From May 18 to May 25 the Italian Trade Agency presented Italy on Madison, a celebration of Italian culture and cuisine involving restaurants, fashion showrooms and businesses, and featuring panel discussions and special events. On May 23 there were three of the latter, with two taking place at the Italian Trade Commission on East 67th Street. I attended the morning event, entitled ‘Women in Wine: The Italian Perspective’, wherein a panel of five professionals recounted their experiences as trailblazing women in the world of wine, and offered advice for those in attendance aspiring to follow in their path; afterwards guests were treated to a sumptuous lunch prepared by Il Gattopardo restaurant. The evening event was a comprehensive presentation of Italian food items – focusing on the Denominations of Origin which confirm the authenticity and quality of products and ingredients – in the format of a relaxed 10-course dinner.
Whereas most Italy on Madison events took place uptown, on and/or near Madison Avenue, this dinner was held at Serra by Birreria, the rooftop dining space at the Eataly store in the Flatiron district at Fifth Avenue and West 23rd Street. Upon arrival guests found a table set up with a selection of cured meats, cheese, olive oils and bread pieces for dipping. The cheese was Parmigiano Reggiano DOP®, paired with Aceto Balsamico di Modena DOP; there were two prosciuttos – Prosciutto di Parma DOP and Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP – as well as Coppa Piacentino DOP, served with Greenmarket wild arugula; and the Pane e Olio d’Oliva included Integrale Bread & Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP from Liguria, Rustic Bread & Sabina Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP from Umbria, and Otto Bread & Primo Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP from Sicilia. This course was paired with a selection of wines available at the bar – an Alta Langa DOC and a Gavi del Commune di Gavi DOCG from Fontanafredda in Piemonte; a Friuli Colli Orientali DOC “Pinot Grigio Ramato” from Le Vigne de Zamò in Friuli; and a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC from Marchese Migliorati in Abruzzo. Of course, the venue being a birreria, some folks opted for beer to pair with these tasty appetizers.
After a half hour or so it came time to proceed with the seated dinner portion of the evening, and throughout this we were guided by Lou Di Palo, purveyor of the namesake food emporia in Little Italy, who explained the finer points of production and development of all we would be feasting upon. The first course was an Insalata Verde, 300-Day Gorgonzola DOP with Greenmarket chicories and candied hazelnuts, paired with a Franciacorta DOCG “Cuvée Prestige” from Ca’ Del Bosco in Lombardia. The next two courses – the La Caprese of Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DOP with heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil, and the Fonduta Di Fontana, Fontina Valle d’Aosta DOP with mixed vegetables – were paired with a Greco di Tufo DOCG from Pietracupa in Campania.
An Etna Bianco DOC “Millesulmare” from Santa Maria La Nave in Sicilia was paired with the following two courses, the Aspargi Con Asiago (Greenmarket asparagus with farm fresh egg and Asiago Fresco DOP), and Acchiuge (anchovies with salsa verde and Sicilian Extra virgin Olive Oil DOP). Excellent seafood was also featured in the next course, Brodo de Zafferano – mussels in saffron broth with rustic bread and Ligurian Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP; it was paired with Sicilia DOC “Il Frappato” Arianna Occhipinti. What ensued were two courses of carbs, with the Spaghetto al Pomodoro (spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes DOP and fresh basil) paired with a Chianto Classico Gran Selezione DOCG from Colombaio di Cencio in Toscana preceding the Risotto al Tartufo (Carnaroli rice with Pecorino Romano DOP and summer truffle), which was paired with a Barolo DOCG from Fontanafredda in Piemonte. For dessert there were two items – a Torta All’Olio D’Oliva (olive oil cake with fresh cream and strawberry) and Crostata Cioccalato e Caffè (chocolate frolla, crema di caffè and hazelnut) – paired with a Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG from Tommaso Bussolo in Veneto; this balanced sweet wine recalled a ruby port in character.
When people hear the word ‘cuisine’ they often think of involved preparation and/or sauces, but the most essential aspect of fine dining is the quality of the ingredients. That fundamental truth was quite evident with the assurance thereof in the designations and sourcing of those products presented over the course of this evening, amply displaying the principle that a much less complicated or involved treatment is called for in such circumstance, the better to allow the goodness of the food to shine.