A bollito of my dreams at a favorite restaurant in Emilia.

Above: in Reggio Emilia, they don’t call it “tagliatelle alla bolognese.” They just call it “tagliatelle al ragù.” It’s a subtle but meaningful distinction.

One of the things that people don’t realize about gastronomy in Emilia — the land of Prosciutto di Parma, Culatello, and Parmigiano Reggiano where there are more pigs and Ferraris per capita than anywhere else in the world — is that you have to venture outside of its capital city Bologna to find the best food.

Another crucial element that many people miss is that for great bollito misto, you have to head west from Bologna toward Modena and Reggio Emilia. That’s the true spiritual homeland of bollito misto.

What is bollito misto? It’s meats that have been slowly simmered together. It’s typically made in different parts of northern Italy. But in Modena and Reggio Emilia zampone is used instead of cotechino sausage to give the dish its decadent character.

What is zampone? Meaning literally hoof, zampone (the sausage) is a pig’s trotter that has been filled with head cheese. It’s considered one of Italy’s greatest delicacies (and it’s one of my favorite things in the world to eat!).
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The best mortadella I’ve ever had. Here’s where to find it in Bologna.

Above: Dario Barbieri’s take on mortadella blew my mind — and my palate — the weekend before last in Bologna. The mortadella is on the right of the cutting board.

Every time Slow Food U. asks me to come teach in Piedmont, my Italian crew and I plan at least one night of enogastronomic adventure.

For this last stint in early October, we headed to Emilia-Romagna where our first stop was the legendary Dario Barbieri’s wine bar Zampa in the city of Bologna.

Dario, whose wine program features labels from both Paolo Cantele and Giovanni Arcari (my southern and northern Italian bromances, respectively), had asked us to come on the later side that Saturday night so that we could all sit, visit, and discuss the finer points — we later learned — of mortadella.

For anyone not familiar with mortadella and more specifically Mortadella Bologna, it’s a sausage made from finely ground pork and pork fat. See the Wiki entry for some useful background info on mortadella. But see also this excellent post by WebFoodCulture.com. And also the Mortadella Bologna PGI consortium’s not-so-easy-to-find website.

Don’t confuse it with other types of mortadella made in other parts of Italy, sometimes not from pork.

Above: marinated fresh anchovies followed our salumi tasting that evening. Bologna and Emilia in general has some of the best bread I’ve ever had in Italy.

It has been considered one of the greatest delicacies of Europe since the 17th century and beyond. Even French cookery books from the pre-modern era describe with great reverence the then highly advanced techniques for making charcuterie in the city of Bologna (the French also loved and learned a lot from Milanese pastry production).

Mortadella is also the inspiration for a poor imitation that we call “bologna” or “baloney” (as in Oscar Myer; but we will leave Upton Sinclair out of this).

As Dario explained that evening, there are “three or so” classic recipes that are still being used by artisanal mortadella producers in Bologna today. They are all excellent, he told us.

Above: the crunchy oven-fired thyme sprinkled on the pâté took it over the top.

But in order to become their clients, he said, you have to be willing to take only one mortadella at a time. The key, he emphasized with his rich baritone, is to consume the mortadella immediately, within a few days after it was produced. Otherwise, it loses the richness of its flavor and delicacy of its texture.

As someone who has been obsessed with mortadella since I first traveled to Italy in the late 1980s, I am here to tell you, people, this was absolutely the best mortadella I have ever tasted.

With great pride, Dario told us the story of Ennio Pasquini, one of the great mortadella craftspeople of our time. He recently passed away and his family is now arduously defending his legacy from those who would cash in on his namesake. For those who read Italian, click on the image below to read their “open letter” to the world of mortadella lovers. Pasquini was Dario’s “mortadella mentor,” as it were. He had refused to sell Dario his sausages until Dario agreed to take only small quantities each week.

Our literally five-hour tasting with Dario was one of the greatest culinary experiences of 2021 for me. I highly recommend his wonderful wine bar Zampa in Bologna (no website, at least that I can find).

How to make eggplant parmigiana (and a short treatise on the origin of the dish).

One of the things that makes melanzane alla parmigiana such a fascinating dish is that it is arguably Italy’s only truly national recipe beyond spaghetti al pomodoro (spaghetti with tomato sauce).

Yes, you can order pesto at a restaurant in Rome. Yes, you can choose your own style of pizza in Barbaresco. But no savvy, self-respecting italophile gastronome would ever indulge in such a transgression of the Italian culinary canon.

Eggplant alla parmigiana — aka eggplant parmigiana (without the articulated preposition), eggplant parmesan, or eggplant parm — is a dish that can generally be found in homes (although not in restaurants) throughout the country.

As the name reveals, it incorporates what many consider the greatest “food product” of all time: Parmigiano Reggiano, the famed friable cow’s milk cheese from Parma in Emilia (parmigiana is the demonym when used in reference to gastronomy; parmense is the city’s ethnonym).

The name doesn’t reveal however the dish’s connection to Sicily where eggplants were first consumed in Italy thanks to the island’s connection to the Arab and — some will be surprised to learn — to the Jewish world (Artusi, the still highly influential 19th-century cookery book writer from Romagna, writes about how only Jews in Italy ate eggplant at the time; the nightshade was believed to cause insanity but as Artusi points out with an antisemitic microaggression that I will forgive him, Jews have a “good nose” for great food).

To the northern cultural influence of Parma and the southern cultural legacy of Sicily, we must add yet another southern element: mozzarella. A great melanzane alla parmigiana is defined in part by its diversity of texture. The plastic cheese provides a sine qua non light and moreish chewiness to the best expressions of this timeworn and now international recipe.

Parmesan, Neapolitan, and Sicilian traditiones coquinariae combine to create a pan-Italian dish that I have enjoyed as far south as Lecce and as far north as Belluno.

To make a great melanzane alla parmigiana, the home cook must be patient. In the case of our family, the dish must be preceded by a tomato sauce prepared the night before to dress pasta. It’s that leftover sauce, with all of its flavors now perfectly fused and slightly desiccated, that really can take the recipe over the top.

Another important element is the olive oil you use — for both frying the eggplant rounds and greasing the pan. High-quality olive oil makes a marked difference in dishes like this.

For the recipe below, I haven’t included exact quantities. But that shouldn’t be a hindrance in making the dish the way we like it at our house. Years of translating and editing Italian recipes has taught me that the Italian indication quanto basta, an expression rendered in English as needed, is a good guide to all things in life. You just enough of each ingredient to achieve the desired result.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
eggplant alla parmigiana

Ingredients:

extra-virgin olive oil
garlic, peeled
tomato purée (passata)
white wine
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
chili flakes
basil leaves (optional)
eggplant (ideally globe or graffiti), sliced into thin rounds
mozzarella, sliced
Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated

Make the sauce:

Over low flame, gently heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the garlic and sauté but do not brown. Just as the garlic begins to turn golden in color, add the tomato purée and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the wine and when the alcohol has evaporated, season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste. Simmer slowly for roughly 30 minutes and as soon as you remove the pot from heat, add 1 or 2 basil leaves (optional). Cool and reserve, ideally overnight, covered on the stovetop (not in the refrigerator). Remove garlic cloves and basil.

Purge the eggplant:

Generously season the eggplant rounds with kosher salt. Transfer to a colander and reserve for at least 30 minutes until the eggplant purges its bitter liquid. (This is an extremely important step.) Use a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess liquid and reserve the rounds.

Fry the eggplant:

Heat a generous amount of olive oil (roughly 5-6 teeming tablespoons or as needed) to a broad frying pan over medium flame. Once the oil has heated through, add the eggplant rounds. Turn them once they have lightly browned on one side. Once they have browned on both sides, remove and distribute over a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess oil. (Using high-quality olive oil for frying the eggplant will make this dish even more tasty.)

Assemble the dish:

Grease an oven-ready casserole dish with olive oil. Add the eggplant rounds. Top with the sliced mozzarella. Smother with tomato sauce and top generously with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fire the dish in a pre-heated oven at 350° F. for 30 minutes or until a golden brown crust forms. Remove from oven and cool.

At our house, eggplant alla parmigiana is either reheated to be served at dinner or served room temperature for lunch or for a late afternoon snack. One of my favorite ways to serve it is as a sandwich on a favorite crusty bread. In my experience, letting it cool (and the reheating it) is key.

Tacos El Gordo in San Diego, how is it possible that I didn’t know you? I’m late to the party but I got here as quick as I could!

It’s hard to believe that Tacos El Gordo in San Diego wasn’t on my radar before last week. But thankfully, that culinary lacuna has been remedied.

An early flight to California had left me with some free time last Monday before our family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner. And although an attempted visit to the legendary and now Michelin-rated San Ysidro taquería Tuétano ended in failure (because it was Labor Day and the restaurant was closed), the taco fantasies of at least one lapsed Californian were fulfilled that day when the Google landed them at the amazing and totally packed Tacos El Gordo on Palm Ave. in an old converted Taco Bell in Chula Vista.

You’d be hard pressed — or should we say, hard rolled — to find an eatery that hews so closely to the tacquerìa model of the Ciudad or Tijuana, both cities where said traveler spent a lot of time as a youth.

Tempted by the brains tacos, said traveler opted instead for the venue’s flagship dish, tacos de adobada: corn tortillas laden with marinated pork that has been fired in a vertical broiler.

cabeza = head

tripa = tripe

buche = pork stomach

suadero = rose meat (so called because it is pinkish in color; see here and here)

sesos = brains

lengua = tongue

Like their counterparts in Mexico City and Tijuana, the chef at the adobada station is as colorful in their delivery as they are histrionic in their carving.

Everything was so tempting, including the loaded fries. But a first visit to this amazing restaurant called for the classic.

Tacos El Gordo opened in Baja California in the 1970s and launched its first location on the U.S. side of the border in the late 1990s.

I can’t believe I hadn’t found this place until now. But I got here as quick as I could and now there’s no turning back.

Hack alert: if you’re not ordering the adobada (which is clearly the restaurant’s most popular dish), you can skip the main (and very long) ordering line and use one of the specialized lines for fries and tacos with other fillings.

We left our hearts on Lake Iseo. A new favorite restaurant. #bromance

It wasn’t until day six of my first trip to Italy in more than a year and a half that I was finally able to sit down with my bromance Giovanni Arcari for a proper dinner.

We went to our favorite restaurant in Franciacorta, Dispensa Pani e Vini, where we literally laughed so hard that we cried. Man, it had been so long since that had happened. It felt great.

The next morning we headed up to Lake Iseo for an aperitivo before I headed back to Piedmont to teach the next day at Slow Food U.

And it was there that Giovanni turned me on to one of his favorite spots: Darsena 21, a converted boathouse (darsena means dock in Italian).

What a magical spot!

Those are anchovies from Cantabria, Spain. They are all the rage at the moment in Italy. Nearly every day I’ve been here, I’ve eaten them in one form or another.

Darsena 21 owner Daniele Scotti prides himself on using olive oil-cured Cantabrian anchovies. He said that most of the filets you get are cured in sunflower oil. I have to say that these were the best so far. He served these with a side of stracciatella di Andria, the chunky filling used for the famous burrata of Andria, Puglia. Wow… That dish was incredible.

The “Pès and Chips” is made with fresh cod (pès is Brescia dialect for pesce or fish).

Super.

I’ll probably never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that the American club sandwich has become ubiquitous in northern Italy. The difference between theirs and ours is that they use much higher quality ingredients. The bread, bacon, and mayonnaise alone would be worth the price of admission!

Delicious. Great hangover comfort food (not that we were hungover!).

And dulcis in fundo, some geese stopped by to say hello and forage for a French fry or two.

Daniele is a legendary mixologist around those parts. The next I’m up that way, I plan to hit up the brunch and his Bloody Mary.

If and when you make it to Lake Iseo in Franciacorta (and I sincerely hope that you’ll make the trip because it’s worth it), check it out. You won’t regret it. Tell ’em I sent you!

Italian parliament poised to approve bill that would create an “Italian organic” brand and “organic districts.”

Above: over the last decade, organically branded food shops, like this ice cream shop and café, have flourished across Italy.

In late May, the Italian senate approved a sweeping bill that would create a new “Italian organic” brand, officially recognized “organic districts,” and sweeping subsidies for research, development, and monitoring of organic farming practices. The bill would also integrate the organic farming supply chain through government oversight.

The legislation, which is widely expected to be approved by the Italian chamber of deputies, was adopted with one vote in opposition and one abstention.

One point of contention was a brief and arguably vague line in the proposed legislation that would elevate the status of biodynamic agriculture, “putting it on a par with” organic agriculture.

Biodynamic farming’s embrace of spirituality and mysticism, say critics, including Italian senator for life Elena Cattaneo, who delivered an impassioned speech on the senate floor before the vote, make it a discipline not based on science.

Cattaneo, the only senator to vote against the legislation, lobbied unsuccessfully to amend the line about biodynamic agriculture. Her failed efforts were called a “resounding defeat” by the mainstream Italian media. In her address to her colleagues, Cattaneo, known for her groundbreaking work in stem cell research, called organic farming a “niche sector,” noting that it represents a small fraction of Italy’s farmland. She also pointed out that it would provide subsidies to fallow pastures where no food is produced.

The bill, she said, “offers no guarantee of greater health benefits or greater nutritional value” for Italian citizens.

In 2019, when the bill was first debated in the Italian parliament, Cattaneo called organic farming “a beautiful but impossible fairytale.” She and nearly 400 other Italian scientists signed an open letter to the Italian parliament in which they opposed the then nascent legislation.

“In order to justify pricing often double [that of conventionally farmed products],” she said at the time,

    we have been told that organic farming is the only way to save the world and help us to live longer and better. It’s an illusion. There is no scientific proof to confirm this. In fact, the opposite is true: analysis reveals that organic products are not qualitatively better and that large-scale organic farming is unsustainable inasmuch as it produces up to 50 percent less when it comes to top agricultural products. Large-scale organic farming would require twice as much land. In order to convert the world to organic farming, we would have to use hundreds of millions of hectares of currently fallow land, including forests and prairies.

Supporters of the bill see it as part of a wider EU initiative, known as “Farm to Fork,” to safeguard natural resources, to protect the environment, and to create a more robust organic farming supply chain across member states.

“We are extremely pleased that the senate has approved the bill,” said Maria Grazia Mammuccini, president of FedBio, a trade association that has lobbied aggressively for the creation of the “Italian organic” brand. “We have been waiting for this for more than 15 years. This much awaited legislation is finally moving forward.”

Pete Wells gets the Tex but not the Mex. What the American intelligentsia gets wrong about Texans, our culture, and how and what we eat.

Even some of the most informed food writers don’t realize that what they call “fajitas,” the cornerstone of Tex-Mex cuisine, has its origins in Mexico’s discada cooking culture. That’s the carne asada plate, yesterday, at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston, Taqueria El Sole de Mexico #2.

“Tex-Mex is probably the least respected of America’s regional cuisines,” wrote venerated Times food and restaurant critic Pete Wells in the paper this week. “In part this is because, like some Texas politicians, it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny once it leaves the state.”

His uninformed, puerile mockery reminded me of something one of my close California family members said to me contemptuously after I had moved to Texas to be with Tracie.

“How can you live there,” they asked, “with all those awful people?”

I wonder how many Texan politicians Mr. Wells or my relative can name beyond Ted C. Maybe Ken P.? Beto, of course. But without resorting to a Google search, can they name one Black politician from Texas? Beyond Ted C. and maybe Julian C., do they know the name of any other Brown Texas politician?

And that’s what Wells and my relative all get wrong about Texans and our culture.

(In all fairness to Mr. Wells, he has famously, although perhaps disingenuously, written that he “likes” Texans.)

No English is spoke at my favorite Tex-Mex place, where “fajitas” are the number-one menu entry. You can also order a burrito smothered in queso. It’s as Tex-Mex as you can get.

I would have never said this to my relative (and luckily neither they nor their spouse read my blog!) but I would have liked to ask them: beyond all the “awful” White people you think you know from Texas, what about the Brown and Black people? Are they awful, too?

And that’s where the American intelligentsia gets it dead wrong.

Yes, there are a lot of “awful” White people in Texas who have disenfranchised Black and Brown people for generations. And those same awful White people continue to suppress the voice of Black and Brown people at the voting box and they continue — less successfully in recent years — to segregate Texans. But that’s because those awful White people are still in power, as anyone who reads the Times surely knows.

And here’s where the Tex-Mex analogy comes into play. The only Tex-Mex that Wells knows is the “White Tex-Mex” of big box players like Chuy’s and Pappasitos and the faux Tex-Mex that New Yorkers eat. He gets the Tex but he doesn’t get the Mex.

Tex-Mex didn’t originate in European cookery. It’s actually Brown-people cuisine that has been contaminated by White gastronomic traditions.

Case in point: fajitas.

Even Wells will agree that the griddle-fired, intensely seasoned meats are the cornerstone of Tex-Mex cuisine. And he shouldn’t be surprised to learn that their origin lies in the discada cooking of the Mexican — not Texan — countryside.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Chef Luis Jiménez de S. whose cloud kitchen brand Bell Pepper Fajitas is debuting in Houston in a few weeks (I was writing a press release for his PR firm). His group is based in Del Rio on the Tex-Mex border. But Chef Luis had joined our call from Mexico where he lives and cooks — you guessed it — Tex-Mex!

We spoke at length about the origins of Tex-Mex and how it is a reflection of classic Mexican cuisine. He was keen to talk about its farming-community and family-friendly character, two elements that inform his menus for Bell Pepper Fajitas and his other immensely popular concept, Amacate.

I remembered our conversation as I dug into my carne asada yesterday at Taqueria El Sol de Mexico #2, which is located in a Tex-Mex row in a Spanish-speaking Houston neighborhood not far from our house. There are roughly 20 similar restaurants along a mile-long stretch of road. I haven’t visited them all but based on my past experiences, fajitas and queso — another pillar of the Tex-Mex canon — are on the menu at most of them.

I took a look around. There were no Texas politicians there (I know where Ted C. eats in Houston btw but that’s another story for another time). There were no awful White people there either. There were no White people there at all.

Just a bunch of Texans enjoying lunch on a beautiful spring day in Houston, the ranchera music blasting away.

The earliest mention of “al dente” pasta in an English cookery book? And a better translation of the expression.

Above: paccheri with seafood in Lecce province. Needless to say, they were cooked “al dente.”

The other night after Tracie made a perfectly cooked dish of fusilli al pomodoro for our daughters and me, the girls were curious about my comment that the pasta (or rather, the pastasciutta because these were dried pasta) had been strained al dente.

Although it’s often mistranslated or used a loanword in English (and especially American English), most Americans know it today to mean pasta that is slightly undercooked. As anyone familiar with home and restaurant cookery in Italy can tell you, Italians like their pasta slightly undercooked or “crisp” (see quote below).

For Italians, al dente is the baseline. Only on rare occasions have I met Italians who like their pasta overcooked. And because it’s such a commonplace expression, it’s by no means extraordinary. But here in America in recent decades, it became very fashionable to draw attention to the al dente cooking time for pasta. I don’t have any hard data on when it began to happen, but I can remember the time before the time when mainstream pasta producers began to indicate regular and al dente cooking times on the front of the box. To this day, pasta packaging in Italy simply reports the regular al dente cooking time or cottura (e.g., cottura 9 minuti or cooking time: 9 minutes).

No one really knows when al dente became a commonly used expression in Italy. There’s no doubt that it’s part of the culinary parlance today. But I haven’t been able to find any usage until the late 20th century.

Many food historians point to Ippolito Cavalcanti’s 19th-century recipe for “vermicelli with tomato” as one of the earliest instances of al dente cooking times (nota bene that Maestro Martino’s 15th-century cookbook mentions cooking time but he doesn’t indicate that the cooking time will deliver slightly undercooked pasta).

Cavalcanti, whose homecooking appendix to his Italian cookbook Cucina teorico-pratica is believed to be the first to be written in Neapolitan dialect, writes: “scauda doje rotola de vermicielli, e vierdi vierdi li levarraje…” Translation: “boil two nests of vermicelli and strain them while still very green” [Italics mine]. Most concur that this is among the first mentions of undercooked al dente pasta.

(In his own landmark 19th-century cookery book, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, Pellegrino Artusi included what would become one of Italy’s canonical recipes for “maccheroni alla napolitana” [Neapolitan pasta with tomatoes] but it doesn’t include a specific cooking time.)

An early mention of the use of the expression al dente popped up surprisingly in a British cookbook from the late 19th century by a writer named Julia Anne Elizabeth Tollemache. The wife of an English sportsman and politician, she focused primarily on biography throughout her career. But she also published what must have been a best-seller in its day, Mrs. Roundell’s Practical Cookery Book With Many Family Recipes Hitherto Unpublished (Bickers 1898).

She writes:

    It is difficult to say how long Macaroni should be cooked. Neapolitans think it more digestible when it is underdone, so that it is rather crisp when bitten, or, to use their own term, when it is al dente. As a rule Macaroni should be cooked in from twenty to thirty minutes. It should be tried with a fork; or a piece may be taken out, and if it is crisp and yet tender, and if it breaks with its own weight, the Macaroni is done. The over-cooking of Macaroni makes it into a soft, pappy mess, which no Macaroni lover could touch.

There’s a lot to unpack in that passage! But to my mind, the big takeaway is that the expression al dente must have already been in common usage in Naples at the time. As an upperclass Brit, she most likely did a “grand tour” of Italy in her youth. The fact that she refers to Neapolitans and their cooking seems to be an indication that she had visited Naples and perhaps even cooked in a Neapolitan kitchen or two during her visit or visits there.

She was active roughly a half a century after Cavalcanti published the first edition of his book. It’s plausible that al dente came into popular usage sometime between Cavalcanti and Roundell.

I still have a lot of research to do here and I suspect that there will be many fascinating layers to this onion (stay tuned).

But in the meantime, please translate al dente as underdone, [slightly] undercooked, or as Mrs. Roundell writes, “rather crisp when bitten.”

Let’s be honest: Texas restaurants haven’t really been enforcing the mask mandate. Abbott’s decision to lift the requirement, while reckless, won’t make a difference.

Image via Adobe Stock.

Let’s be clear: when Texas governor Abbott issued a mask order last summer, it didn’t require all Texans to wear masks in public; it required Texas businesses to require that their customers wore masks while frequenting their places of business.

And let’s be honest: Texas restaurants, which have been allowed to offer some capacity of dine-in service for the better part of the last 12 months, have done little to enforce the mask mandate. And most restaurateurs have only cursorily observed the capacity limitations.

But then again, what could have restaurateurs actually done to enforce the mandate? While most are not reckless, people who have frequented restaurants over the last 12 months generally didn’t recognize the importance and urgency of wearing a mask. If they were hanging out in restaurants, they clearly didn’t put much stock in donning a mask for the safety of others. And after all, even with the mask mandate in place, you still needed to take the mask off to eat and drink.

Beyond the Quixotic challenges of enforcing mask mandates and dining capacity restrictions, the restaurants still open are mostly just trying to survive. When you’ve poured your life’s savings and work into a restaurant and you’re barely getting by, what are you supposed to do when someone enters your business without a mask and proceeds to order a $200 bottle of wine?

Our family decided early on not to frequent restaurants (although we support restaurants by doing take-out orders at least a couple of times a week). But I have spent time in dining rooms on more than one occasion over the last year. No one at our house is going hungry and we have little to complain about, all things considered. But the scarcity of work has forced me to take every copywriting job I can get. And sometimes, those gigs require my physical presence, whether to sample the food or take a photo of a chef or restaurant interior.

The bottomline is that restaurants in Texas have done little to enforce or even observe the business mask mandate. Even those restaurateurs who recognize the wisdom of mask wearing and social distancing have had little choice but to accept the fact that guests often refuse to wear masks. Nearly every occasion that I have spent time in a restaurant, masks were overwhelmingly “optional.” And I’m only relating my experience in Houston, a major metropolitan area. When we’ve traveled outside of Houston to visit family, we’ve seen restaurants packed with maskless guests as if there were no pandemic at all.

I believe that Abbott’s decision to lift the mask requirement is as reckless as it is myopic. But that’s not going to change what’s been happening in Texas restaurants over the last 12 months.

Take action on wine tariffs: please sign USWTA letter to incoming Biden administration.

Above: not only could a new round of wine tariffs raise the cost of wines at your favorite Italian restaurant, it would also impact countless Italian wine-focused small businesses and their employees across the country (photo taken at Misi in Brooklyn in January 2019).

According to a report published yesterday by Bloomberg, “the U.S. will soon issue the results of probes into Austria, Italy and India’s decisions to tax local revenue of Internet companies such as Facebook Inc., which could pave the way for retaliatory tariffs.”

The news comes on the heels of the EU’s recent announcement that it “plans to impose $4 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods, continuing a trade war fanned by the Trump administration” (Washington Post).

Both moves are part of ongoing World Trade Organization litigation between the U.S. and the EU over airline industry subsidies.

In October of 2019, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) imposed a tariff of 25 percent on French wines and Italian cheeses among other European products.

Those tariffs are still in place despite herculean efforts by the United States Wine Trade Alliance, an association formed last year in response to the continuing trade war.

The duties have gravely impacted not only French wine growers and Italian cheese makers but also thousands of small business in the U.S. including retailers, restaurants, distributors, and importers. Their tariff pain has only been exacerbated by the health crisis this year.

While Italian winemakers have been spared (so far) from the fallout of the trade wars, the new EU digital tax investigation and the newly imposed EU tariffs on U.S. goods could prompt the USTR to impose new duties on imported Italian wines.

“Biden has the ability to abolish these tariffs on day one of his administration,” said USTWA president Ben Aneff on a Zoom call with hundreds of American wine professionals yesterday afternoon.

Aneff and the USWTA are asking wine trade members to sign a petition asking the Biden administration to “End the Restaurant Tariffs!” Currently focused on the “on premise” sector, the campaign is part of a broader effort to raise awareness in the new administration about how these tariffs are affecting small businesses and their employees across the country.

I highly encourage all U.S. wine trade members to read and sign the petition. And please share it with your networks. The presidential transition, as Ben noted yesterday, represents a unique opportunity to have these duties lifted with one bold pen stroke.

Click here to read and sign the petition.

Please see also this USWTA Facebook post where Ben addresses strategies on raising awareness of the campaign among restaurant owners and employees.

Thank you for your support and solidarity.