A Toast to the Bounty of Summer

This time of year, we’re especially inspired in the kitchen; our local markets are bursting with the season’s freshest fruits and vegetables, and it seems that nothing more than a light touch is needed to turn such exquisite raw materials into a healthy local feast.

This is the same philosophy that guides the winemaking principles of Barone Pizzini; an appreciation for the bounty of the land and a respect for the raw ingredients that has inspired the company to lead the way in organic production of Franciacorta, as well as biodynamic production of Pievalta in Le Marche.

Not surprising, then, that many of the restaurants around the country that include Barone Pizzini in their wine programs also espouse this dedication to local sourcing and appreciation for highlighting the flavors of each changing season. Great news for those of us who are committed to sustainable dining, but less inspired in the kitchen!

ABC Kitchen, New York City

The New York restaurant scene has embraced the “local” food trend in a big way – but ABC Kitchen takes this commitment to a new level. In addition to Chef Jean-Georges’ focus on organic seasonal produce, meat, fish and dairy are sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible; herbs and microgreens are grown on a rooftop garden; and beverages – from wine to coffee and tea – are organic and fair-trade. Even the dining room includes recycled or reclaimed materials – we’ll toast to that!

Coppa, Boston

coppa veg
Seasonal fare at Coppa, Boston

Not traditionally viewed as a foodie haven, Boston is making a name for itself as a culinary destination in its own right, thanks in part to a rising generation of outstanding chefs, including Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston’s South End. Pair your Franciacorta with a seasonally updated menu of pizza, pasta, outstanding charcuterie and fresh produce sourced from “local friends.”

Market 17, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Proving that the country’s biggest cities do not have a monopoly on locavore dining, Chef Lauren Shields at Market 17 has made Fort Lauderdale a regional leader in sustainable dining. The native Floridian is convinced that consumer education is the key to encouraging more people to make responsible food choices. Owners Kirsta and Aaron Grauberger – a brother and sister team of sommeliers – are pleased to share their dedication to sourcing in an extensive beverage program, with plenty of biodynamic and organic options, including Barone Pizzini Rosé.  

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Pizza + Wine, a Match Made in Heaven

While beer is the traditional beverage accompaniment to a great slice, beverage directors around the country are calling that logic into question, and unleashing their enthusiasm for the unlimited possibilities for wine and pizza pairings.

After all, beer and pizza is like washing down bread with…more bread?

Last month, Wine Spectator published this roundup of 9 pizza restaurants around the US with outstanding wine lists. It came as no surprise that Marta, Danny Meyer’s stylish foray into thin crust, made the cut; as Wine Spectator tells us, “the 250-selection list, with strengths in …Italy, featur[es] many options in the $50-and-under range.”

We asked Courtney Schiessl, sommelier at Marta, located in the Redbury Hotel in Manhattan, what she thinks makes pizza and wine a match made in heaven.

“Pizza with wine is a no-brainer; think of wine as an expansion of the already-broad range of toppings that can adorn a pizza, just in liquid form. How will the wine “topping” compliment and contrast the pie topping? A meat-lovers pizza is an entirely different dish than a white pizza with fresh veggies, and therefore could be paired with an entirely different wine, turning make-your-own-pizza night into an adventure.”Pizza 2

Franciacorta is particularly well-suited to pizza; its vibrant acidity adds a clean contrast to rich toppings like cured meat and cheese, and its zesty minerality pair well with sautéed vegetables, onions and garlic.

“At Marta, our favorite pairing with pizza is sparkling wine,” agrees Schiessl. “Pizza is meant to be casual and fun, and what’s more fun and delicious than bubbly? Sparkling wine is also incredibly versatile and food-friendly, due to its fresh, clean fruit flavors and bright acidity. Franciacorta comes from a warmer climate…so the wines tend to be more richly fruity. This makes Franciacorta perfect for pizzas with heartier toppings like sausage, guanciale, gooey cheeses, or even pineapple. Plus, the best part of an impromptu pizza and Franciacorta party: no wine opener required!”

So whether your next pizza night involves your perfected homemade crust with sautéed veggies, or your favorite take-out sausage pie, make the flavors shine with a bottle of Barone Pizzini Franciacorta.

Brescian rotisserie, a classic Franciacorta dish

spiedo bresciano

Above: a traditional “spiedo bresciano” must be roasted slowly for a minimum of four hours (image via M@rcello;-)’s Flickr, Creative Commons).

Called spet in Franciacrota dialect (akin to the English spit), the spiedo bresciano or Brescian rotisserie is a classic specialty of Brescia province, where Franciacorta is located. A king among Brescian dishes, the spiedo bresciano has developed a cult following over the centuries.

Its important role in Brescian culture stretches back to the way that hunting was regulated on lands and reserves owned by Lombard aristocrats. Villagers were not allowed to hunt large game like deer, roebuck, or boar, for example. But land owners had little regard for small game and fowl that could be hunted using nets, bow and arrow, or various traps — techniques that could be implemented with scarce resources.

With this “bounty,” villagers had access to important animal-based protein in their diet, which was otherwise based on flour dumplings, polenta, and other soups. Originally, the spiedo was prepared exclusively with small fowl and cooking times were long. By turning the spit at regular intervals, the hunters could cook the small birds — robins and finches — that they had killed. Cooking times were determined by the angle of the fire and the way the fowl were butchered.

spiedo plated

Above: the “spiedo bresciano” plated (image via Marco Lazzaroni’s Flickr, Creative Commons). Note the potato slices.

Today, the DE.CO. (the denominazione comunale or official local designation requires that the dish be comprised of birds, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and/or pork loin that has been cooked on a spit — called a ranfia locally — that has been turned over low heat for many hours. The preparation is known as spiedutura and it consists in alternating the various meats (the prese) in a uniform manner on the skewer.

Usually, the first ingredient to be skewered is a potato slice. Sage leaves are arranged between each ingredient and inside the pieces of meat. Fatty meat is arranged close to the fowl in order to keep the birds soft and to keep them from becoming dry during the cooking process. The ingredients are never squeezed or pressed on one another. They are simply arranged on the skewer in a uniform manner in order to ensure that they cook evenly.

atlante spiedo bresciano

Above: the “Spiedo Bresciano Atlas” (image via Made in Brescia).

Traditionally, the meats are cooked very slowly, for at least four hours. This guarantees that they will be tender but fully cooked. Specially built, broad ovens are used to cook this dish. They consist of a mounted rotating drum, with a source of heat below and a hood with holes above that extends over the entire length of the oven.

Wood can be used to fire the oven, including olive wood or grape vines. Charcoal can also be used. Although electric-fired rotisserie ovens do exist, they are typically considered an inferior cooking method with respect to flame-fired rotisserie.

During cooking, the skewers are basted and dressed with a mixture of rendered butter and lard and salt that is reserved in a tub beneath the oven. The mixture is distributed constantly on the hood above so that it can drip evenly on the roasting meat below.

Source: Slow Food (local chapter) Oglio, Franciacorta, Lago d’Iseo (not available online). Translation by Barone Pizzini blogmaster Jeremy Parzen.

A weekend of art & culture at Barone Pizzini: events and tastings Saturday & Sunday

Barone Pizzini, the first winery in Franciacorta to believe in natural viticulture as the key to attaining the highest quality possible, presents a series of events and tastings featuring painting, music, food, and… Franciacorta, of course!

Currently, the main tasting room at the winery features a show devoted to the paintings of Armando Riva, an artist who has lived in and depicted Lake Iseo and Franciacorta for many years now. His fascination to these two worlds is as vibrant as the works he produces.

sardines dried iseo

Above: Fresh-water sardines being dried along the banks of Lake Iseo. Chef Vittorio Fusari is a champion of locally sourced ingredients in his cooking. Image via Slowfood Oglio, Franciacorta, Lago d’Iseo.

Please call +39 030 9848311 or email info@BaronePizzini.it to reserve!

June 1 & 2 (all-day events)
Winery Tour and Tastings

Franciacorta Brut and Satén paired with Traditional Dried Fresh-Water Sardines from Lake Iseo and other food pairing prepared by Chef Vittorio Fusari, known for his impeccably sourced ingredients and mastery in the kitchen.

Reservations required.
€15 per person.

June 2, 11:00 a.m.
Jazz & Ragtime Concert

followed by winery tour and tasting

Reservations required.
€18 per person.

Our Franciacorta is organically farmed and our carbon footprint is closely regulated. Your visit to the winery helps to promote awareness of Franciacorta wines and Franciacorta the appellation.

Lunch at Dispensa Pani e Vini in Erbusco was superlative…

european white fish

Marinated coregone (Coregonus lavaretus, European white fish) served with an “ice cream marinade.”

There is no one who can rival the fresh-water fish mastery of chef Vittorio Fusari at his amazing Dispensa Pani e Vini (“Bread and Wine Dispensary”) in the village of Torbiato di Adro (in the province of Brescia).

The restaurant is a temple to locally sourced lake fish and sparkling wine (including many French labels).

fried perch italy

Gently fried perch (Perca fluviatilis) served over a potato “millefoglie.”

I had the great fortune of being treated to lunch at the “dispensary” by Silvano during my recent and very short trip to Italy.

I love the intelligence and elegance of Vittorio’s cooking.

sauteed white fish italy

Vittorio called this superb however simple dish “bread and salt” coregone fillets.

And he expresses his devotion to local fisherman through the eloquence of his menu.

I can’t recommend his restaurant highly enough. This meal alone would have made the trip worthwhile…

—Jeremy Parzen