Today we are talking about a beautiful tasting dinner that was held in Palermo, in the enchanting setting of the historic center of the city that reached its highest splendor during the Middle Age, from the domination of the Arabs to the Swabian period of Frederick II. We organized it with Marilena, the manager of the AI NORMANNI restaurant that is located next to the beautiful “Palazzo dei Normanni”, pearl of Arab-Norman architecture, which today is the Sicilian Regional Assembly. But, over the centuries, it has been the headquarter of all Sicilian rulers (from the Normans to the Swabians, from the Angevins to the Aragonese, to the Bourbons .. ). By the way, it’s a stone’s throw away from the coeval and amazing Palermo Cathedral.
Immersed in such beauty, we could not but try to get closer, looking for a meeting of smells and flavors, but above all between traditions of territories that could not be more different. A sort of syncretism “Sicilia-Piemonte” between great wines of the Piedmontese tradition and gourmet dishes of Sicilian cuisine. Alongside the dishes prepared in the AI NORMANNI restaurant, the wines of the Cellar from Neviglie by Roberto Sarotto were put in the spotlight.
Roberto Sarotto has been operating in Langhe of Barolo and Barbaresco for more than thirty years. With more than 90 hectares of vineyards planted in nearby Monferrato, in addition to Barolo and Barbaresco, he produces the entire range of wines of southern Piedmont: from Barbera d’Alba to Arneis, from Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti to Gavi di Gavi. A range of over 20 wines of the Piedmontese tradition, including Barolo chinato, not to mention the grappa made by distilling the skins of Moscato, Barbaresco and Barolo.
But let’s go back to the dinner that began with a salad of squid, cooked at low temperature, with citrus fruits, then seasoned with cherry tomatoes and aromatic herbs. But, what were we drinking? Langhe Arneis, characterized by floral aromas and an explosion of freshness, but also by a certain softness that was well balanced against the sweetish tendency and the aromaticity of the dish. With the second starter, mussels cooked with bay leaves and citrus fruits on creamed potatoes, garnished with salicornia, we matched Gavi di Gavi Bric Sassi, made with Cortese grapes, a wine that is particularly mineral, softer than the previous one, which plays on fruity notes, and also has a beautiful acidity. Also, in this case, the freshenss of the wine and its softness have fused together well with the structure and the aromas of the dish.
Let’s move on to the two first courses. With the first, ravioli stuffed with grouper in tomato and shrimp gazpacho, we chose Langhe Rosé made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes, which is very fragrant, quite bodied, fresh and versatile. This wine completely embraced the ravioli giving great satisfaction to the palate. Then, it was the turn of pasta with “anciova“, a really tasty dish that belongs to the traditional cuisine of Palermo, with anchovies, tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts and toasted breadcrumbs. To such goodness we combined Barbera Briccomacchia, a beautiful interpretation of Barbera, that is refined for eight months in big barrels. The Barbera’s freshness contrasted well with the sweetish tendency and very rich aromas of this dish.
We have now reached the main courses, curious to find out what the evening still reserved for us. With the marinated and smoked mackerel we combined Dolcetto d’Alba served cold. To balance the strong flavor of bluefish, widely used in Sicilian cuisine, we chose the only red of the Sarotto Cellar that wasn’t aged in wood. By the way, because it didn’t have particularly strong tannins at a lower service temperature there were no particular bitter notes, making the Dolcetto a wine suitable also for particularly complex sea dishes such as those based on mackerel.
Finally, it was time for the Palermo boiled beef salad which we paired with two expressions of Nebbiolo, the main grapes of Langhe: Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbaresco Currà Riserva. The boiled beef with onion, capers and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, found the right match with the two Nebbiolo wines. The succulence of the meat and significant tannins of the two wines balanced perfectly. Just a note about Barbaresco Currà Riserva; this wine, produced with Nebbiolo grapes from the Currà vineyard, cru of the municipality of Neive, is a traditional Barbaresco that is aged for 24 months in large barrels. The texture and taste-olfactory persistence of Currà were adequate for the structure and aromaticity of the dish.
It is always nice to talk about a dinner like this, a pleasure surpassed only by having experienced these moments. We will always remember the goodness of the dishes made, thanks to the quality of the ingredients, and the extraordinary level of Roberto Sarotto wines chosen for the occasion. The goal of the evening was to find harmony with classic and unusual combinations, a success!