Italian sayings: buona visione, buona degustazione, e buon weekend

May 20, 2011

It’s been a busy week here at Do Bianchi.

The other night I spoke about Fellini’s Notti di Cabiria and my semiotic approach to Fellinian wine pairing (semiotic or “Econian” as Vintuition pointed out) at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.

I wish the weekend at home with Tracie P were in the cards for me but — ahimè, alas — today I’m heading to Atlanta where I’ll be leading two wine tastings and seminars tomorrow at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

It’s been a long week and it’s going to be even longer. And as I head off to another working Saturday, I’ll wish you all a buon weekend (a great weekend) with a list of Italian optatives… (Briciole and Avvinare, which ones am I missing?)

Work/Study

Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.

Senses

Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.

Travel/Recreation

Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.

Health/Rest

Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].

Greetings/Salutation

Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.


Pairing wine with Fellini

May 17, 2011

You can imagine how excited I am about tomorrow night’s screening of Fellini’s 1957 Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) and wine pairing tomorrow night at the Alamo Drafthouse (Ritz) in Austin — perhaps the only city in the world where someone would be crazy enough to pair wine and film on the big screen! I’ll be speaking before the screening about the wines and why I selected them. (Here are the details for tomorrow night’s event.)

Here are my pairings and what inspired them. Hope to see you there! Buona visione!

Château Moncontour Sparkling Vouvray

The one wine the characters of Cabiria drink in frame is Champagne. In the late 1950s in Rome, Champagne denoted a wide variety of sparkling wines with a wide range of provenance (although true Champagne can only be made in the region of Champagne in France). This dry sparkling wine is made from Chenin Blanc grown in the Loire Valley and is made using the méthode champenoise, where the wine is fermented a second time in bottle.

Domaine des Terres Dorées FRV100

The overarching theme of Fellini’s films is characters who find joy and revel in the beauty of life (la dolce vita) even in the worst imaginable situations. Cabiria is a classic Fellinian creation and she inspired the selection of this sparkling Gamay from the low-rent district of Beaujolais because it is as joyful as she. The winemaker is a fan of Fellini and mentions him as inspiration on the label of this bottle. The wine is named FRV100, rebus (in French) for effervescent.

Regillo Frascati

Frascati is the classic white wine of the Roman castle district, where popes and princes still make their homes and vacation villas to this day. In a time when table wine was nearly always produced locally, bright fresh and food-friendly Frascati often graced the tables of Rome’s colorful trattorie, where the rich and famous dined side-by-side with the proletariat. While we remember our parents’ cheaply produced commercial Frascati, this wine is farmed biodynamically (chemical free) and represents a true expression of this wonderful however humble appellation.

Ca’ del Monte Valpolicella Classico

Long before Barolo or Barbaresco, Brunello or Chianti, or the now ubiquitous and falsely crowned Super Tuscans were adored by the privileged class, Valpolicella was considered one of the great red wines of Italy. In the 1950s, you were apt to be poured Valpolicella in one of the swank restaurants of the Via Veneto, the elite thoroughfare that appears in many Roman films from that era. Indeed, Fellini’s characters are served a Valpolicella in his most famous (however misunderstood) film, La Dolce Vita — set against a swinging Via Veneto cast of players. Look for the minerality and the savory flavors in this excellent expression of Valpolicella.


Amarcord (I remember): Tonino Guerra honored by WGAW

January 24, 2011

Above: A still from Fellini’s 1973 Amarcord, screenplay by Tonino Guerra (image via Verdoux).

As if by some seaside romagnolo-infused magical realism, a press release found its way to my inbox this morning. It recounts how one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, Tonino Guerra (below), is to be “fêted” by the Writer’s Guild of America West: “Iconic Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra has been named the recipient of the WGAW’s 2011 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement, given to an international writer who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriter.”

    “Tonino Guerra is by any standard one of the great writers of our times. His medium is the screenplay. He has written or co-written more than a hundred films, among them L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Red Desert, Blow-Up, and Zabriskie Point for Antonioni; Amarcord for Fellini; Nostalghia for Tarkovsky; Landscapes in the Mist for Angelopoulos; and Exquisite Corpses for Rosi. Guerra’s work is the brave and moral thread that runs through the fabric of modernist cinema. He is a breathtaking poet, a generous collaborator, and is possessed of the largest heart. We are fortunate to have him among us and thrilled to honor his astonishing — and astonishingly influential — body of work,” said WGAW Board of Directors member Howard A. Rodman.

Comrade Howard’s list of Guerra’s credits reads like my personal list of all-time favorite movies. IMHO the Antonioni tetralogy L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, and Red Desert is the greatest work of cinematic art ever achieved. Chapeau bas, WGAW!

That’s comrade Howard, above, fêting us at our wedding nearly one year ago today! (Just wait to see where we’ll be spending our anniversary, btw.)

Watch the whole trailer below… you won’t be disappointed… I promise… and I remember…


Peepaw drinks some orange wine (in Orange, Texas)

January 4, 2010

lunar

Above: Tracie B’s peepaw (grandfather) turned 90 this month. He and meemaw still live in Orange, Texas where Tracie B grew up. He tasted Movia’s Lunar with us over the Christmas holiday — orange wine in Orange, Texas on the Lousiana border!

This morning, when I read McDuff’s fantastic post about drinking Lunar under a full moon on New Year’s eve and his excellent treatment of the importance of the cycle of the moon in the discourse of natural and biodynamic winemaking, I couldn’t help but remember that we opened a bottle of the same wine, the 2005 Lunar by Movia, with Tracie B’s family in Orange, Texas over the Christmas holiday.

lunar

Above: Tracie B and I shared our bottle of Lunar with the B family as Tracie B was preparing her dumplings for the chicken and dumplings we ate the night after Christmas day.

I highly recommend McDuff’s post to you. And while not everyone is as crazy about Movia’s Lunar as McDuff and I are, it’s worth tasting: whether you enjoy it or not, it pushes the envelope of natural winemaking in unusual and perhaps unexpected directions. I, for one, enjoy it immensely and prefer not to decant it (although winemaker Aleš Kristančič recommends decanting). Peepaw and meemaw both seemed to enjoy it…

In other news…

fellini

Above: Tracie B and I agreed that we would have been better off going to see the new Chipmunks movie instead of the lame excuse for a movie otherwise known as Nine.

I’m going to break my rule of never speaking about things I don’t like here and tell you that the new movie Nine (a musical about the life of Federico Fellini) is a travesty, a lame excuse for a movie, and is wholly offensive to the grand tradition of Italian cinema and one of its greatest maestri, indeed one of the greatest filmmakers and artists of the twentieth century, Federico Fellini.

Here are some of the more awful lines from the movie, sung by Kate Hudson (fyi, Guido Contini is the name of the Fellini character played by Daniel Day-Lewis).

    I love the black and white
    I love the play of light
    The way Contini puts his image through a prism
    I feel my body chill
    gives me a special thrill
    each time I see that Guido neo-realism

It makes me wanna HEAVE. The folks who wrote and made this movie should be ashamed of themselves and should be barred from the movie industry entirely: there is no book to speak of, the songs and lyrics were seemingly written as a high-school drama class project, and the premise (Contini’s inescapable and pseudo-Italianate womanizing as an aesthetic disease) is entirely offensive to the Italian nation and its grand historic artistic sensibility — whether figurative or literary.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have found more aesthetic reward and intellectual enjoyment if we had gone to see the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, which was screening in the theater next to ours.


Wine in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita

January 3, 2010

marcello mastroianni

Tracie B and I have been taking it easy these days, staying in, cooking at home, and just enjoying these first quiet days and nights of 2010 in the last month of our lives together before we get married. :-)

Last night, Tracie B made an excellent dinner of boneless chicken breasts sautéed and deglazed in white wine with mushrooms (fresh cremini and dried porcini), wilted and sautéed curly-leaf spinach (slightly bitter and a perfect complement to the glaze of the chicken) and a light rice pilaf, paired with a 2005 Sassella by Triacca.

Triacca is actually a Swiss winery, located just on the other side of the border in Valtellina. I’ve not tasted its higher-end La Gatta, which sees some time in new wood according to its website, but I like the Sassella, which is vinified in a light, fresh style. (By no means a natural wine, btw, as many would think, since it’s imported by Rosenthal, but a real and honest wine, nonetheless.)

triacca

After dinner, as we continued to sip the Sassella, we watched Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), in my view, one of his most misunderstood films and not his greatest, although certainly the most famous in the Anglophone world because of its cross-over success and Fellini’s break from neorealism with this work.

I hadn’t seen the movie in years and although I don’t think it’s one of Fellini’s masterworks (in fact, I think it’s a bit heavy-handed, too engagé, and facile in some moments), I do think it’s a wonderful movie that gorgeously captures a fundamental moment — in its beauty and its ugliness — in Italy’s revival and renewal after the Second World War. (La Dolce Vita is more interesting, in my view, for the hypertexts it spawned than the movie itself, but that’s another story for another time.)

I must have seen the movie a thousand times and I used to teach it when I was grad student at U.C.L.A., way back when. But last night I noticed something I’d never noticed before: in the first true speaking scene (there is some dialogue in the first sequence, when Marcello and Paparazzo ask the girls on the roof for their phone number but the first dialogue, in the conventional sense, takes place in the second sequence, the second “episode,” and the first evening scene), Marcello asks the waiter at the night club what wine he has served to a celebrity couple. “Soave,” answers the waiter. And then, one of the transvestites interrupts him (I believe it’s Dominot) and corrects him: they had a Valpolicella, he tells Marcello.

It’s fascinating (at least to me) to think that in Fellini’s view, celebrities on the Via Veneto in the 1950s would be drinking Soave and/or Valpolicella (wines from the Veneto) when today we wouldn’t associate these appellations with luxury and status. It’s also fascinating to me that the screenwriter doesn’t seem to mind that the one wine is white, the other red. It’s clear that the wines are intended to be a clue to the status of the celebrities and that these details are intended to add color to the world in which Marcello moves.

There’s a subtext here and here is where you need to know Italian history to understand what’s going on and why these wines are significant. (So much of this movie is tied to this particular moment in Italian history and in many ways, it is more of a historical document than it is a pseudo-Freudian or anti-religious movie, as so many American scholars would like you to believe.)

Keep in mind: we are in Rome in the late 1950s and the scars of war were still very fresh in the minds of the characters (let alone the writers and movie-makers).

What was the connection between Rome and Valpolicella (think Lake Garda) that would be immediately apparent to the viewer (bourgeois or proletarian)? (Howard and/or Strappo, thoughts please…)

I’m taking Tracie B to the movies tonight. Guess what we’re going to see? ;-)

Buona domenica a tutti!


Recipe for Picchiapò (we all loved each other so much)

September 5, 2009

My depressing post yesterday made think of the Roman dish Picchiapò and the great scene from the 74 Scola film C’eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much) when the three main characters (an intellectual bourgeois, a rich bourgeois, and a proletarian) realize that they have lost touch with the ideals they fought for together as partisans during the Second World War. Italian leading man Vittorio Gassman fantasizes his own death and utters the famous line, our generation really stinks!

The clip is in Italian but you don’t need to understand Italian to watch it. Picchiapò plays an important role: it’s one of the great Roman “recycled” dishes, a dish born from necessity but a delicacy because of its very nature.

I should leave the recipe writing to Simona and her excellent blog Briciole but feeling inspired this morning after Tracie B’s brioche French toast, I went online and found and translated this recipe.

Picchiapò

Ingredients

l lb. leftover boiled veal or beef, cut into small pieces
2-3 onions
2 cups tomato purée
rosemary (basil is sometimes used and cinnamon can be used as well)
salt and pepper
2 cups white or red wine
extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Slice the onions into rounds and then wilt with a drizzle of the olive oil in a pan. When they have lightly browned, deglaze with the wine.

Add the tomato purée and spices and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Add the meet and let it absorb the flavor of the sauce.

Serve hot with potato purée or boiled potatoes or seasonal vegetables.

The Scola classic film is a commedia all’italiana but it is also a stinging social commentary and a moving film about love and country. It is also a meta-film — a film about film — and includes a cameo by Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini and a number of timeless Italian film clips. I highly recommend it.


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