"There is little of Italy that is not, at least marginally, wine country," remarked Hugh Johnson in his World Atlas of Wine. From the high altitudes of the Val d'Aosta to the rolling vineyards of the Langhe, from the deep-cut valleys of Tuscany to the arid stretches of the Abruzzo, the entire landscape is well suited to growing grapes. To honor this drink divine, we have invited two connoisseurs to the Beard House. Former Chianti chef Scott Conant and Sergio Esposito, managing partner of Italian Wine Merchants, will tempt us with the gastronomic treasures of the boot-shaped peninsula.
Believe us, even without a glass of wine, Conant's food is worth celebrating. Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic at The New York Times, named Chianti one of the "Best New Restaurants of 1998" while it was under Conant's direction, and New York's Gael Greene named it to her list of "Where to Eat in 1999." Conant grew up, in part, on the food of his Neapolitan grandparents. After attending the CIA, he completed an externship under chef Paul Bartolotta at San Domenico, Manhattan's elegant midtown Italian eatery. He studied in Europe, but eventually returned to the kitchens of San Domenico. Conant's next stop was at Il Toscanaccio, where he was an eager student of chef Cesare Casella.
According to founder Joseph Bastianich (of Frico, Babbo, and Lupa fame), Italian Wine Merchants is designed "to celebrate the lifestyle of Italian wine-a studio del gusto-where people can learn and taste, and, of course, buy." Esposito wants to make people happy through quality. "If we have only one Gavi di Gavi, that's because it is the best there is," he says.
Well, there's more than one good wine on the list for this dinner. Come find out why there are so many Italian Wine Lovers in the Beard Foundation's ranks.
Braised Short Ribs of Beef over Farro and Vegetable Risotto
Shaved Bottarga with Vegetables and Lemon
Braised Duck Raviolo with Marsala and Grana Padano
Diver Sea Scallops with Stewed Escarole and Cannelini Beans
Creamy Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Truffled Reduction
Organic Apple Risotto with Seared Goose Liver and Balsamic Reduction
Sicilian Olive Oil-Poached Scottish Salmon with Winter Truffles, Cipolline, and Juniper
Roasted Baby Lamb with Fingerling Potatoes, Shallots, Artichokes, and Natural Reduction
"Nutella" Semifreddo with Hazelnut Croquant