Calls in California for Balance and Nature (and dinner with a “national treasure”)

January 31, 2008

Above: dinner with “national treasure” Darrell Corti (right) and Josh Greene, editor-in-chief, Wine & Spirits Magazine at Sacramento’s Waterboy.*

Tuesday morning I headed up from La Jolla to Sacramento to attend the opening sessions of the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. The convention represents California’s largest gathering of winemakers and wine-grape growers and I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the 34th annual meet of CAWG (the California Association of Winegrape Growers) where Darrell Corti — one of the nation’s foremost authorities on American and European wine — was guest speaker.

Earlier in the day I ran into Napa Valley public relations legend Pamela Hunter, who had just come from Corti Brothers, Darrell’s grocery and wine shop. We were introduced by another wine professional and when we made the connection that he was our mutual friend, she pointed out rightly that Darrell ought to be considered a “national treasure”: his worldly erudition, encyclopedic wine and food knowledge, and unwavering graciousness are matched only by the cornucopia of foods and wines he has introduced to the U.S. through his taste-making however modest store. Ruth Reichl and Colman Andrews have called him the man “who knows more about food and wine than anyone else in the world.”

Above: Unified Wine & Grape Symposium participants.

In his address, Darrell asked the CAWG members to reflect on the “tradition” of California winemaking, warning them not to become complacent. In California, he said, “we can make whatever we want wherever we want”: he urged them to consider replacing ubiquitous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon plantings with other international grape varieties that will show better in the warm Californian climate. Aglianico, he suggested, might represent an alternative to Cabernet.

He reminded the group of wine-grape growers and winemakers of the “concept of 10.5 – 13.5% alcohol table wines” and the era before “overripeness and terroir became confused” (in an episode now dubbed “Zingate,” Darrell made headlines last year when he announced that he would no longer sell wines with an alcohol content over 14.5%).

“Have we abrogated the quality of wine to the wine press?” he asked, urging growers to reel in brix levels (the brix scale is used to measure the sugar content of grapes; simply put, the more sugar in the fruit, the higher the potential alcohol content of the wine). “You have to grow good grapes to make good wine,” he told them. And “as they say in Italian, buon vino fa buon sangue,” literally, “good wine makes good blood,” in other words, good grapes and good wine make us healthy.

Above: our unforgettable repast began with a Webb and Farinas 1970-1998 Sherry, “Blended Fino and Baked Fino Solera,” one of the last bottles ever made by the University of California at Davis, Darrell told us.

Before I caught a plane back to San Diego the next morning, I managed to find a seat among the 800+ audience at Wine & Spirits ed-in-chief Josh Greene’s “State of the Industry” talk. Josh spoke of the new trend of younger sommeliers who are “hand-selling” once exotic international grape varieties to the Cabernet-Merlot-and-Chardonnay set. The Loire Valley, he said, represents the most alluring wine-producing region for this new generation of restaurant professionals. Naturally made, food-friendly wine from Italy and France, he told the group, is becoming more and more popular among America’s wine directors and he urged producers to consider natural winemaking.

“It’s a risky way to make wine,” he noted. “You can’t always make wine commercially like this, but there’s a growing market for it. The question is how to make a wine that’s balanced, has concentrated flavors, and a distinct expression of its place… and then figure out how to make money doing it,” he added, drawing a chuckle from the packed house.

Gauging from the positive reception of Josh’s excellent talk, there might be hope for Californian wine after all.

Click here to read Josh’s notes from his address.

Above: this 1986 Mount Pleasant Semillon from Darrell’s cellar blew me away. It was full of life, brilliant acidity, and vibrant minerality. But the show-stopper was a magnum of 1983 Cepparello by Isole e Olena, a great bottling of (pre-barrique) Sangiovese from a vintage overshadowed unjustly by 1985.

I loved the session title ““How to Have a Mostly Worry-Free Interaction with TTB Resources” (the TTB or Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates wine sales in the U.S.).

Grass-roots organizers were also in attendance.

I can’t reveal whose car this is (but I bet you can guess). I really dig the old-school blue California plates.

* On my way out, one of the waiters told me that the restaurant was named after the band The Waterboys, but I’m not sure I believe her.


Who says penguins don’t fly?

January 30, 2008

Above: this penguin flies high in friendly skies (click image for animation).

Traveling sometimes make me blue (Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?).

Those of you who know me personally know that 2007 was not a great year for me. Things have been better lately but I still have some pretty rough days (and there are more ahead).

I had a great time yesterday in Sacramento where I attended the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (look for my post tomorrow). But as I got on the plane this morning, the blues caught up with me once again.

But then… smiles and laughter were brought to everyone’s face when a penguin — I kid you not — came strolling down the aisle. He was on his way to Sea World in San Diego (I was on my way to my family’s place, not the zoo, for the record). Even when the twists and turns of life make you feel like you’re about to break into a million pieces, a close encounter with a happy little penguin somehow makes it all worthwhile again.

Above: the penguin’s mommy.

Above: this sweet lady was flying for the first time in her life and so the in-flight crew made her a “peanut crown” out of airline peanut bags.

Above: they don’t have electronic in-flight maps on Southwest Airlines so they use this one. Listen, after seeing the flying penguin, I’ll believe anything…

Above: the baggage claim at the Sacramento airport has these crazy sculptures. It takes you a minute to figure out that they’re works of art.

Look for my post tomorrow on my dinner with “national treasure” Darrell Corti and notes from Josh Greene’s excellent talk on “the state of the industry.”

Back to food and wine tomorrow, I promise… But a flying penguin? I had to blog it… An antidote to the blues, let me tell you…

*****

So far Away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn’t help to know that you’re just time away
Long ago I reached for you, and there you stood
Holding you again could only do me good
How I wish I could, but you’re so far away

One more song about moving along the highway
Can’t say much of anything that’s new
If I could only work this life out my way
I’d rather spend it being close to you
But you’re so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn’t help to know you’re so far away
Yeah, you’re so far away

Traveling around sure gets me down and lonely
Nothing else to do but close my mind
I sure hope the road don’t come to own me
There are so many dreams I have yet to find
But you’re so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn’t help to know you’re so far away
You’re so far away
Yeah, you’re so far away
You’re so far away

– Carol King


Aglianico ≠ Ellenico?

January 29, 2008

Does the grape name Aglianico come from ellenico or Hellenic as so many claim? A look at the earliest references leads me to believe that it probably doesn’t. May the philologically curious please read on…

Above: the frontespiece of Giambattista della Porta’s Villae or On Country Houses (Frankfurt, 1592) in the rare books collection at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

“As philologist, one sees behind the sacred texts,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche in The Twilight of the Idols.* While most think of Nietzsche as a philosopher, few remember that his early training was in philology, the (inexact) science of the history and development of language and literature, literally the “love” (Greek philo-) of the “word” (Greek logos).

My philological curiosity recently led me to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden where I hoped to get to the bottom of a a etymological conundrum that has bothered me for a long time: does the grape name Aglianico come from the word ellenico or Hellenic as so many oenophiles claim or does it come from Aleatico (literally, a grape that ripens in July, from the Italian lugliatico or of the month of July) as many Italian philologists believe?

The excellent rare-book collection at the BBG includes a rare copy of Villae (On Country Houses, 1592, Frankfurt), an almanac of farming, vine-tending, and winemaking in sixteenth-century Campania by Giambattista della Porta (1535? – 1615), the great Neapolitan scientist, agriculturist, and viticulturist. Most ampelographers agree that Della Porta’s book was earliest to refer to the Aglianico grape as hellanico or Hellenic (ampelography is the study of grapes, from the Greek ampelos or “vine” and graphê or “writing”).

Above: folio 501 and a detail highlighting the line, “Ergo nostras hellanicas helvcolas [sic] antiquorum dicerem.”

The reference is found in the chapter on grape varieties and wines (folio 501): “Ergo nostras hellanicas helvcolas [sic] antiquorum dicerem.” “Therefore, I would say that the helvola [yellowish] grapes of the ancients are our Hellenic grapes.” He is referring to a passage from the Historia Naturalis (14.29) where Pliny (23 – 79) describes grapes that grow in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius (it’s not clear that Della Porta and Pliny were describing the grape we know today as Aglianico because both of them refer to it as helvola or yellowish in color).

The earliest known occurrences of the word Aglianico in print occur around the same time as Della Porta’s Villae (Andrea Bacci, De naturali historia vinorum, 1596, and Jean Liébault, L’agriculture et maison rustique, 1586 [I've been able to verify the mention in Bacci but -- to date -- I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of Liébault]).

There is no question that the Aglianico grape has been called hellenico, hellanico, and ellenico since the sixteenth century. But is there really a reason to believe that Aglianico comes from ellenico (besides the fact that the words sound somewhat similar)?

It is unlikely that Aglianico comes from ellenico because the the terms Hellenic and ellenico were coined around the same time Aglianico first began to emerge as a grape name.

According to the Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (The [Unabridged] Dictionary of the Italian Language, edited by the great twentieth-century philologist Salvatore Battaglia), ellenico and ellenismo were coined in Italian after the French hellénisme, for which the earliest known reference dates to 1580 in France. It is a term derived from Hellenes (a tribe of ancient Greece) and came into use during the Renaissance to denote the Grecian realm and Grecian culture (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest occurrence in English is 1609). Pliny and his Roman contemporaries wouldn’t have recognized the word hellenicus because it did not exist in their time (they used graecus).

Della Porta did not claim that Aglianico comes from ellenico. He simply speculated that the grape described by Pliny (helvolas antiquorum, the yellowish grapes of the ancients) was called hellanico (hellanicas nostras, our Hellanico grapes) in his day (i.e., as of 1592).

Does Aglianico come from Aleatico and/or lugliatico? Most Italian etymologic dictionaries report that it does (and my research won’t stop here). What’s clear is that Aglianico and ellenico first appeared at roughly the same time and are related historically but probably not etymologically.

Pardon the pun: when I look “behind the text,” I find it’s not all Greek to me.

Above: the Rare Books reading room at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. In another lifetime, I worked many nights as a guitar player in a wedding band in the Garden’s atrium, a popular NYC wedding venue.

* The Twilight of the Idols/The Anti-Christ, trans. R.J. Hollindale, New York, Penguin, 1990, p. 175.


Una (vera) pizza napoletana (o newyorchese)?* The debate continues…

January 28, 2008

Above: Anthony Mangieri, polarizing pizzaiolo at Una Pizza Napoletana (photos by Kelli).

Following my post last week on pizza in New York City, I received a number of recommendations. Here are some of the most passionate…

Una Pizza Napoletana
349 E 12th St (btwn 1st and 2nd)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-9950

New Yorkers love their pizza and they love to share their opinions. No NYC pizzeria seems to be as polarizing as Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village: there are those who swear it is the most authentic Neapolitan pizza in the city and there are others who claim it is just a would-be hipster cult destination.

Pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri makes only four pizzas: Margherita, Marinara (above, left), Bianca, and Filetti (topped with cherry tomatoes), all of them meatless. Anthony uses sawdust to “bump the oven temp up about 70 degrees for a few seconds to add a little crunch without drying the crust out,” writes Scott. “Worked like a charm on 2 of the 3 pies we had: Marinara was suitable for the Last Supper, Bianca was on its heels and the Margherita was a little soggy which texture-wise is to obvious effect but it also washed out the flavor a bit. The keys to the flavor (for me) are the explosions of different flavors from bite to bite: a hit of salt here, olive oil there and in the case of the Marinara the beautiful oregano.”

Bleeker Street Pizza
69 7th Ave S (at Bleeker St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-4466

“This slice joint stands above. I challenge you to find a better stand-up slice in town than its Nonna Maria — marinara, mozzarella, basta. With just a few tables, I’m not sure how they’d respond to wine from the outside, but it would be worth trying to smuggle in a ’61 Cheval Blanc.”

– Jeff

Di Fara
1424 Avenue J (at 14th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

“Di Fara Pizza should definitely be in the top tier. It is an awesome only in NY experience. It is totally chaotic with no order there are 5-6 people deep at a counter and every once in a while the owner looks up and takes and order so you have to be proactive/aggressive. We had a simple cheese pie – it was amazing fresh basil and cheese.”

– Robert

Luzzo’s
211 1st Ave (btwn 12th and 13th Sts)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-7447

“That’s amore… warm coals and crusty pizza.”

Alfonso

Stromboli
83 Saint Marks Pl (at 1st)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 673-3691

“In the drunk pizza category there’s nothing finer than Stromboli on St. Marks and 1st Ave. It’s a block from the Tile Bar (which is my favorite bar in the East Village and possibly all of the city) which makes it perfect in every way.”

– Dana

Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano [sic]
1524 Neptune Ave (at West 15th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 372-8606

“Totonno’s out on Coney Island is my favorite. Every time I go there with friends, we order one, and then, after we eat it, we order another and eat that. Thin crust, and more sauce than cheese.”

– Dana (bis)

* A (true) Neapolitan pizza (or New Yorker)?


Oscar Riles Parzen

January 27, 2008

oscar.jpg

My nephew Oscar Riles Parzen was born January 18, 2008. I saw him for the first time this morning at Micah and Marguerite’s (in Sunset Cliffs, San Diego). He’s a beauty…

That’s my mom Judy holding him, Marguerite and Abner (his brother) in the background. To the right, his no-good rock n’ roller uncle from New York.


The bottle that started it all…

January 26, 2008

Above: the bottle that started it all… a 1968 Barolo by Scanavino got Alice Feiring interested in wine more than twenty years ago. She’s kept it all this time…

Wednesday evening of last week led me to the home of wine writer and blogger Alice Feiring for a preview party for her new book, The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (Harcourt). A group of magazine editors and other guests tasted ten wines blind and Alice talked about the genesis of her book and her fierce love for natural wine.

In the second flight of wines (five bottlings, each made with Syrah), she included a Yellow Tail Shiraz: it was striking to see the guests — most of them lifestyle as opposed to wine writers — experience that moment of enlightenment when they tasted naturally made Syrah side-by-side with one of the most industrial wines available on the market today.

Alice is known by many in the wine world as one of the most skeptical and cynical writers on the scene but she spoke that evening of what she calls “the golden age of wine making.”

“There’s a lot of bad, spoofilated wine out there,” she told the group, emphasizing the term that wine-folks use to denote “spoofed” or “tricked out” wine. “But there is also more good wine produced than at any other time in history.”

Let’s hope she’s right…

Look for the book in May, 2008…


Attached Cork Bottle Presentation

January 24, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Chris wrote in yesterday asking: “Do you have directions for how to bind a cork to the side of the bottle using foil…? I work at a restaurant and would like to do the same for my customers.” I promised Chris I’d get on the case right away.

Last night I went to Falai to visit my friend, the inimitable Alberto Taddei, ex-sommelier at Ristorante Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence (one of Italy’s greatest wine destinations) and one of NYC’s most beloved wine directors. He allowed me to create this slide show:

Step 1: carefully cut a disk out of the very top of the capsule, leaving enough attached so that it can be folded back (the disk’s diameter should be equivalent to that of the cork).

Step 2: gently fold the top back.

Step 3: cut the capsule above the top lip of the neck, leaving a piece attached below the top flap.

Step 4: gently fold the ring back.

Step 5: gently slide the cork up through the ring (be sure to slide it up from the bottom); gently pinch the center of the ring to fasten the cork securely; then gently fold the pinched foil to one side to make the ring appear smooth.

Pretty cool, huh? That’s a bottle of 2003 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico, one of my all-time favorites, done into a 100% traditional style.

Above: toasty focaccine at Falai.


The mysteries of evolution and a poker game that never happened

January 23, 2008

Above: the tartrates (in the glass to the left) were the biggest I’d ever seen.

There was no poker game the other night in a Chinese BYOB restaurant in lower Manhattan.

In attendance, there weren’t any top sommeliers nor wine directors of high-end restaurant groups.

No wine writers or editors of prestigious food and wine magazines stopped by. Nor were any seductive bottles opened that night.

Of the many heavy-hitting bottles that weren’t uncorked that night, the most interesting was a bottle of 1994 Vouvray Moelleux by Foreau, one of the top producers of Chenin Blanc, a white grape known for its remarkable aging (when it’s produced in a natural style).

In the case of this bottle, the wine had oxidized (“sherryized”) and its color had turned (see the beautiful amber color above). But the wine hadn’t lost any of its vibrancy. It showed great acidity and fruit, it had a wonderfully musky nose, and it tasted fantastic. (1994 was not a great vintage in Vouvray but it’s unlikely that the evolution of this wine was “vintage-driven.”)

It’s not clear how the wine had been affected and even among the wine professionals (not present at the game that never happened), no one could definitively unravel the mystery.

This going-on-fourteen-year-old Chenin Blanc is a great example of how wine — a living organism — can evolve in unexpected and sometimes delightful ways.

I didn’t snatch the bottle up with the excuse that I was going to photograph it later. Nor did I drink the last drop.


The best pizza in New York? I think I’ve found it…

January 22, 2008

The best pizza in New York? I think I found it on Sunday night at Lucali Brick Oven in Carroll Gardens.

Pizzaiolo Mark Iacono, owner of Lucali Brick Oven, is a natural. A marble mason by day, he built a beautiful wood-fired oven and open kitchen in an old candy store on Henry St. in Carroll Gardens. The previous owner’s name was Lou and he and his wife Valerie’s daughter is named Kalista, so they called their pizzeria “Lucali.” To watch Mark make pizza is like going to the ballet: his methodical movements are graceful and steady and his timing impeccable. He makes only pizze and calzoni: his crusts are perfectly salted, the thickness consistently ideal, and the toppings are pure and simple (pepperoni, onion, mushroom, basil, and sometimes sausage from the local pork store). For my table, he recommended a pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and basil: he uses mozzarella di bufala, domestic mozzarella, and then a pinch or two of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Also on Mark’s recomendation, I tried the “five-cheese” calzone: stuffed with ham (he rips the slices by hand into small strips), ricotta, mozzarella di bufala, domestic mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, and a fifth cheese that he wouldn’t reveal. It was insanely good…

I asked Mark, a Carroll Gardens native, how he learned to make pizza: “I just remembered the way they used to make it in the old days,” he told me.

“Mark just wanted a place,” said his lovely wife Valerie, “where everybody liked the pizza.” He has certainly succeeded.

There are no menus at Lucali, it’s strictly BYOB, and the waits are long (up to three hours on some nights, Mark said). Seems that most patrons are locals who leave their number and wait to be called when their tables are ready.

Above: I paired the pizza and “five-cheese” calzone with a gorgeous Joseph Roty 2003 Marsannay. The combination — the excellent pizza, the earthly wine, and the setting — was purely transcendental.

I rarely drink espresso after dinner these days but had to try Mark’s (he is the only one “allowed” to touch the machine, his wife told me). It wasn’t good… it was divine.

Lucali Brick Oven
575 Henry St (and Carroll)
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 858-4086

I’ve been eating pizza all week and below I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite places.

BENSONHURST

Above: Si parla italiano (Italian is spoken) at Da Vinci in Bensonhurst (one of NYC’s vibrant Little Italys).

Da Vinci
6514 18th Ave (and 65th St)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY 11204
(718) 232-5855

Da Vinci is my all-time favorite NYC-style pizzeria. The crust is always perfect, not too thin and not too thick. The pizzaioli are always super nice and it’s great to see the families and kids there and hear Italian spoken. Be sure to order a slice with “fresh” mozzarella.

CARROLL GARDENS

Lucali Brick Oven
575 Henry St (and Carroll)
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 858-4086

See above

EAST VILLAGE

Cacio e Vino
80 2nd Ave (and 5th)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-3269

Truly top-knotch sommelier Eleonora Tirapelle (left) at Cacio e Vino (“Cheese and Wine”). She used to work at the famous Bottega del Vino in Verona. Note how she’s bound the cork to the bottle using the foil of the capsule. The night I was there I had an excellent Origanata, a Sicilian-style pizza with anchovies and oregano (hence the name). My friends and pizza experts Charles and Michele Scicolone (check out this profile) like the pizza there but they go for Salvatore Fraterrigo’s Sicilian specialities. “Salvatore is from Trapani,” says Charles, and he makes some of the best Sicilian food outside of Sicily. His pasta con le sarde, ‘pasta with sardines,’ a traditional Sicilian dish, is incredible. He uses dill in the place of the wild fennel they use in Sicily, but it’s better than most restaurants in Sicily.”

GRAMERCY

La Pizza Fresca
31 East 20th Street
(btwn B-way and Park)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 598-0141

“La Pizza Fresca is the best pizzeria in the city for Neapolitan-style pizza,” says Charles, a devotee of the restaurant. “The test for Neapolitan pizza is that you can take it and fold it again and fold again without crust breaking. The pizza at La Pizza Fresca never fails the test. La Pizza Fresca also has one of the best wine lists in Manhattan.”

Check out Charles’ recent post on where to eat pizza in Naples.

LOWER EAST SIDE

Above: Rosario’s is perhaps the last Italian-owned pizzeria on the Lower East Side. It stays open late and, man, I speak from personal experience: a late-night Rosario’s slice after a gig or show in a LES club is awesome.

Rosario’s
173 Orchard St (and Stanton)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-9813

Owner Salvatore Bartolomeo (left) came to NYC from Palermo, Sicily in 1960 and has run the classic downtown pizzeria Rosario’s since 1963 (note the archetypical LES would-be hipster with wanna-be Strokes haircut waiting for a slice). If you’re looking for the best NYC-style pepperoni pizza this is the place to go (he actually bakes the sliced pepperoni on each pie, unlike many pizza-by-the-slice joints where the pizzaiolo adds the pepperoni to a regular slice and then reheats it). For large parties, I highly recommend asking the pizzaiolo to bake a whole pie for you. It’s well worth the wait…

Rosario’s doesn’t have a website but it does have a fan site created by one of its die-hard patrons.

PARK SLOPE (PROSPECT HTS)

Franny’s
295 Flatbush Ave
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 230-0221

The pizza at Franny’s is done in the Neapolitan style and many of the toppings are sourced from artisanal, local cheese- and sausage-makers. The wine list is small but really great, with a good selection of natural wines. Francine has a great palate and she likes one of my favorite Lambruscos, Lini.

What’s your favorite NYC pizza?

Above: Anthony Mangieri, polarizing pizzaiolo at Una Pizza Napoletana (photos by Kelli).

Following my post on pizza in New York City, I received a number of recommendations. Here are some of the most passionate…

Una Pizza Napoletana
349 E 12th St (btwn 1st and 2nd)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-9950

New Yorkers love their pizza and they love to share their opinions. No NYC pizzeria seems to be as polarizing as Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village: there are those who swear it is the most authentic Neapolitan pizza in the city and there are others who claim it is just a would-be hipster cult destination.

Pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri makes only four pizzas: Margherita, Marinara (above, left), Bianca, and Filetti (topped with cherry tomatoes), all of them meatless. Anthony uses sawdust to “bump the oven temp up about 70 degrees for a few seconds to add a little crunch without drying the crust out,” writes Scott. “Worked like a charm on 2 of the 3 pies we had: Marinara was suitable for the Last Supper, Bianca was on its heels and the Margherita was a little soggy which texture-wise is to obvious effect but it also washed out the flavor a bit. The keys to the flavor (for me) are the explosions of different flavors from bite to bite: a hit of salt here, olive oil there and in the case of the Marinara the beautiful oregano.”

Bleeker Street Pizza
69 7th Ave S (at Bleeker St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-4466

“This slice joint stands above. I challenge you to find a better stand-up slice in town than its Nonna Maria — marinara, mozzarella, basta. With just a few tables, I’m not sure how they’d respond to wine from the outside, but it would be worth trying to smuggle in a ’61 Cheval Blanc.”

– Jeff

Di Fara
1424 Avenue J (at 14th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

“Di Fara Pizza should definitely be in the top tier. It is an awesome only in NY experience. It is totally chaotic with no order there are 5-6 people deep at a counter and every once in a while the owner looks up and takes and order so you have to be proactive/aggressive. We had a simple cheese pie – it was amazing fresh basil and cheese.”

– Robert

Luzzo’s
211 1st Ave (btwn 12th and 13th Sts)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-7447

“That’s amore… warm coals and crusty pizza.”

Alfonso

Stromboli
83 Saint Marks Pl (at 1st)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 673-3691

“In the drunk pizza category there’s nothing finer than Stromboli on St. Marks and 1st Ave. It’s a block from the Tile Bar (which is my favorite bar in the East Village and possibly all of the city) which makes it perfect in every way.”

– Dana

Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano [sic]
1524 Neptune Ave (at West 15th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 372-8606

“Totonno’s out on Coney Island is my favorite. Every time I go there with friends, we order one, and then, after we eat it, we order another and eat that. Thin crust, and more sauce than cheese.”

– Dana (bis)


Barolo, the “sexiest” wine? Eric Asimov mistranslated by Italian news wire

January 19, 2008

My inbox greeted me this morning with a message of alarm and disbelief from my friend, top Italian wine blogger, Franco Ziliani:

“The Italian press decided to give the following title to an article about Eric Asimov’s recent and excellent articles on Barolo in The New York Times: ‘According to Americans, Barolo is the sexiest of all wines: it makes you wait just like a beautiful woman [does].’”

In the article, published by one of Italy’s most respected dailies, La Stampa, journalist Roberto Fiori erroneously reports that Eric, writing for The New York Times, calls Barolo “the sexiest wine in the world.”

In Franco’s post on this rigmarole, he points out — among other things — that:

a) Eric never used the word “sexy” (he used the words “seductive” and “sensuous”);

and

b) Fiori also incorrectly translates Eric’s “Burgundy” as “Bordeaux” (yet another instance of sloppy journalism).

Here’s a link to Fiori’s article.

The article in question was just one of a slew of reports that appeared today in the Italian papers, all based on a news flash released by AGI (Agenzia Giornalistica Italiana or “Italian Journalistic Agency,” similar to AP or Reuters):

“The sexiest wine in the world? Barolo, according to The New York Times. Especially when one has the time, patience, and opportunity to age the wine for at least ten years, because only in this manner will it become ‘austere, mature, and sensual.’ These are the words of Eric Asimov, official wine critic for the American daily.”

Evidently, neither the AGI reporter nor Fiori took the time to verify what Eric had actually written.

Adding insult to injury, Fiori writes that his readers should take “satisfaction” in the fact that “The New York Times has acquired a taste for Barolo: just one week ago [The Times published] a long article that listed Italy’s many ills but cited the noble wine of the Langhe as one of its few positive things” (the article to which he is referring was actually published — another instance of sloppy journalism — more than a month ago: Ian Fisher’s “In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment,” December 13, 2007). Good news, he says, “for the 10,000,000 bottles of the 2004 vintage, on the market since January 1.”

I’m only reporting the facts and will spare you my editorial. But I am reminded of what Alessandra Stanley wrote in The Times some years back a propos the Italian press corps and the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: “the Italian press got the prime minister it deserves” (“A Virtuoso At Playing The Press In Italy,” August 21, 2003). Seems that things haven’t changed much since then…


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