Do Bianchi becomes VITELLO-TONNATO-WIRE!

Above: The best vitello tonnato of 2010 was prepared for Tracie P and me by our friend Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose in Tre Stelle (between Neive and Barbaresco). I’ve eaten a helluvalotta vitello tonnato over the last two months, with TWO (yes, TWO! COUNT ‘EM!) trips to Piedmont in as many months.

I love vitello tonnato. I could eat vitello tonnato every day. I’m not kidding. In fact, while I was in Piedmont with the Barbera 7, I literally ate vitello tonnato four times in four consecutive seatings, over three days. That’s 1.33333 servings of vitello tonnato per day.

Above: Getting to have dinner in someone’s home in Piedmont was a real treat for me. I’ve traveled to Piedmont so many times for wine but you always end up in Michelin-star this or Michelin-star that… Always great but nothing beats exceptional homecooking like Giovanna’s. Supper began with traditional Piedmont salame.

I am fascinated by vitello tonnato — culinarily and intellectually. And, gauging from all the comments here and on Facebook in the wake of the recent vitello tonnato pornography, you’re fascinated by vitello tonnato as well.

Above: And no Piedmontese meal is complete (lunch or dinner) without raw beef, in this case, homestyle.

That’s why I’ve decided to give up all the petty politics and ego-driven parochial bullshit of wine blogging to devote my blog exclusively to vitello tonnato and its epistemological implications. Veal with tuna and anchovies and capers. The basic ingredients alone and their highly unusual but thoroughly delicious combination will occupy volumes and volumes… The dissertation I delivered in 1997 was about Petrarch and Bembo, apostrophes (no shit!) and dipthongs (no double shit!) and episynaloepha (no triple shit! look that one up, Thor!). But this, ladies and gents, I assure you, will be a mother of all dissertations.

Above: But the true pièce de résistance of Giovanna’s superb repertoire was this sformato di spinaci, a spinach casserole topped with a fondue of Fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I couldn’t resist a second helping. Simona, you would have LOVED this.

Seriously, back from Mars now, I don’t have time to blog today because I’m on my way to San Antonio to make a living. It won’t be long before I pick up the narration of our February trip to Piedmont again — the meals, the wines, the tastings, and most importantly the people. Giovanna runs a wonderful bed and breakfast in Barbaresco country and her wines are killer.

And all joking aside, I have a great deal to say about vitello tonnato (no kidding!).

Stay tuned…

Stinky dirty wine I drank in Piedmont and a note about vitello tonnato

When in Piedmont, do as the Piedmontese do and drink Piedmontese wine. But when I saw the 2004 Trebež by Dario Prinčič (from Oslavia, Friuli) on the list at La Libera (probably the hippest, best see-and-be-seen place to dine in Langa), I couldn’t resist. After all, it was my turn to pick the wines the Barbera 7 was going to be drinking at dinner that night. I know it’s a shame to drink a Friulian wine in Piedmont (and for our red, we drank an a killer 2006 Dolcetto di Dogliani by one of my favorite producers, Cascina Corte), but the mimetic desire created by my browsing of the list simply overwhelmed me. I had to have it.

According to Divino Scrivere, the wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc, obviously vinified with skin contact. (I believe that Trebež is a toponym that refers to a river by the same name, but I’m not sure.) Cloudy and practically brown in color, this is as real, natural, and orange as it gets… not for the refined palate but rather the folks who did real, groovy wines… Acid and gently astringent tannin, apricot and prune flavors, balanced by dirt and rocks. The man, Dario Prinčič, is dry and sour in person, perfectly polite, but never a smile on his face when I taste with him at Vini Veri. His wines, on the other hand, are full of joy and glorious flavor and they are among my all-time favorites.

The night we ate at La Libera, I asked owner/chef Marco to feed us whatever he wanted (which is always the best way to go in any great restaurant, btw). Among other victuals, he made us a tetralogy of classic Piedmontese antipasti, including the sine qua non vitello tonnato (the photo above borders on the pornographic, no?). I love vitello tonnato and eat it whenever and wherever I know it’s good. Today, vitello tonnato is regularly made with mayonnaise but the addition of mayonnaise is a relatively recent adjustment to this recipe. In fact, the sauce prescribed by Artusi (1891) calls for tuna in olive oil, anchovies, lemon juice, and capers in vinegar.

I enjoyed another excellent vitello tonnato, while Tracie P and I were in Barolo in February, at the Osteria Barolando, served on a roll of crusty bread (above).

I love vitello tonnato so much I could most certainly write a dissertation on it — its variants, its history, its epistemological implications… but, alas, I need to make a living…