It’s “Mangia Bene” when Italians throw a party at Il Fornaio

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Taste of Wine by Frank Mangio
I knew it would be a memorable evening when I set first set foot inside the iconic Italian restaurant, Il Fornaio in Del Mar a short time ago. The section for this special “Piemonte” dinner and wine pairing was one long banquet table with dozens of happy faces, face to face.

clip_image004“Piemonte,” the Piedmont District of Northern Italy, is rich in culinary and wine history. Its first recorded wines were made some 3,000 years ago. It’s the home of Barolo and Barbaresco, towns that became famous for making some of the finest traditional Italian wines. But let’s give credit to the food first. Il Fornaio’s General Manager, the congenial Mathew Galli, followed Italian custom with a five part harmony of food service: Assaggini, Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and Dolce. Primi is always a pasta based dish and this time there were two: a risotto with scallops and a roasted butternut squash ravioli. Secondi, the main entree, was a roasted fish fillet plus a braised wild boar shoulder. Dolce, the dessert, was a hazlenut and amaretto chocolate custard. And so it was “Mangia Bene,” the Italian phrase for “great eating.” Of course great eating in Italy is always better with great wine and on this night, Batasiolo with its Barolo heavyweight was king, although Batasiolo’s Barbera entry, served with risotto and the squash ravioli, won new fans with its medium bodied acidity and smooth flow though the palate. It’s perfect for light pasta dishes.

clip_image006Barolo of course takes center stage, coming from the town of the same name, a small, tucked away district in Piedmont, perfect growing conditions for the native grape called Nebbiolo. This is the backbone for Barolo and gives it the deep ruby red, spicy aroma. It is often called the “King of Italian Wines” for a velvety but powerful taste. It was served appropriately with the wild boar shoulder at the Il Fornaio Italian occasion.”Piemonte” means foot of the mountain and is the largest region in Italy, which has only been a unified country for 150 years. The terrain is so steep in most areas that it is far from being the largest producer of wine. But if only fine wines are counted, it is right up there with the Tuscany and Veneto areas. For big, soul-warming wines, try the Batasiolo 2008 Barolo, the world’s leading producer of Barolo. ($45.) Il Fornaio is continuing its “Festa Regionale” series with the food and wine of Calabria, now through March 17. For more, go to http://www.ilfornaio.com/.

2012 Great Year for Wine Sales in the U.S.
Wine Spectator reports that 325 million cases of wine were bought in 2012 in this country, 2% over last year and passing France as the world’s biggest wine market. Export sales were 1.4 Billion Dollars, with 90% of those sales coming from California. And the price of a bottle, on average, is moving up past $9. and above. Gallo Winery’s President is quoted as saying “more than 15,000 U.S. citizens per day are reaching the legal drinking age,” along with a major shift toward wine consumption among younger drinkers.

Wine Bytes

â-Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge overlooking the beach in Carlsbad, now has select half price wines on Tuesdays. Lots of Sonoma and Napa Valley choices. For details and RSVP’s call 760-683-5500.

â-San Diego Wine Company on Miramar Road has a Cabernet Tasting, Sat. March 9 from 11am to 4pm for just $10. Details at 858-586-WINE.

â-Bistro West in Carlsbad is presenting a Napa Valley Whitehall Lane Wine Dinner Tues. March 12 at 6:30pm. $75. pp. To reserve seating phone 760-930-8008.

â-A high-end Cabernet tasting is coming to Bacchus Wine Market downtown San Diego, Fri. March 15 from 4 to 8:30pm. 7 great tastes for $35. More by calling 619-236-0005.

â-Europa Village in Temecula Wine Country brings guitarist Jimmy Patton in for a St Patrick’s Day concert, Sun. March17 from 1 to 4pm. Free admission. Try their green Sangria. Wear green for a costume contest. Details at 951-216-3380.