A couple of Sicilians that wowed and an eggplant alla parmigiana to live and die for

Last night found me a guest at Houston’s ROMA, an Italian restaurant I consult with through the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas (headquartered here in the Bayou City, one of my biggest clients).

The occasion was a Sicilian wine dinner that owner Shanon Scott (one of the nicest dudes in the business btw) was hosting for regulars.

I’ll admit that I was a little bit skeptical when I saw the vintage on the Caruso e Minini Inzolia. Honestly, I didn’t know the winery and 2015 seemed on the older side for this grape variety, usually bottled and consumed in its youth.

But man, beyond a rich golden hue, otherwise a tell-tale sign, this wine didn’t have a note of oxidation on it (there’s no mention of maceration on the winery’s website so I’m guessing the color was owed to the wine’s middle age). It was fresh on the nose, with classic quasi-aromatic stone fruit and vibrant ripe stone fruit in the mouth. I loved it.

The main course braciole were accompanied by one of my favorite Sicily wines, a Nero d’Avola by Marabino from Noto (does anyone remember the famous scenes from Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” set in Noto?).

As always, this wine was simply electric, with that verve and vibrancy that you find in passionate growers like these guys (the hyper-site-specific notes on their website are Melvillian in character!).

It slightly and deliciously unripe dark fruit was buoyed by the electrons that pulsed elegantly throughout. I’ve been following Marabino for a number of years now and have always been impressed by the value and quality it delivers. And this is simply one of their entry-tier wines. The top wines are even more compelling.

Also have to give a soulfelt shout-out to chef Angelo Cuppone for his super melanzane alla parmigiana, sautéed eggplant layered and baked with tomato sauce and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, one of the few pan-Italian dishes that you can find throughout the peninsula and its islands (one of these days, when I win the lottery and can focus on my writing, I hope to produce a tome on the origins of this unique confluence of northern and southern Italian foodways, the origins of which might surprise many).

Chef Angelo is a friend and a comrade and as much as I swoon over his carbonara and classic lasagne (Bolognese, is there any other?), he really shines at these regional wine dinners. His eggplant had a wonderful balance, a marcia in più, an extra gear in the motor as the Italians like to say. Really great stuff. At the end of the night, I begged like a pup for a doggy bag to take home to Tracie.

Thank you, Shanon, for making me part of it! Great evening, great food, and superb wines.

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