Piemonte with Carro da Cucina
MIAMI, FL – “You complete me.” That’s the phrase Italian food and Italian wine would say to each other if they could talk. It’s what Pietro Riccobono of Casa Vinicola Zonin meant when he explained, during a recent trade seminar at the Miami Culinary Institute, “When you drink Italian wines always think about the food.”
Casa Vinicola Zonin is Italy’s largest privately-held wine company and the winner of the 2010 Gran Vinitaly award, “Best Producer of the Year,” an unprecedented accomplishment. Since 2005, no national producer had received this award and they were in competition against a thousand participants from 30 countries. While Casa Vinicola Zonin produces wine from seven regions in Italy, this day had a predominantly Piemonte flair.
They couldn’t have chosen more perfect partners than twin chefs, Nicola and Fabrizio Carro, the Carro da Cucina, who were born in Alassandria in Piemonte, and are the founders of two of the country’s best restaurants, both called Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, which are located in South Beach and New York City.
The event was co-sponsored by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Southeast, who work tirelessly and continuously throughout the region to promote authentic Italian cuisine through their initiative, Marchio Ospitalitá Italiana. Also on hand was the Consul General of Italy in Miami, the honorable Signor Adolfo Barattolo.
There’s no denying that the food prepared by Nicola and Fabrizio Carro is anything but thoroughly, delectably — and as authentically — Italian, as they are. Fabrizio even declared, “We eat rabbit every day as traditional Italian chefs.” Not to minimize their serious culinary genius, but they also happen to be phenomenal double eye candy, and demonstrated fun showmanship and charm, with an admirable tag-team rapport, that found the outgoing Fabrizio doing most of the explaining, while the more reserved Nicola did the prep and cooking.
It’s always somewhat fascinating to watch master chefs in action — to witness the concentration on perfection that we mere mortals rarely achieve. This left me giddily mesmerized. I’m a believer in food-as-art, so the quintessential blend of fine, regional Italian ingredients, served on beautiful plates, alongside stellar wines, was scintillating. The Carro da Cucina twins are so good that they actually competed on “Iron Chef” in 2010 and came in a very close second to the winner.
Riccobono, along with his colleague Jelena Meisel, began the event by popping open a bottle of Casa Vinicola Zonin’s Prosecco, a varietal wine that comes from Veneto, and is comprised of the Glera grape native to that region, but which is the perfect aperitif and added a festive flair as we all stood around the island in MCI’s demo kitchen chirping “salute!”
Casa Vinicola Zonin’s Prosecco won Italy’s 2010 “Gran Medaglia D’Ora” (Grand Golden Medal) and Prosecco is traditionally what begins a meal or event. The Carro Brothers chose the perfect accompaniment with Salame Felino, slices of salami, and olive oil flatbread. Salame Felino comes from the Baganza Valley, near Parma, in Emilia-Romagna. It’s soft with a sweet flavor and contains white wine.
Our next course paired Piemonte’s Castello del Poggio Dolcetto, 2006, with Vitello Tonatto con Capperi, thinly sliced veal with Favignana tuna sauce and capers. Favignana is a comune in Sicily famous for its tuna fisheries. Tonnato, however, is a Piemonte dish, served cold, that contains thin slices of veal swimming in the center of a capery, creamy, mayoniassey, tuna flavored pureé.
While cold veal may sound unusual, Tonnato is a very popular Italian dish. The veal was tender and, though the heavenly cream sauce was heavily tuna-flavored, the flavor of veal also shone through, albeit less pronouncedly. The Castello del Poggio Dolcetto, 2006, like all the wine choices from Casa Vinicola Zonin, was the perfect complement. Dolcetto is also the name of the grape, which the wine is 100% comprised of. It’s a dry, medium-bodied, well-balanced wine, backed by ripe plums and black cherries.
Riccobono remarked, “The tannins are very mellow with this” and this was true.
From Tonnato we moved on to Risotto al Barbera e Robiola Bosina, served with Castello del Poggio’s Barbera D’Asti. Barbera, like Dolcetto, is also the name of the grape and this wine is also 100% comprised of this grape. For their Risotto, Nicola and Fabrizio chose Carnaroli rice, which is from Piemonte and differs from Arborio because it has a firmer texture and longer grain.
Fabrizio explained that they cook their Risotto in veal stock and the Barbara balanced that and the strong flavor of the Robiola, which is a soft-ripened cheese made of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk and there are versions, like this one, from Alessandria in Piemonte, where the Carro Brothers are from. The Barbera was splendid, but I can’t do better than the New York Times’ description, which reads, “Lively and energetic, with fresh vibrant fruit and floral flavors.”
With the next course my heart skipped a beat. The reason: Poggio Le Coste Barolo. Inherently, Barolo is one of Italy’s best wines. Now, this also might be the time to point out something that Riccobono initially told us, “Piemonte is one of the most important regions in Italy in terms of quality and 80% of the production is indigenous” and, further, Piemonte wines are, “heavily influenced by France.”
To which someone retorted, “…or Italy has influenced the French wine.”
Whatever the case, it’s hard to find a bad wine from Piemonte. However, to merely say that the Poggio Le Coste Barolo was good, would be a gross understatement. This wine was sublime and perfectly balanced — perfectly — and notably complex with a lightly sweet taste. Barolo is comprised 100% of Piemonte’s Nebbiola grape. The Carro Brothers served it alongside Medaglioni di Vitello, medallions of veal, with seasonal vegetables.
The veal medallion swam around in pink perfection in a rich Dijon mustard sauce. This combination — veal and Barolo — most aptly confirmed precisely how giddily wonderful Italian food and wine can be when they get together, as initially noted.
The Poggio Le Coste Barolo was a DOCG wine, so held to Italy’s most stringent standards, as was our next, and final, wine, Castello del Poggio Moscato D’Asti, a wine comprised 100% of the Moscato Bianco grape, and also one of my personal favorites. This one proved the perfect end to a near-perfect, heavenly ensemble of food and wine. It was a beautiful pale straw color and held the requisite fragrant hints of apricots and flowers.
Nicola and Fabrizio served our final course, Dolce, dessert, and I sadly came back to reality because we were nearing the end of this heavenly demonstration of exquisite food, handsome Italian men, and subliminal wine, but the end could not have been more perfect. Paired with the frolicky, fruity Moscato, the Tiramisu Piemontese della Casa sprang to my palette like cupid shooting a bow straight through my heart.
Wait! I thought to myself, “this isn’t Tiramisu….or is it?” This is because what they served was so light that it was almost mousse-like. How could Mascarpone cheese taste so light and airy? But wait, there’s more. As I was savoring the fresh lightness, the crunchiness kicked in. Yes, the Carro da Cucina house Tiramisu is speckled with crunchy cookie-like crumbs, and there’s no heavy rum flavor, and that made me happy. Nicola explained that they blend the mascarpone in a machine, making it a whipped delight.
As if all of this were not enough, they served it in an edible chocolate cup. Sigh.
Dare I say it? This meal was a quintessential example of — as John Mariani’s best selling book also recently revealed — “How Italian Food (and wine) Conquered the World.” It does not get more perfect than this.
Visit Casa Vinicola Zonin. There is a link at the top of the site for English.
The products seen throughout this post are from Tomson Hospitality Boutique. The knives are made in Friuli Venezia Giulia in Maniago, the knives district. The name of the company is Del Ben. The nifty, recycled wine bottle glass are from Refresh Glass in Phoenix, Arizona. The beautiful chinaware is from a German company, Bauscher.
Italian South Florida™ was invited to attend this seminar along with other food and wine writers and those in the hospitality industry and South Florida Italian community.