Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pizza in the Promised Land

I’ve been thinking (and eating) on this ‘ol blog lately. Last week in NY for the Vino2010 event, myself, along with others in the trade were hosted by the Italian Trade Commission. There has been some pondering on the current state of affairs regarding Italian wine along with the merchant’s responsibility to move business forward and the observers tendency to chronicle the pageant which unfolds, daily. With all of this thinking and observing one can work up quite an appetite, so last week, upon the invitation of Tom Hyland and Charles Scicolone, I headed to the West Village, to Bleeker Street, and Kesté Pizzeria for a night with the boys.

Charles’ friend Ernie DeSalvo, and winemaker Alberto Longo, also joined us, both contributing some great wines for the night.

Where to begin? After a long weekend in La Jolla, I was veering off the path that my self-enforced diet had taken me. But if there are temptations in California and New York, and there are, wait until I get to France and Italy next month. So I’d better get a grip on things now. But this night was devoted to pizza, and not just any pizza, but a veritable Mecca for pizza Napolitana.

I’ve had some great experiences in Italy and America with pizza, but Kesté ranks way up there. Wine with pizza is a toughie, I know there are folks who think pizza is for beer, but none the less some great wines popped up on the table.

Charles and Ernie brought a trio of wines from the vaults, a 1982 Grato Grati from Villa di Vetrice, a 1964 Spanna Castello di Montalbano and a 1958 Spanna from Vallana.

Starting with a duo of Battilocchio, long pizza-like rectangular affairs, reminding me of the Pannuozzo I’d had earlier in the winter (I wonder if anyone can explain the difference between Battilocchio and Pannuozzo). We eventually had several pizzas, among them a Margherita, a Vegetariano, a Prosciutto e Arugula and the signature Kesté, also with prosciutto, arugula, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.

Alberto, who lives north of Bari and has a place in the West Village (“an investment for my son”) brought one of his wines as well, a full bodied red that was fat and tan. We were living large.

Thanks to Ernie for his sunny and easygoing disposition. Tom Hyland (who also marvelously posted on his blog about the evening here) made sure the night was documented by his effervescent photography (this image of our female nearby-table mates from Australia was captured by his lustful eye). Alberto was pleasant company and his generosity that night was of the quintessential Southern gentleman type. And of course Charles, the lion in winter, Charles the brave heart, the soft spoken but vigilant warrior in the crusade to bring Italian wine to America's table. Has anyone ever properly accorded Charles the respect his is so rightfully due in being one of the beacons of light for Italian wine in America? Perhaps, but as with most of those who labor under the gaze of Bacchus, I rather imagine other ones with a louder shout and better p.r. placement in the media circus probably get undeserved credit for the contributions people like Charles have made. Let me just say, I don’t think – I know this is the truth- there is so much posturing in the Italian wine business, and on wine blogs about those who think they are “forze maggiori.” But behind the swagger and the shouting, there are the real forces, behind the curtains, making the history. Ok, there, I’ve said it.

I cannot imagine a better moment than the evening I had with this league of gentlemen. But this is just the first in a week of New York nights. So let us simply mark this as one of many to come, all of which will unfold on this indulgence of mine along the wine trail, sometimes in Italy, and once upon a time in America.


Adrian Reynolds said...

Great post...I worked for the "forza maggiore" of Italian wine but there's a lot to be said for having a known name and a large hospitality group behind you. And the pizza looked magnificent and wouldn't be out of place on the Via Tribunali. "This is it" indeed.

tom hyland said...


It was a magical evening, wasn't it? So nice of you to wax poetic about Charles - every word is well deserved.

As for my lustful eye, let's hope I never lose it! And I don't think I was the only one there with that same vision.

See my prose on this evening at:

Tracie P. said...

Panuozzo is made like a sandwich! That's the diff :). Great post ace!

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