There used to be an Italian restaurant in Fairfax called Mamas. Mama ran the place well into her 80s. The wines, like the food, were rustic, hearty, and comforting. Mama fed our souls as well as our bodies. She has gone to her reward now, but her memory lives on in classic Italian fare. For a really comforting night of cardiac-on-a-platter, join me in a dish that has been on the menu at Landini Brothers in Old TownPenne in Cream Sauce with Sausage, on
www.epicurious.com (cited from Bon Appetit Magazine).
If served with a generous portion of crisp green salad, this does not have to ruin your diet. To do justice to this tasty dish, I went on a mission to find the right Italian table wine, one that is as humble in price, and is as rustic and comforting as those evenings at Mamas. Just be sure to use balsamic vinegar in your salad dressing, or lemon juice, as other kinds of vinegar will kill the flavors of the wine.
Now, a real Chianti Classico will always do, but it can set you back a good bit; and with the dollar struggling against foreign currencies, there is wisdom in searching out the unsung reds of Italys sunny hillsides. Towards this end, I strolled down to the brand new Grape and Bean on S. Royal Street.
Owner David Gwathmey and his wife Sheera Rosenfeld opened this charming place on February 9th of this year, and already they have become inundated with wine, chocolate, and coffee aficionados from all over town. They hold wine tastings every Friday evening, and they carry labels from all over the world of wine. Since Gwathmey and Rosenfeld like to baby their wines, they are building a cellar downstairs. This will allow the bottles to rest for a few months at the right temperature after the long journey from cask to customer. This gentle treatment will make an important difference to the consumer.
The shop carries a new classic, the Vespa 2004. Created by the renowned chef, Lydia Bastianich, it has been praised by critics and earned the spotlight–but at $34.99, we will save it for a special occasion. A winner in the thin wallet category, and a fine match for our penne recipe, is the Garofolis Piancarda 2004, Rosso Conero ($16.50). This is a 100% Montepulciano from the east-central coast. Masculine in style, and deep garnet in color, this wine has moderate tannins and a rustic terroir of haystacks comes through. It has aromas of ripe cherry tomatoes and vanilla extract.
Another outstanding value at $12.99 is the Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico 2005, available at Whole Foods on Duke Street. Its of the Corvina varietal, grown in Italys Northeastern Veneto province. This medium-weight dry red sports aromas of ripe black cherries and black pepper.
Even Mama would approve. Salute, Mama!