Wine, the elixir of life!

Wine, the elixir of life!

Did you know that you are sipping on thousands of years of history every time you have a glass of wine?

The divine drink consumption could be as old as humankind, and its discovery is most likely accidental. Fermentation happens naturally and spontaneously because the yeasts that ferment the sugar are present on the grape’s skin. Just a couple of crashed fruits and the magic would start happening.

Although there is evidence that fermented grapes were typical in Asia in 6000 BC, the oldest archeologic winery ever found was in Armenia, dating 4000 B.C: the site had a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups.

In ancient Egypt, the wine was mostly found in festivals and special occasions. It was believed to have divine qualities, therefore associated with deities such as Osiris, Horus, Hathor, and Shesmu. The intoxicating effects would help to connect with the ancestors, breaking the barriers between life and death.
Traces of wine were also found in some of the Pharaoh’s tombs, together with hieroglyphs showing cultivations, harvesting, and winemaking.

Thanks to an extensive trade in the Mediterranean basin, wine spread quickly in the Greeks and Romans’ empires.

The ancient Greeks took viticulture (the cultivation of grape) very seriously, studying soils and matching it to specific grapevines. Some regions implemented techniques of cultivation to gather better quality of the wine. They often added resins, herbs, and spices to improve the taste.
Wine was always mixed with water, as they believed that the undiluted drink could drive a man insane, and even kill him.
However, the Greeks used it also for its medicinal properties: doctors prescribed it to cure fevers, as an antiseptic, or to aid digestion.

Dionysus was the God of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, wine, fertility, theatre, and celebrations. Wine was a symbol of his icona, and several festivals were held in his name.

Trading and the cultivation of Vitis Vinifera throughout Greek colonies in Europe made spread wine culture to other parts of the Mediterranean basin.
The Roman Empire made winemaking a real business, improving technologies to ease the drink’s production, storing, and flavoring.
They believed that wine had to be available to everyone, rich or poor. Hence, to ensure a constant supply, grapes cultivation was spread to all Roman Empire parts. We also have to consider that water was often not potable, so adding a little bit of wine could decrease health risks.

La vendemmia: harvesting in Italy

Now that we traveled through time, let’s take a trip to our favorite country for a super special time of the year: la Vendemmia, or harvesting. Find here more links to the best locations for grape harvesting in Italy.
Throughout the year, differing from Region to Region, but mainly starting mid-September, Italy is bursting with Fairs and Festivals where you can celebrate the grape harvest.

Although not in the top 5 wine producers, Tuscany is one of the main Regions for celebrations. You might not be able to participate in the actual harvest, but the events usually held in the main squares of some of the villages will be displaying stands where you can taste local food and wine while enjoying arts and music. You can check Tuscany’s calendar event before organizing your trip to experience more than one.

Quite unmissable is the Grape Festival of Impruneta, one of the oldest running Italian Festival. The 4 neighborhoods will be challenging each other with floats and locals in medieval and traditional costumes.

While most of the Festival will be held in Fall, the Region of Veneto – the land of the world-famous Prosecco – has its main event, “la Primavera del Prosecco,” from March throughout June.

Grape harvesting is hard work, but especially for smaller vineyard, it is always a great way to get all the family and friends together. Once the grapes reach the perfect grade of ripeness, each cluster will be harvested manually and carefully put into a basket. It is particularly important not to break the skin, or the fermentation process will start. The fruits will have to be destemmed, put into tanks where they will be pressed, and start fermenting.

Once the bubbling is finished, meaning the yeast ate all the sugars, the wine will be transferred into a “damigiana.” This is a large round glass bottle covered in a protective straw layer where the wine will sit until it is ready to be put in smaller bottles (750ml).

As you might imagine, stomping, or crushing wine by foot, is no longer done due to hygienic reasons.

Red, White, or Rosè?

The production of red wines will keep both skin and grape seeds, while white wines will be with the pulp only.
As for rosè wines, skins and seeds will be fermenting with the pulp from 24 to 36 hours max.
All skins will be removed for the production of white wines.

If you are a wine lover, we gave you another reason to visit the beautiful Bel Paese of Italy.
If, however, you want to take your palate on a sensory journey, come by our Restaurant. Our extensive Wine Menu will take you to some of the best Italian vineyards.

Grapes: the food of the Gods on your table!

Grapes: the food of the Gods on your table!

According to archeological evidence, grapes are among the most ancient fruits on Earth. However, its cultivation began 6,000-8,000 years ago in the Near East, when peoples gave up the nomadic life to finally settle down.

We can find purple grapes in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as written records about its cultivation and consumption (both for eating and wine production) among the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans, often describing it as food of the Gods.

The growing of grapes (mainly Vitis Vinifera) would later spread to other regions in Europe and North Africa, and eventually in North America, where wild grapes – unsuitable for winemaking – were already part of the diet of Native Americans.

Red, white, and rosé: there are an estimated 10,000 types of grapes in the Vitace family, but only 1300 are used to produce wines. There are many other uses for this “divine” fruit!

Let’s have a look!

Healthy, tasty with a limitless potential

  • Table grapes belong to the same species as wine grapes but have quite a few differences: larger, seedless, and with a thinner skin. As the name suggests, this is the type of vine fruit that you will be eating raw. They account for about 36% of the total production of grapes worldwide.
  • Wine grapes are cultivated in all the world’s major wine regions. The fruits are smaller, sweeter, with seeds and a thick skin – as the aroma comes from it. To make the wine, they will be harvested when their sugar peak will reach 24% of their total weight. Wine grapes make for 57% of the total worldwide production of “God’s fruit.”
  • Raisins are dried grapes that can be eaten raw or used in cooking and baking. Their varieties depend on the grapes used; hence they can be different colors and sizes, and sometimes even names (e.g., currants, sultanas, golden raisins). Raising are traditionally sun-dried, but nowadays they can get artificially dehydrated and often treated with preservative.
    Raisins make for 7% of total grapes productions – about 1,3 million tons- and the top three producing countries are Turkey, the USA, and China.
  • Grape juice is made from crushing and blending the fruit into a liquid and can be an excellent alcohol-free alternative to wine. Just like grapes, the juice has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s often used as a detox drink. In 1869, in New Jersey, Dr. Thomas Welch was the first to produce unfermented grape juice. The variety used was Concord grape: robust and aromatic but above all, a perfect mix between the Native American species and the European ones, able to cope with the first autumn frost.
    In 1918, Dr. Welch created “Grapelade,” a modern version of an old fashion Jam, distributed to the soldier in WW1 as part of their ration. It became such a success in a few years that a retail version was launched in 1923.
Red grape juice in glass and grape fruit
  • Let’s not forget about wine vinegar! Like wine, it can be either white or red, and it’s produced by the process of fermentation and oxidization into an acid. On top of being an irreplaceable item for cooking, baking, or salads, it can also be used for many cleaning purposes.
  • In most Mediterranean countries and in some parts of Asia, grape leaves (also called vine leaves ) are stuffed with a mix of rice, veggies, meat, and spices to make a succulent appetizer.

We do get another two exceptional products from the wine industry’s byproducts: grape seed oil and cream of tartar.

  • Grape seed oil is used in cooking and is quite popular in the cosmetic industry due to its high content of Vitamin E and Omega 6 fatty- acid.
  • If you are familiar with baking, you have most certainly heard about the cream of tartar before!
    This magic ingredient is found in the sediment left behind in barrels after the wine has been fermented, and it gets purified into the powdery white substance.

The world produces just a little bit less than 78 million tons of grapes every year, making China, Italy, USA, Spain, and France the market leaders!

Tasty, healthy snack option with limitless potential!

Grapes are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and packed with antioxidants, and as we have seen, there are lots of ways you can add them to your diet.

Looking for some more ideas?

Freeze some of the fruits, use them instead of ice cubes in drinks, or naturally sweeten your smoothies!

Background photo created by topntp26 – www.freepik.com

We are now in the harvest season: don’t miss out on finding out what type of grapes are available in your area, and savor the different flavors.

Basil: from your pot to your table!

Basil: from your pot to your table!

For most Italians, the smell of sweet basil is the fragrance of the summer.
You simply cannot have a tomato salad without the delicate aromatic herb in it!

Although it is an extremely popular herb in Italy and all over the Mediterranean countries, basil is originally from India. In the Asian Continent, however, it is known mainly as “Tulsi” (Sacred Basil in Hindi), and it is widely used in Indian and Thai cooking.
Like many other popular culinary herbs, basil has a dozen varieties. Still, Sweet Basil (Ocimum Bacilicum) and Basilico Genovese are the only varieties used in Italian kitchens.

The basil leaves are not only a fantastic addition to your summer dishes. In fact, according to folk remedies, they are great to cure nausea and bug bites. They are also widely used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

5 tips for growing your endless supply for the summer!

Basil can be used dried, though its spicy and peppery flavor is at its absolute best when fresh (some would say it has a hint of clove and mint to the aroma too).

Since running to the store every day is not an ideal situation for most of us, you can grow your own!
It can be effortlessly done either in your garden or directly in a pot next to a sunny window.

If you think your green thumb needs a little help for the first time you try to grow it at home, it would be best to get some starter plants at your nearest greenhouse or at the farmer market, and then transplant them in a bigger vase right away.
Alternatively, you can make a new plant from a stem: put it in water until roots start to grow, and then transplant it into a bigger vase.

Taking care of your little plant is easy: just follow these steps.

  1. Keep the plants well exposed to the sun, and try to avoid temperature lower than 60° F.
  2. Water them every day. Check the soil before doing so, as different temperatures will require different amounts of water. If you live in a very hot climate, you might need to water them even twice a day!
  3. Harvest Basil when you need it, but it is always better to cut off the stems so that the plants will create more in a few days!
  4. Pinch the flowers off! This action will get the plants to produce more branches and more leaves. Do not throw away the flowers: you can either add them to your favorite dressing or dry them to get the seeds for the following year!
  5. Basil leaves are very delicate, so we recommend picking them only when you need to use them directly.

Presto: let’s make some fresh Pesto!

Undoubtedly the most famous recipe with the amazing tasty herb is Pesto.
Let’s try making the authentic “Pesto alla Genovese” together!

See here the CONSORZIO DEL PESTO GENOVESE website, with the authentic recipe (in Italian).

Before gathering all the ingredients and following precisely the recipe from the Italian tradition, you need to find a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.

Ingredients for 300 grams of Pasta (3 generous portions):

  • 25 leaves of fresh Basil (Genovese variety)
  • ¼ of a glass of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (it would be best if from the Liguria Region)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pecorino DOP
  • 1 clove of garlic (the sweetest variety you can find)
  • ½ tablespoon of Pine nuts (alternately you can use walnuts)
  • A few grains of coarse salt
  • A lot of patience

Directions:

  • Wash the leaves in cold water and get them to dry naturally on a cloth
  • Crush the garlic clove slowly together with your coarse salt, until it gets creamy
  • Add the pine nuts and carry on, pounding delicately.
  • Start adding the basil, about ten leaves at the time. Crush and pound them in a delicate circular motion. This action is necessary to keep in all the essential oil from the plant and get your sauce bursting with flavor. Once the first batch becomes a beautiful creamy paste, add the next batch and so on.
  • You can add both of the cheeses and keep on pounding. 
  • Finally, slowly drizzle the Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the mix until it is all absorbed.

Well done: your fresh Pesto is now ready to be used!

The good news is that Pesto, just like basil leaves, is versatile and can be used in a great variety of dishes: Pasta, lasagna, rice, omelets, salads, soups, steam vegetables, or meat, and obviously pizza!
The only limit is your imagination.

Therefore, surprise your friends and family even more!
Try serving them this interpretation of the classic cocktail Mojito, with a unique twist!
Let’s prepare an exquisite Basito Cocktail!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of cane sugar
  • ½ lime, cut in slices
  • 1,5 oz of white rum
  • Ginger ale or club soda
  • Ice

Directions:

Stir sugar and lime in a glass; add your basil leaves and muddle.
Add the rum and stir. Add the ginger ale or the club soda and stir.
Add some crushed ice and ENJOY!

If you want to see how versatile Basil can be, pop by and look at our Menu: from appetizers to Pizza and Pasta, mains, and cocktails!
If you love real Italian cooking, you must love Basil!
And we do!

Seven facts you did not know about garlic

Seven facts you did not know about garlic

Garlic: you either hate it, or you simply love it.

We are sure that you ate it more than once in your life, but did you know this fantastic vegetable can do more than add taste to your dishes? The main reason it spread worldwide is for its medicinal properties.
Let’s take a journey through time and around the world together to discover more!

From where does garlic come?

Garlic is originally from Central Asia, where it is still growing wild.
It is easy to cultivate in most of the climates, and easy to carry around once dried. It is no surprise that every ancient population started to grow garlic as soon as they were introduced to it.

According to Jethro Kloss’s book Back to Eden, “for nearly as long as there has been a written record of history, garlic has been mentioned as a food.” However,  men were likely using the “magic bulb” way before he could write about it.

Ancient Egyptians were already aware of its properties. They used it to prevent any disease and to gain strength.

In ancient India, the text of Charaka-Samhita recommends garlic to treat heart disease and arthritis. Some later books suggest its use for infections, infestations and worms, weakness and fatigue, and a variety of digestive disturbances.

Chinese were using it as a food preservative, as well as for treating sadness and depression or aiding respiration and digestion.

Ancient Greeks used it to increase energy and work capacity; therefore, athletes and warriors were avid consumers. However, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, advised using it to cure asthma, treat dog bites and wounds, and repel scorpions.

In ancient Rome, just like in Greece, athletes, warriors, and sailors ate it to improve their toughness. Moreover, Pliny the Elder wrote five volumes of Historica Naturalis, where he listed 23 different garlic uses.
Thanks to the Romans, the use of the “magic vegetable” spread throughout Europe. Monks used to grow it in Monasteries and teach about its therapeutic properties, adding it to the other plants already in use.

Its medicinal use became more extensive from the Middle Ages: digestive disorders, kidney stones, constipation relief, toothache, cold, and flu. It was considered of great aid during the Plague and to repel evil spirits too.

It reached the New Word with the European sailors, who extensively used it to ward off disease and increase their toughness.

So here are some fun facts about this wonderful vegetable!

  1. Archeologists found perfectly preserved garlic in Tutankhamun’s tomb, who ruled from 1334 BC to 1325 BC.
  2. Garlic is a blood purifier. As often used to get rid of parasites, “necklaces” of garlic were commonly found from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages. This custom might be the origin of the legend about how to ward off vampires, as they were considered vile as parasites.
  3. In 2016, worldwide garlic production reached over 21 million tons with China as an absolute leader, followed by India and Bangladesh.
  4. One clove of garlic contains Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Selenium. No wonder it can help with hair loss and keeping your skin young.
  5. How to get rid of garlic breath? Drink milk before a meal or chew fresh parsley or mint. Eating a raw apple or drinking lemon juice may also help.
  6. In the Middle Ages during the Plague, doctors used to wear a face mask that was soaked in garlic juice to protect themselves from catching any disease.
  7. The fear of garlic is called alliumphobia.

Contemporary researchers confirm the majority of what common beliefs used to be, in the past generations all over the world, and add new benefits to the list.

Did you know that a little clove of garlic could be so powerful for you, on top of being extremely tasty?

Although it can be tremendously beneficial to add to your diet, we strongly recommend you checking with your doctor before doing so. Never underestimate the power of plants!

Can you guess which dishes on our menu have garlic?

Easter time in Italy

Easter time in Italy

In Italy, Easter (Pasqua) is the second biggest holiday after Christmas.
It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following Spring Equinox. It is also linked to the Carnevale celebration, at the end of which the period of Lent (Quaresima) starts. This period symbolizes the 40 days that Christ spent in the desert before His Death on the Cross. Consequently, it terminates on Easter Sunday.
The week leading to Easter is called Holy Week (Settimana Santa), and has a calendar rich in events. They focus on the Passion (meant as suffering) and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The end of this period is marked with a massive feast on Pasqua and Pasquetta (Easter Monday).

Holy Week: La Settimana Santa

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (La Domenica delle Palme) when olive branches are blessed during Mass and then distributed to the people. This is a reminder of the day when the Messahia arrived in Jerusalem.
Although every day of the week is marked with the commemoration of the last days of Jesus’ life, the most significant celebrations will take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Holy Thursday is about the symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper with the Apostles. During Mass, the Priest washes the feet of twelve members of the community to remind them about humility and sacrifice.

On Holy Friday, the Procession of the Via Crucis takes place. Every region and every town has a different way of bringing back to life the last day of Jesus, carrying his cross.

Holy Saturday is dedicated to reflection and silence to contemplate the death of the Lord. At around 10 pm, Easter Vigil starts with the most important Mass of the year that carries on until early Sunday morning. A Candle is kindled, reminding all that Christ is light and life.

Let the celebration and the feast begin on Easter Sunday (Pasqua)! Solemn Mass is held in all churches, and right after, all families sit together and eat one of the most generous meals of the year.
On Easter Monday (Pasquetta), friends usually gather together to carry on eating and celebrating with a joyful picnic or barbecue, weather permitting.

Easter on the Italian’s tables

Sunday Easter feast changes from Region to Region, however roast lambs (symbol of birth) and eggs (symbols of fertility and renewal) are inevitably on all tables. Eggs can be dyed and painted as a decoration, used in soups or quiches (Torta Pasqualina). Still, no house is left without a Chocolate Egg.

They do come in every size, from commercial to handcrafted, and they all have gifts inside. For those who are not keen on chocolate, they can finish their meal with a slice of Colomba: a Dove shaped cake with candied fruits.

Traditional food in Naples starts on a Thursday night with a mussel soup. The origin of this meal traces back to King Ferdinand at the beginning of 1800. The soup is very simple and affordable for everyone: cooked with tomatoes, chili peppers, and some toasted bread on the side.

The unmissable on the table, however, are the Casatiello, the Lamb with potatoes, and finally the Pastiera Napoletana.
Casatiello is a round bread dough, stuffed with traditional cold meats, cheese, and decorated with nested boiled eggs. It’s prepared on Friday and then eaten on Saturday and on Easter day as well.

Lamb is probably the most common main dish in all traditions at this time of the year. However, in Naples, it can be replaced as well with a baby goat: il Capretto alla Napoletana. The meat will be marinated in red wine and herbs for a whole night and then cooked a couple of hours before the feast begins.

The real Queen of the table, however, will always be the Pastiera Napoletana.

This delicacy probably traces back to Pagan times to celebrate Spring, and it was then adopted by the Christians. The main ingredients are sheep’s ricotta, cooked whole grain wheat, eggs, fruit candies, honey, and orange blossoms water.
This heavenly mixture fills a delicate shortbread pastry. The perfect balance is assured to conquer your palate at first bite.

If you are planning to visit Italy during this exceptional time, we highly recommend you to book plenty in advance. Hotels get overbooked really fast.

You also want to check bus and train timetables, as often transports only run a few times a day during Easter and Easter Monday.

BUONA PASQUA!!

Coronavirus Response

Coronavirus Response

The well-being of our Guests, Staff and the Community we serve will always be our primary concern.
In addition to our perpetual and unyielding attention to cleanliness, we have implemented the following measures at both Campania locations in response to the Coronavirus issue:

  • We will utilize single-use, pre-wrapped utensils as opposed to our normal silverware.
  • We will utilize only single-use menus
  • We will utilize single-use Parmesan and Red Pepper packets
  • There will be hand sanitizer at server stations and hostess stands for both Employees as well as Guests.
  • There will be a formal check-in process for all employees to ensure they are not experiencing any illness of ANY kind.


We will always error on the side of caution in evaluating an employee’s state of health.
We ask that you extend us some graceful patience during this time should we become short-staffed as a result.
We will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and The National Restaurant Association.
Finally, our staff is very efficient in handling To-Go orders and encourage you to take advantage of this should you like to enjoy Campania in the comforts of your home!