Soave con Zucca

Thursday, July 22, 2010

been doing "la passeggiata" all wrong...

After reading Fodor's guest blogger Dianne Hales posting on "An Italian Tradition: La Passeggiata," I have come to realize that I have been doing the passeggiata completely and utterly wrong.

La passeggiata is simply an evening walk...or so I thought.

Who knew what a meat market it is and what an opportunity it represents for women of "marriageable age" to find a suitor? And why am I just finding out about this now?

According to Miss Hales, the passeggiata can be the main social event of the day in some cities and a time for people to get all decked out to impress and "see and be seen." (vedere e farsi vedere).

My normal gear for doing up the passeggiata is a pair of mini-sweats, a tank top and sneakers or flip-flops. And sometimes I go right after a run to cool am not Irish Spring fresh necessarily.

I tend to be accompanied by the lovely Laura Rizzotto from the Balestri Valda winery (also a woman of marriageable age) and she is usually more fashionably dressed than yours truly...but this is nothing new and is certainly not limited to our evening walks around Soave.

What almost made me fall of my chair while reading the article is that someone wrote a book on the passeggiata.

The author of La Passeggiata, Giovanna Delnegro, would probably give me a good scolding for my previous approach to this "socially sanctioned opportunity for flirting and courting."

I will of course be remedying this and making the appropriate adjustments to my get ready all you other women of marriageable age in Soave!

There's gonna be some international competition entering the ring!

- Zucca

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sono caldo/a vs. sono accaldato/a

Quick new addition to my list of "errori" (errors)...or "evvovi" as my friend Giorgio would say with his Bolognese accent and, to my utter confusion, write it that way as well.

Sono caldo/a = I'm hot...i.e. read to go, all warmed-up, in the mood for some lovin.

Could also say "sono caldo/a per te" = "I'm hot for you" but apparently this is a little vulgar.

Sono accaldato/a = I'm warm/hot...i.e. temperature-wise

Unfortunately the difference between the two was only pointed out to me 3 days ago.

So it seems that over the past 1-2 months, I have been running around telling everyone from Verona to Greve in Chianti and from Soave to Lake Garda that I am...well, horny.


- Zucca

Sunday, June 20, 2010

one lucky bastard...

That's me!

This is the thought that went through my head while attending a "garage" champagne tasting the other week with my friend Andrea, who also happens to be a sommelier.

When Andrea initially invited me to the tasting, I had this idea in my head that we were going to some elegant locale where sommeliers would be serving up sips of superb bubbly all decked out in their AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) uniforms...with embellished golden spittoons carefully placed on tables perfectly dressed in white linen.

It wasn't until he picked me up that he informed me that we were going to some dude's garage.

Fortunately Andrea arrived early, which as you can imagine is a very non-Italian thing to do, so I had time to change out of my more fancy pants threads and into a pair of jeans.

Then we were off to Enzo's garage in Lonigo!!

Enzo is a professor by day...and a French wine specialist by night. And has one of the most interesting knife blocks I have ever seen (visual reference provided).

We were joined by three of Andrea's friends for the tasting: 2 fellow sommeliers and another wine enthusiast.

An individual glass was placed in front of each of us...and Enzo did not waste any time and started pouring.

We ended up tasting 11 champagnes & 1 cremant.

Being a bit of a champagne novice, Andrea needed to explain the difference between a champagne and a cremant.

If you see "cremant" on the label, the wine inside the bottle is sparkling and made in the same way as a champagne, but was produced outside of the Champagne region in France. Only wines from the Champagne region can be called champagne according to EU regulations.

Quick note for other champagne and/or sparkling wine novices: most sparkling wines go through two fermentations. The first turns the grape juice into a still wine (the base wine), and the 2nd turns this base wine into a sparkling wine through the trapping of the carbon dioxide in the wine. Carbon dioxide is naturally produced when the yeasts convert sugar into alcohol.

The 2nd fermentation can take place in large, closed, pressurized tanks (generally referred to as the "charmat" method), which is the quicker and less expensive method. However, when it comes to champagnes, the 2nd fermentation is always conducted in the individual bottles in which the wine is ultimately sold. This method is called the traditional or champagne method...or "metodo classico" in Italy.

Now, I found all of the champagnes and the cremant we tasted quite lovely...but as I mentioned above, I am nowhere near being an expert on champagnes. Fortunately Enzo was and Andrea comes pretty gosh darn close.

Here were some of my favs from the evening (in no particular order):

1) Brochet-Hervieux a Ecueil. Premier Cru. Brut Extra (75% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay) - ideal as an aperitivo. Very fresh and crisp. This is a safe bet if you need to pick up a bottle of champagne for a dinner and/or cocktail party...or want to give a bottle of champagne as a gift. It is also reasonably priced (23 EUR).

2) Doyard Cuvee Vendemiare. Le Mesnil sur Oger. Brut (100% chardonnay) - this one was interesting because it was the only one we tasted that had a bit of oak aging in barrique, which you could tell in the nose but was very subtle.

And since this was made purely with chardonnay, it is called a "blanc de blancs," or "white from white." So a white wine made from white grapes. "Blanc de noirs" (usually 100% pinot noir) do exist but are quite rare.

3) Hubert Paulet Rose. Premier Cru. Millesime 2004 (80% chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier) - upon serving this wine, Enzo and his assistant starting slicing up some sopressa. And what a fantastic pairing.

Now the sopressa was not 100% up to par but I am spoiled since I live right across the street from a spectacular cheese and cured meat shop (La Casara). However, the champagne rose was wonderful.

4) Bérèche et Fils. Le Beaux Regards. Brut Nature (100% chardonnay) - Enzo described this wine as a palette cleansing champagne...and he was spot on. This one was very dry and extremely refreshing with citrus fruit.

5) Libert-Fils a Cramant. Brut. Grand Cru (100% chardonnay) - This is a slightly more elegant champagne with a mineral quality and freshness...and I could see myself easily drinking more than one glass.

This champagne tasting really opened my eyes not only to the wonderful world of champagne, but also gave me a new appreciation and understanding of the chardonnay grape.

and it confirmed that I must have been some excruciatingly good person in a past life or am reaping the benefits of the good deeds of the other members of the Shea family.

There were a few nuns in the Shea family tree and a priest at one point...but my Uncle met, as Chiara would say, "the woman of his life" and put his days as a priest behind him.

Che posso dire? There are certain things us Sheas just aren't willing to give up.

A votre sante!

- Zucca

Monday, June 14, 2010

Visit to the RISECCOLI winery in Tuscany

My trip to the RISECCOLI estate, owned by the Romanelli family and located near Greve in Chianti, was quite lovely but definitely did not go off without a hitch...the usual case when traveling with yours truly.

Just a few past examples:

- Having to buy a dress for a wedding in Germany one hour before the ceremony due to my luggage not arriving. Luggage eventually showed up after the ceremony but before the reception, which turned out to be a 12 hour party consisting of hour-long toasts, singing, photo slideshows and reenactments of famous German game shows.

- Getting bitten by some insect in the middle of the night in a hotel in Chile and having my eye swell up so I resembled Quasimodo for a bit. Fortunately a super dose of Benadryl did the more ways than one.

- Being propositioned by a Russian businessman in a bar who was forced to take out his wallet and show me all of the money he had since I just wasn't gettin what it was he was wantin due to the language barrier. Actually my Russian businessman experience happened while living in Soave, but just felt like mentioning it since it was quite memorable.

I even have a bit of a reputation for some sort of shenanigan or mishap occurring when I simply head to the supermarket.

Actually, at this point, the thing that usually happens when I go Perfetto (the supermarket in Soave) is that I end up buzzed after partaking in a glass or 2 of Soave with some of the town locals.

The mishaps that occurred on my trip to RISECCOLI were as follows:

- Getting off at the wrong train station in Florence. Who knew there were 2?

- Having the 2-bottle box of Coffele wines, that were to be gifts for the owners of estate, snatched after leaving them unattended for about 3 minutes in my tizzy to find out the name of the station I was supposed to be at.

- Chatting up a storm with some tourists from California on the bus back to Florence and missing my stop...and doubling my travel time.

Could have been worse. And it was definitely worth it because the RISECCOLI estate is truly a gem in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone and the Romanelli/Faure family and the estate staff couldn't have been more welcoming and hospitable.

And I got the chance to taste the palette-pleasing RISECCOLI wines...including their 2 newly launched wines:

Rinascita - more of an entry-level Tuscan red (IGT) made with younger Sangiovese vines and a small percentage of Cabernet and Merlot. Really nice easy-drinking wine.

Petit Verdot - now this is quite an intriguing wine since RISECCOLI is the only Tuscany producer bottling an unblended Petit Verdot...and there are probably only 2 or 3 other Italian producers with a 100% Petit Verdot.

The estate also produces a Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, a Vin Santo and a Super-Tuscan called Saeculum (considered their "cult" wine).

Now I am usually not a huge fan of Super Tuscans because they tend to be a bit overpowering for me, but I found RISECCOLI's Saeculum to be full-bodied with ripe-fruit but also very nicely balanced. The wine consistently receives 90-93 points from international reviewers such as Robert Parker and James Suckling...and I am not surprised.

I also learned that Vin Santo is produced utilizing the same "appasimento" process of hang drying the grapes prior to pressing used to produce Recioto di Soave. For those unfamiliar with Vin is an unfortified sweet wine, typically produced in Tuscany.

A little more on the estate and the wines to come in a future post...and on the Romanelli family and their unique history.

Not only does the family make wonderfully elegant wines, but also has an unbelievably impressive artistic heritage that put me to shame and led me to the realization that the Shea family is a motley crew of uncultured, beer-drinkin Irish heathens.


Wait...that's more like a pirate. So be it.

- Zucca

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A salsa dancing, body building, bouncer/wine producer

I feel 100% confident saying that ONLY in Italy would one meet a security guard/bouncer, who was about to get a license to be a personal trainer, salsa danced just about every night...and also happened to make his own wine.

Ok. Actually his father made the wine but my very well-toned friend assisted.

Met this attractive fellow at the Italia in Rosa tasting in Lazise last weekend, organized by the Consorzio di Bardolino.

We started chatting...mainly about salsa dancing cause I just love it and haven't gone salsa dancing in quite a bit (you would be surprised by the ass-shaking ability of this lanky Irish Catholic girl).

I told him about being a marketing consultant for wineries...and to my surprise, he started gushing about he and his father's homemade vino.

And the very next day, he had a bottle of this apparently potent blend of Sangiovese with some "other grapes" ready and waiting for me.

So after the Italia in Rosa tasting, my wine rack now not only has about 12 bottles of Rosé, but a bottle of acqua frizzante filled with...well, a red wine that I have absolutely no idea what the blend is or the alcohol content.

Just to be on the safe side, I think I'll be tasting this one in the comfort of my own home.

Chin chin!

- Zucca

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

damn those Turkish lambs!!!!

My sincerest apologies for the hiatus in my blog posts. But you can expect a great flood of posts over the next week or so!

First up...another blunder to add to my growing list.

Un turco vs. una turca -

Un turco = a Turkish man or person

Una turca = the fantastic squat toilets that most of my favorite trattorias have in Soave. Also known as a Turkish toilet, an Iranian toilet in Iran or paati in Malayalam...just in case you were curious.

I personally prefer myself an actual sitting toilet, but was forced to get used to squat toilets real quick upon my arrival in Soave. There are a number of reasons why some argue that these toilets are better...but my favorite is that they are ideal for pregnant women because daily squatting helps to prepare for a natural delivery.

But back to my blunder.

The other week Chiara and I ended up at this crazy discoteca called Corte degli Angeli (

I wore my more hardcore industrial looking knee-high boots instead of sandals...and thank goodness.

Yep. Turkish toilets...and some of the nastiest ones I have ever seen. Plus, when flushing, the water sprayed not only down but also straight ahead. I guess if I was lookin to wash my feet, this might of been a welcomed function.

The following day, I felt the need to voice my opinion on Turkish toilets on Facebook and wrote:

"Un turco non è mai una buona idea in una discoteca."

So I basically announced to all of my friends and acquaintances that I believe a Turkish man is never a good idea in a disco.

First comment was of course from my friend who tended to my "agnello" (or lamb) which he asked if I meant to write "una turca."

My response: "perche? un turco non e veramente una buon idea in una disco...neanche un agnello"

English translation: "why? a Turkish man is truly never a good idea in a disco...and neither is a lamb."

His response: "esattamente...infatti gli agnelli turchi sono i peggiori!!!"

English translation: " fact, the Turkish lambs are the worst!!!"

One of these days these lamb jokes will get old...but it hasn't happened yet. At least not for me.


- Zucca

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


You can't help feeling a bit like a glutton...and a little silly when ordering stinco. STINCO!!!

ok. I'll try to stop. I just find the name of this dish simply fantastic.

And with a name like stinco, you can imagine that it is not the type of dish one orders on a regular basis or, good God, has as a staple in one's diet.

Stinco is a lovely, slowly braised or roasted...pork, veal or lamb shank

* Stinco di Maile or Stinco di Prosciutto = pork shank

* Stinco di Vitello = veal shank

* Stinco di Anello, I mean Agnello (bahhh) = lamb shank

some people might do a Stinco di Manzo, but I haven't seen this quite as often (or ever in the course of my travels actually).

When it comes to pairing a wine with stinco, most recommend a fuller-bodied red like a Brunello di Montalcino...but I think you could also go with a medium-bodied red if that is more your speed.

It is truly an event when one orders least it feels that way to me.

and for some reason I always get the urge to stand up, raise my hand in the air and announce to the entire restaurant that I will indeed, be indulging in this succulent, mouth-watering shank of a pig! (I have only had Stinco di Maile...still need to try Stinco di Vitello).

Fortunately for Miss Mira, I maintained my composure during our dinner at Trattoria Dal Moro in Soave last week...and very politely told the always vivacious Sara Sambugaro (owner's daughter, who works non-stop at the trattoria...and has a singing voice that will knock your socks off), "Vorrei avere il stinco" (I would like to have the stinco).

I do fear, however, that if I had a few more aperitivi in me that evening...I would currently be banned from ordering this savory dish at Dal Moro ever again.

- Zucca