An Italian Lunch at the Home of Giacinto and Marina Brovia
Excerpt from “Reflections of a Wine Merchant” By: Neal Rosenthal
“Lunch was nourishing and tasty and simple, filled with dishes made from local products, including peaches from the Brovia farm that had been marinated in Barolo. We have dined together at that same table probably fifty times over the past quarter century. The rituals are always the same, while the menu rotates among a small but delicious meal that Marina Brovia has mastered. We always do our tasting first, seated in a room adjacent to the cantina. We start with the white Arneis and continue through the Dolcettos, on to the Barberas, with a quick stopover to consider the traditional Freisa with its occasional spritz…
The open bottles are then brought to the dining room and worked through again as we take turns marrying the wines with the various dishes that arrive from the kitchen where Marina toils, pretty much alone, to prepare a six- or seven-course meal.
“Meals here start with an impeccable selection of sausages and salamis and prosciuttos, each with a different marble of fat, more or less salty, soft and tender or drier and chewy. Then there is often a plate of peppers that have been marinated in oil with herbs, or a vitello tonnato, thin slices of veal served cold with a tuna-infused mayonnaise dotted as well with capers. The pasta that follows is always handmade and most frequently dressed with a ragù. Breadsticks of different shapes and degrees of brittleness are scattered around the table so that, during the intervals between courses, there is always something to munch on. Water, a choice of still or sparkling, is poured from cut-crystal decanters. Beef of exquisite quality, either braised for a day or more or, at the other extreme, merely seared quickly, follows the pasta. Two or three cheeses are then presented, usually including an aged Parmesan that has sweet milky flavor and a crystallized crunch, and always there is a fine local cheese, sometimes, if I am there in the spring, the fabled Castelmagno, a rich and sometimes runny fresh cow’s-milk cheese from the hills around Cuneo. Desserts include fresh fruit in early autumn or preserved fruit in the winter or spring, and a dry crusty tart that makes one thirsty for more wine. The herb-infused Barolo Chinato appears occasionally, and dense espresso concludes the afternoon.”
Neal Rosenthal owns New York based importing company, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, specializing in wines from France and Italy. Spirits Wine Cellar stocks several wines imported by his company.