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Feb 22, 2022

To truly understand Italian wine, you have to understand its integral ties to Italian culture. In Italy, food and wine tell the story of a region’s cultural identity, history, and the character of its people. With my recent seminars on Sicilia (on YouTube if you missed them), and an impending trip to Piedmont with a group of Wine for Normal People listeners, the interplay of Italian wine, food, and culture has been top of mind. It was in this context that I invited the famed New York restaurateur, and Italian cultural advocate, Gianfranco Sorrentino, on the show.

 

Gianfranco is originally from Naples in southern Italy and after many years of managing restaurants all over Europe and Asia, he settled in New York. He learned the ropes, working for some of the most prestigious restaurants in Manhattan and then opening the first fine dining establishment in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

 

He opened his first venture, Il Gattopardo, in New York in 2001 (a very difficult time to open!). In 2011, he opened The Leopard at des Artistes, his restaurant in the New York landmark Hotel des Artistes and, in 2014, Mozzarella e Vino opened directly across from MoMA.

 

 

Gianfranco is a passionate advocate of Italian food, wine and culture and he is also the founder of Gruppo Italiano (GI), an evolution from the original Gruppo Ristoranti Italiani (GRI), which was established in 1979. The group works to promote awareness of Italian wines, cuisine, and products and to help people in the US understand and appreciate the beauty of the Italian culture and its unbreakable tie to wine and food. Although he is based in the US, Gianfranco has a global view and everyone can learn  from the discussion Gianfranco and I have about the landscape of Italian food, wine, and culture, and the special importance of supporting small producers and keeping traditions alive.

 

 

All Gianfranco’s restaurants use authentic ingredients to that highlight the traditions of Italian culture and hospitality. The three are in Manhattan:

  • Il Gattopardo (ilgattopardonyc.com, 13-15 West 54th Street) serves traditional Southern Italian food with a contemporary twist. It is Gianfranco’s original restaurant and is award winning and a New York institution.

  • The Leopard at des Artistes (theleopardnyc.com, 1 West 67th Street) is in the famed Hotel des Artistes. The Leopard emphasizes food from “The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies’-- the regions of Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily. The dishes are a balance of rural elements from these regions and include pasta, vegetables, cheese, and fresh seafood.

  • Mozzarella & Vino (mozzarellaevino.com, 33 West 54th Street) is across from MoMA on 54th Street, is a more casual dining experience and, as the name suggests, ingredients focus on Mozzarella di bufala, and on wines from family estates and independent Italian winemakers.

Also, if you are interested, here is the book we discussed in the show, “The Leopard”

Grapes we discuss: Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Pallagrello Bianco, Piedirosso/Per'e Palummo, Aglianico

 

I hope the show gives you a new appreciation for how wine and food are more than just nutrition and libation for Italians!

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