The most striking aspect of visiting Italy is the immense welcome you receive at most restaurants. Walk into a bar for a glass of wine and you'll be offered a plate of small sandwiches or thinly sliced prosciutto. If you protest that you didn't order the nibbles, the quick answer is that you must eat something with your drink. The same goes at dinnertime. You're not even asked about whether you want a shot of sambuca; it's a given that you'll have some — on the house, of course.
That might be why Via Verdi's monthly wine-pairing dinner is so generous. The restaurant's partners are known to gift regulars with an after-dinner limoncello or a taste of a new dessert. That Italian spirit of sharing shows in this new series.
Each month, a different wine region or vineyard is showcased, paired with a four-course meal for $59. At the first dinner, a welcome glass of prosecco was refilled, as were the wines, making this one sweet deal. The dinner we attended featured Alma Wines, a company that produces wines from the regions of Apulia, Tuscany, Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice, and Abruzzo. Wines from the province of Piedmont, in the northwestern corner of Italy, were featured, each introduced by Alma general partner Marco Olivieri. Wines were also available for purchase, most under $20 a bottle (a steal for the prosecco DOCG).
The special dinner, which engulfed Via Verdi's interior dining room, was filled with lively conversation. As glasses happily clinked, restaurant partners Christoani Vezzoli, Fabrizio Carro, and Nicola Carro made the rounds from table to table, refreshing pours, chatting with guests, and generally being great hosts of an event that became less of an evening at a restaurant and more of a warm dinner party.
Artichoke salad with robiola was paired with a 2013 Arneis, made from grapes grown in Roero in the south of Piedmont.
A meatball made with green cabbage and veal was paired with a crisp 2013 Gavi. The grapes are grown 350 meters above sea level, giving the wine a minerally, almost salty finish.
Spinach ricotta gnudi with mushroom sauce was paired with a 2010 Barbera D'Alba. Olivieri called this a good, simple table wine that works well with everyday meals and pastas but can just as easily gain more body and structure if cellared for a few years.
Braised beef over polenta was served with a 2009 Langhe Merlot, with grapes harvested in late September.
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Though there wasn't much room left for dessert, guests managed to tough it through the chocolate and amaretti cream bunet, a traditional Piedmont dessert, paired with a sweet 2012 Moscato.
The next dinner is scheduled for April 7 at 7 p.m. and will feature wines by Lytrium International paired with a menu that includes sea bass and zucchini tartare; castel magno cheese and blueberry risotto; tagliolini with beef filet; and a braised lamb shank. The dinner with wine costs $59 per person, and reservations must be made in advance by calling 786-615-2970 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.