave. This region on a whole has made a tremendous turn around in terms of making really excellent quality wines of Valpolicella and Soave, while the Amarone’s have always maintained their great eminence. If you are someone who is 50 years old or older and haven’t had any Soave or Valpolicello of late, please do give them a try. They are quite good.
There are now excellent examples of Soave (Pieropan and Anselmi), Valpolicella ( Allegrini and Quinterelli), and Valpolicella Ripasso (Bertani, Zenato, Masi) being produced in this zone, but it has been difficult for this area to overcome the stigma it gained from the mediocrity of the seventies and into the eighties. I myself, did champion these wines along with Morrellino d’Scansano and Tocai of which I was one of the first big sellers in America at my former Wine Bar in New York City, Bar Cichetti.
We drove back to Lake Garda to the town of Bardolino. I had told Jimmyboy earlier in the day that fresh local Lake Trout was the dish to eat in this area, as no matter where you are traveling in the world; you should always eat the most famous local dishes. We arrived at Bardolino around Three o’clock in the afternoon and were salivating for some of that famous Lake Trout, sautéed in butter with lemon and parsley. That would really hit the spot, along with a nice bottle of local Soave. Our desire for the tasty Trota was not to be fulfilled. Not that day. By the time we got into town, every restaurant in Bardolino was closed. Not one was open for business. Most restaurants in Italy close for two to three hours between lunch and dinner but you can usually find a couple that stay open continuously, but no, not in this town. Jimmy was fuming. He wanted his Trota! He was really peeved, almost throwing a minor fit.
The only thing we could find open was a caffe. I settled for a pannino and Jimmy got some gelato, but he was not a happy camper, he wanted his lake trout.
We had to make our way south towards Tuscany, so we hopped in the car and as we were driving out of the lakeside town of Bardolino we were shouting out the window at the people on the street, “No Trota! No Trota!!” I know, it sounds kind of silly and sophomoric, but it was actually very funny as we yelled, “No Trota, No Trota!!!” and watched all the funny stunned expressions on people’s faces as they were yelled at by two “Crazy Americans” driving in a Scotto Fabia yelling, “No Trota, No Trota!!!” As they say, “You had to be there.”
This has been Excerted from "La TAVOLA" by Daniel Bellino Zwicke
ITALIAN-AMERICAN NEW YORKERS
ADVENTURES of The TABLE
In ITALY & NEW YORK