Above: Chef Julian Barsotti’s excellent Margherita at Nonna in Dallas last week, paired with Inama Soave Classico Superiore Foscarino 2006, one of my favorite expressions of Garganega. The bright acidity of this wine and its structure were a great match for the intense flavors of the mozzarella di bufala, tomato, and fresh basil. YES, I paired wine with pizza! Keep reading…
Last week, Dr. J (that would be me) inspired a thread in Dr. V’s blog, “Pizza: a forbidden food-wine pairing?”
I was glad to see the doc have fun with it and the many colorful comments. One entry, however, merits special attention. Pinotage (“an international cyber-based fan club for wines made from the Pinotage variety”) wrote:
The statement about Italians in Italy not drinking wine with pizza doesn’t match up to the many times I have been in Italy. But maybe the giveaway is ‘pizzeria’, in other words the type of restaurant and their clientele. Pizzas are served in more upper class restaurants and Italians do drink with with them.
I suppose an Italian in the USA might come away with the idea that Americans don’t drink alcohol with chicken if they’d been saving money by eating in KFCs.
Above: Two slices at my favorite old-school, by-the-slice pizzeria in Bensonhurst, Da Vinci (6514 18th Ave at 65th St, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY 11204, 718-232-5855).
Let me set the record straight: in my view, there’s nothing wrong with pairing pizza and wine and I do it all the time. The observation culled from my blog by Dr. V actually referred to a would-be Italian cookbook author whose claim of “authenticity,” in my opinion, was undermined by the fact that he paired pizza with wine. Ask any Italian (I swear: I speak Italian with native-speaker proficiency, I lived in Italy on and off for ten years, I travel there regularly for my work, and I have a Ph.D. in Italian!). They will tell you that pizza is traditionally paired with beer. The fact of the matter is that pizza culture in Italy is a youth-based culture. The number of young enonauts in Italy has been growing steadily but wine consumption is a relatively new phenomenon among Italian young people.
Above: pizzaiolo Mark Iacono at my favorite NYC pizzeria, Lucali (575 Henry St and Carroll, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY 11231, 718-858-4086). He’s cooler than Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck. Last year I did this post on the best pizza in NYC (worth checking out in my humble opinion, one of my top posts ever).
There are technical reasons for not pairing pizza and wine: the acidity of fresh plastic cheese (i.e., buffalo-milk mozzarella), tomatoes, and the intense flavor of fresh basil can easily overpower the nuance of fine wine. But “rules are rules” and I must confess: I have written many times on my blog about my guilty pleasure of pairing pizza and Nebbiolo.
Above: In San Diego, I have been often known to indulge in Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 Barbaresco and pizza at my top-spot for authentic Italian pizza, Mamma Mia (1932 Balboa Ave, where Balboa and Grand intersect) San Diego, CA 92109, 858-272-2702).
I do take ideological issue with Pinotage’s “upper crust” (forgive the pun) attitude that “Pizzas are served in more upper class restaurants” in Italy. It’s simply not the case (but then again, his blog is called “Pinotage,” so I should slice him some slack… I guess…).
Pizza is a wonderful part of Italian life but in terms of authenticity, it needs to be understood as an element of youth and popular culture. Pizza in the U.S. can be wonderful as well, but it is the result of that great misunderstanding otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.
Above: One of my favorite sequences from Pasolini’s 1966 Uccellacci e Uccellini (Hawks and Sparrows). Note the counterpoint between the joyous youth culture and the squalor of suburban Rome.
Aside from alliteration, what does Pasolini have to do with all of this? Nothing really: I currently find myself mired in that hellish experience called “indexing” and today, I happen to be on the letter P.
In his films, Pasolini repeatedly reminded us of the struggles and the beauty of popular culture (and by popular culture, I don’t mean Warholian culture; I mean the workaday culture of the populus).
In the U.S., drink whatever you want with your pizza. Have fun with it. Enjoy yourself. In Italy, try pizza paired with beer in a crusty ol’ pizzeria in Trastevere (Rome).
If you made it this far into the post, thanks for reading! Have a great week.