How to buy an authentic Italian wine?

 

“IN VINO VERITAS…”

Here’s one of the many subjects I was lucky to pay attention to during the now distant years of Tourism classes back in Italy: DOC & DOCG products

I have developed a significant interest in wines. Before I buy them, I always prefer to pick an authentic one.

During my school years, I was lucky to have really prepared teachers and learn interesting stuff that I like to recall in my adult life. I remember that one day we talked about the collateral issues the Globalization brought in the last 2 decades. One of these issues was actually an important one because it explains the importance of how to protect a brand and avoid those sad episodes of fake distributions.

i-vigneti-di-bolzano.mb.0002cd.jpg
photo: internet

Nowadays there are multiple countries that are mass producers of wine with global distributions…

I won’t spend time writing the history of wine because I would need much more of your attention, and your time is definitely short and valuable.

ToscanaVigneti.jpg
photo: internet

Going back to the idea of those countries that have a huge contribution in their Gross Domestic Product thanks to the production of wine, I would like to talk about Italy. The Globalization in the beginning gave a huge hand to the wine producers opening the gates to other markets, overseas, and gaining lots of notoriety among international producers.

Globalization provided a great hand, but it also has its side effect. This side effect is more like a small dot, but with a huge power. It can destroy the image of a company and make it implode, sending it into bankruptcy.

In the last 2 decades, Italy fought against companies who falsified and sold fake wines using well-known brands without paying any royalties or using original grapes. The process of identifying and enforcing punishments of the fake companies was long and expensive. Through this process, Italy found a good way to avoid these episodes.

How?

In 1963, an attorney Rolando Ricci invented the DOC term (*Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and thanks to his role in the Italian government, he helped build the proper law that endorses it. Nowadays almost all the wine producers in 20 regions of Italy use the DOC label which helps you to identify an original product to be sure you’re paying for the real one. Meanwhile they built the label DOCG (**Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) which certifies that the wine comes from the original production area and not from somewhere else.

DOCG.jpg
example of DOCG etiquette

There is only a way to make sure the wine you bought is an authentic Italian one. How? The cork’s cover has the label DOC or DOCG on. That’s how every single Italian wine leaves their authentic wine factories.

vino-per-top-1920x1080.jpg
photo: internet

Carlos and the Mushrooms Carpaccio

 

For all those who ever heard about the word Carpaccio, I found a really interesting definition.

Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat (mostly beef, veal or venison) or fish (salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. The dish was served for the first time in Harry’s Bar in Venice and became popular during the second half of the Twentieth Century. The dish was invented in 1950 by Giuseppe Cipriani.

The ideal preparation of an authentic Carpaccio should be: beef served with lemon, olive oil, and white truffle or Parmesan cheese.

Years later, the term Carpaccio was extended to dishes containing other raw meats or fish, thinly sliced and served with lemon or vinegar, olive oil, salt, ground pepper and arugula on the top.

Honestly I would be really careful in preparing such a particular dish. The day I wanted to impress my companion, it didn’t happen. I saved myself in corner. I prepared for her a salmon carpaccio and a beef carpaccio. The salmon was fine but the beef was a “Big Disaster”.

The main rule is?

When using beef for the Carpaccio, always go with a sirloin.

For all who are reading my articles. Thank you! I would like to remind you about my summer time work experience as a young adult.

The day I met Carlos, my nickname became Delinquente. His Good morning was:

Buenos dias Delinquente!

Carlos is one of those Cuban guys that can take your mind through their narrations and bring you to amazing places and live their life episodes. It was thanks to him I learned my first steps of bachata (a type of dance) and the most nasty Spanish words. He needed only a photo of his amazing home country and some words, in order to transport me there and live vicariously through his amazing life.

I just realized I repeated the same thing in two different sentences.

Sorry!

“Buongiorno delinquente!”

“Hola Carlos!”

 

We were talking in two languages. I was correcting his Italian and he was correcting my Spanish. After 3 months, my Spanish improved a lot by talking with this Cuban Pizza man.

Not cool?

That morning he was preparing the pizza for lunch. He was (and hopefully continues to be) a super pizza man. He was able to make 150 pizzas during the dinner time.

Something you probably don’t know: In Italy, restaurants will never open their doors earlier than 7 PM. Well, wait, they might open but…the treatment will not be the best. Whoever goes into a restaurant before 7 PM will always be marked as a bad client by all the kitchen staff. ‘no stronzo

 

Always good to know for when you will go to Italy on vacation…

He was preparing the pizza. On his kitchen counter he had a glass of white wine with the remaining bottle. His face was already red and he was singing his favorite song:

Corazon Espinado

I was preparing the tables for the lunch when he says:

“Vieni qui Delinquente!”

“Te volio ensegnar alcosa”.

I looked at him like a teacher at school…

“Se dice: Ti voglio insegnare qualcosa.”

 

He rolled his eyes…

He started to chop 4 champignon mushrooms very thinly. Then he put them on a plain plate. He dropped some salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon on the top. After, he took some arugula from his stainless steel container and covered the mushrooms. Some olive oil drizzled over the top, and he put it in the fridge.

“Alex, esto es el Carpaccio de funghi! Tadaaa!”

30 minutes later, I tasted it and he needed to use the body force to stop me eating it all. It was super delicious…

Every single time I prepare the Mushrooms Carpaccio, I have in mind a boat with a tanned, cool Cuban guy on it and hundreds of lobsters. When I eat that dish I hear Corazon Espinado singing in my ears and I can imagine Cuba’s people.

One day I will visit Cuba, my cool Spanish and culinary teacher. Thank you for making my days easier!

Your Delinquente

Spaghetti Nirvana and Ponch alla Livornese

Every single man, at least once in his teenage life, tries an underpaid job just to become summertime money independent.

Most of us decide to take a job as a means to escape from home living far from parents. Many of us because we want to live, work and have fun in a cool sea destination.

As you may be starting to guess, I would like to confirm your prediction, and share with you my summertime waiter job.

Far from here… it was back in Italy precisely…I decided I wanted a car. Like most of the young men, I wanted to be cool and drive my girlfriend around Tuscany using my car.

And what was the easiest way to make good money but also having fun?

Boom!

I took the train and I stopped in Calambrone. This region belongs to Livorno’s Province (within Tuscany). If you drive 10 minutes north, along the Costa Tirrenica, you will reach one of the most chosen destinations of Livorneese people.

Yeah, that “resort” sent me home slimmer & tanned, with enough money to buy a 1996 old Volkswagen Polo car, but also taught me how to handle busy days and how to prepare the Spaghetti alla Nirvana and the Ponch alla Livornese.

I know that everything sounds cool and easy, but it wasn’t…

Allow me to write down the negative effects as a young and unqualified waiter:

  • I was working Sunday to Monday 7 days a week from 7PM till 11/1 AM and Thursday to Sunday from 10 AM till 4 PM. (the reason I kept working there was that I was making almost 50 bucks in tips a day)
  • I made only $750 a month (before tip). Yep, only $750
  • I lost almost 30 pounds in 3 months
  • I destroyed my back carrying the plates
  • I was the only waiter, and most of the time the restaurant was full (around 70/80 people)

Honestly? I won’t do that again and I won’t suggest a work experience like that to my future children. By the way, doing that job was possible only because I was young and thirsty for money.

I will though keep thinking that everything is possible if you want and if you are really ready to sacrifice yourself.

That summer changed me a lot and I understood how difficult it is to wake up and start working for a wage. I understood what it takes in order to be able to put a piece of bread on the dinner table and still have energy for a smile.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, I also learned how to make nice kitchen dishes and drinks.

I would like, first of all, to dedicate some time to those who are still wondering where in the world is Livorno:

  • Livorno is an amazing city in Tuscany. Sadly it is not a tourist destination, even if I honestly think it would easily become one of the most beautiful places to go in Tuscany.
  • Livorno is well known for its amazing sea coast and clear waters.
  • Livorno is that place where every single phrase starts and ends with the word Deh.

 

  • Livorno has the most beautiful terrace in the world.

 

  • Livorno is a pretty town and it has an amazing water channel. I like to call it The Little Venice.
  • Livorno is known for its Ponch alla Livornese.

Well, let’s see what’s this ponch alla Livornese. Before you start reading I would like you to listen to this song

The ingredients: One part rum, one part cognac, one part hot coffee, sugar and lemon peel.

Take a wide thick and flat glass and pour a teaspoon of white sugar with a sliver of lemon peel. Then add a finger of rum and a finger of cognac. Then you should have a coffee incorporated steamer (if you hope to truly obtain a Ponch). Heat it with the steam machine. Be careful and don’t start fast (you don’t want to spit everything out of your glass). Once the sugar is melted, prepare an espresso. Put the glass inclined and fill it with the coffee. It has to be a finger of coffee.

Congrats! You should have obtained the Ponch, with an appearance of 3 levels: The first is the mix of spirits and sugar, the second is the coffee, and the third is the foam of the quality coffee.

If you can’t see all I tried to explain to you, then call me or come visit me in Michigan. I would definitely make you one.

If you have a 3 levels effect, then stop!

poncelivornese
photo: turismo.intoscana.it

Let me explain how to taste it and enjoy it:

1 – Rinse out your mouth

2 – Have a glass of water

3 – Now, with a teaspoon, take the lemon peel and chew it

4 – You should have a lemony taste.

5 – Now take a sip of that Ponch alla Livornese.

Isn’t it the best drink you’ve ever had?

You’re very welcome!

Not let me introduce you to the Spaghetti alla Nirvana. The name comes from the Resort I was working for. This plate was my favorite plate that summer. This plate means a lot to me and I think you should consider yourselves lucky that I’m sharing this recipe with you.

Again, you’re welcome!

Ok, now let’s make some Spaghetti alla Nirvana, folks!

Next time you go grocery shopping, remember to buy all these ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of fresh mussels (yes, with the shell)
  • 1 pack of spaghetti 5th thickness in measure
  • 8 oz. pack of heavy cream
  • 1 pound of cherry tomatoes (yes, red cherry tomatoes)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, white wine (yes, cheap white wine for cooking), dried chilly peppers, fresh parsley (don’t ever think to use dried parsley).

Now, you better not drink the wine for cooking…

Take a pot and boil some water. Pour 2 tablespoons of salt and mix the water (don’t even think to touch the pasta if the water is not boiling / don’t you ever brake the spaghetti because I might die). You should be able to read on the packaging for how many minutes you should boil the pasta (for the best result, always put the pasta when the water starts to boil and keep it the minutes they write on the package). Now take out the best pan you have in the house. Start chopping the garlic small diced. Drop 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and let the oil become hot (medium heat). Drop the garlic and 2 small chilly peppers without throwing away the seeds. You need the maximum heat from the two chilly peppers. 15 seconds later add the 2 pounds of mussels (actually you already boiled in small water and opened the mussel’s shells), with half cup of white wine.

5 minutes later add the cherry tomatoes (please cut those tomatoes in halves or quarters). Add half teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity. Mix everything and pour half cup of cream. Wait for the cream to simmer and then turn off the fire.

Meanwhile, your pasta should be ready. Take a colander (I know you know how to use it) and throw the water away. Then put the spaghetti in the pan and do what you should do: Mix your spaghetti with the sauce over medium heat for 30 seconds.

Now heat a plate in the microwave for 40 seconds. Take it out and make the spaghetti nest in the middle. Then add some of that incredible and delicious sauce on the top.

I bet you forgot about the parsley, right?

Take some fresh parsley and chop it really thin. Then let it rain over your plate.

A glass of white wine and your plate of pasta…

Yeah, you’re very welcome! Again!

Isn’t it? Am I right that everything happens for a reason? Just because you read my article, you just learned how to make the Ponch alla Livornese and the Spaghetti alla Nirvana.

I really appreciate you reading this article till the end!

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I remember the first time I stepped on Italian soil almost 15 years ago. There was a restaurant along the highway called Autogrill.

The first thing I saw was this incredible plate with this delicious spaghetti perfectly served on a plate like a bird nests. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Below a poster showing this incredible spaghetti mixed with eggs and pancetta, a guy was sitting there ready to burn his tongue and mouth in order to scarf down that identical dish.

When I heard my father suggest for us to go inside to have lunch, I became excited of the idea. My brain started to guess about the flavor. My taste buds were ready and my concerns of handling the fork and long spaghetti were vanished.

As we walked inside, I looked outside quickly. I turned my head while listening to what my dad was telling me, but the view I had seen captured my attention: the incredible Alto-Adige’s mountains.

5663bbc03b9d15b1247ef0c5491aaa44_XL
photo: internet

I remember I was so enchanted by the mountains that I didn’t even hear when the waitress asked me for my lunch order.

My dad called my name, and the idea of ordering that pasta plate took possession on my mind and belly.

Before I go further, I would like to mention that my Italian was so bad. I was barely able to count till 10 or say “Buongiorno” or “Ciao”.

I tried my best with my thick Romanian accent, but the lady wasn’t able to understand. Now that I analyze it better, I think I was the one who didn’t have any idea of what that poor lady was trying to explain to me.

My dad left me to see if I was able to manage ordering the lunch on my own but…he came in to my rescue and explained that they closed the kitchen at 5 minutes to 2:00. Looking at my watch, it was 2:07. I was so disappointed as I was eating the fried chicken, the only thing they had left. All the drive back home I was craving that plate of pasta. In that moment, I hated that place and their cook. I was ready to spend even fifty euro in order to have that plate. I remember I wasn’t a friendly journey mate and the silence started to dominate the car.

The sad thing, or if we want to call it the coincidence, wanted me to not have that plate for a long time.

It took to me almost 9 years before finally having my first plate of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I remember that day I was visiting a small Borgo on the Apennines’s mountains back in Italy.

I was visiting this beautiful Borgo when I stopped for an Italian caffee ristretto in glass when I was talking with the owner of this small Trattoria. I don’t know how we started to talk about his life. He was narrating to me how he met his wife and their first pregnancy. After 45 minutes, I was ready to start a fake phone call in order to escape. The funny thing is that he wasn’t even a person who let you join the conversation and add episodes about your own life…

After other 20 minutes of talking (him) and listening (me), he got into the restaurant side and he started to talk about his steps of becoming a chef and his early life in Rome. I remember I was surprisingly interested and engaged.

He touched the subject of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Right away I confessed to him my early life experience in that highway restaurant. He jumped from his chair and exclaimed:

“Mo ti ci porto io in cucina e ti preparo il vero ed autentico piatto di Spaghetti alla Carbonara.”

He started the fire and put some water in a pot. Then he took out The Pecorino Romano Cheese (50 Grams), Parmesan Cheese (50 Grams), Pancetta (150 Grams), and 3 Eggs.

Then he started to watch me while he was preparing it. He knew what he was doing:

He browned the diced Pancetta in a pan with 2 Tablespoons of authentic Italian olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. He opened 3 eggs and beat them thoroughly, adding a pinch of salt, pepper and the Parmesan. He boiled around 350 grams of spaghetti with salt. When the spaghetti was ready (al dente) he drained the pasta and added it to the pancetta. After around 4 seconds he turned off the heat, and immediately poured in the beaten eggs, mixing it well. To top it off, he sprinkled with the Pecorino Romano cheese. Then he made that Spaghetti nest like the one from that Highway restaurant. I was crying and I gave him a hug…

Wait, I didn’t cry and I didn’t give him a hug. I tried not to be too excited.

“Ale, vieni qua li mortacci tua!”

We walked in the restaurant. He opened a bottle of Spumante di Franciacorta wine saying:

“La Carbonara va mangiata insieme allo spumante di Franciacorta! La Carbonara si fa solamente con la pancetta!”

I looked at him and I jumped on that plate. My tongue and my brain were crying and singing victory. I was the luckiest guy because I had the authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara plate.

Maybe not having that plate of pasta 14 years ago was the right thing. Maybe the destiny wanted to bring me in the right place where to enjoy the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Don’t you think that the things are happening for a reason?