Veal, Wine, and Vinegar: An Italian Food Journey

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Faith Willinger


To read previous entries in Faith's series from Italy's Northeast, click here, or click through to view her recipes for vinegar and honey sorbetto or Snow in a Glass, a layered dessert made with vanilla ice cream and pears baked in red wine.

Continuing our journey in Italy's Northeast, we left Hisa Franko and our new friends Ana and Valter who gifted us with homemade preserves (hand-written labels in Slovenian—I'm clueless) and elderberry syrup. We were on our way to Manzano (chair capital of Italy) and the winery Le Vigne di Zamo. I adore their wines and the owners, Silvano and Brigitte, who invited us to stay in their guest quarters.

They had plans with friends, so we dropped off our luggage, picked up the keys, and headed for Sunday lunch at La Subida, a long-time favorite. We bumped into Matteo Carminucci from the fantastic honey company Mieli Thun and his companion Osiride, daughter of Mario Chiaradia, beer-master and owner of Zago. They were without a reservation and the place was packed, but owner-host Josko Sirk squeezed them in at our table. The food was traditional, as always, but presentations were a bit more sophisticated. We began with crispy frico (cheese crisp made with Montasio) on a long lollipop-like stick, wafer-thin pear slices arranged like a rose and topped with melty lardo, and gnocchi stuffed with prune preserves and dusted with cinnamon. Roast veal shank (stinco), the restaurant's signature dish, was as spectacular as I'd remembered, carved by Josko's wife, Loredana, worth a voyage. The palate-cleansing sorbetto—honey and vinegar, was delicious. I asked for the recipe.

We sampled La Storica Nera, my favorite grappa, and I bought cartons of what look like cigarette packs containing eight tiny, single-shot vials, a perfect gift (under the airline liquid limit).

After lunch Josko gave us a tour of his vinegar works—he selects quality local grapes, ferments in small vats with spontaneous acidification, ages in oak barrels. The results are splendid—we all bought vinegar, and Josko gave us a highly unusual book, Baba Yaga's black suit, A story dressed with vinegar, photographed by Maurizio Frullani for Josko Sirk. We skipped dinner and spent the evening in Zamo's culinary-enological library, with a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

We had an appointment with enologist Michele Bean (pronounced bee-AHN) at Davide Feresin's winery. We tasted Pinot Grigio: extreme, just like Michele—he extracts color and flavor from the grape's skins (it's a clone of Pinot Nero, not a white grape) and it looks like rosé and acts like a light red. And a reserve refosco called Nero di Botte—a play on words—barrels and beaten up, with a cartoon of Davide and Michele on the label covered with bruises. We were invited for lunch, prepared by Davide's mother, but had plans to meet Silvano and Brigitte at Sale e Pepe, a perfect trattoria in the tiny end-of-the-road village of Stregna. We feasted on traditional dishes like buckwheat polenta with ricotta, horseradish and Seuca apples, bean and barley soup, sausage, white polenta, mushrooms and chestnuts, and a tasty dessert called snow in a glass, featuring persimmons. I got the recipe. We spent another evening in the library with Pinot Grigio.

Vito insisted on a visit to our favorite grappa distiller, Domenis, where, in spite of the early hour, we sampled La Storica Nera, my favorite grappa, and I bought cartons of what look like cigarette packs containing eight tiny, single-shot vials, a perfect gift (under the airline liquid limit). Bastianich was nearby, and we had to taste with Wayne Young, the winery's spiritual leader according to owner Joe Bastianich—Friulano and Friulano Plus, Vespa Bianco, all from the latest vintage, tasty but young. Then back to Osvaldo to pick up our prosciutto, boned, divided into three parts, shrink-wrapped for easy transport.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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