Tag Archives: Italy

Braised Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce

Braised Short Ribs in Tomato sauce

Braised Short Ribs in Tomato sauce


Braised Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce

Braised Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce


It’s been raining here, and I needed some comfort food to cheer me up. I made braised short ribs simmered in a tomato sauce and paired them with a Nero d’Avola. It is the flagship grape of Sicily. Mille e Una Notte translates to A Thousand and One Night and comprises predominantly of Nero d’Avola. This wine boasts violet hues and shows great concentration. The nose delivers aromas of dark fruits, blackberry, plum, savory and sweet spices, and a hint of earthiness. The mouthfeel is silky and mirrors the nose with additional flavors of dark chocolate, baking spices, hints of black pepper, nutmeg, and licorice. The finish is lingering, and this wine has the potential for long cellaring. Below is the recipe for the short ribs.

Braised Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce


6 short ribs (about 3 lbs.)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
olive oil for frying
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (32) oz prepared plain tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 (26.46) Pomi strained tomatoes
Flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 lb. spaghetti or any pasta of your choice
1 handful of salt for the pasta water
Parmigiano Reggiano


Preheat the oven to 350-degree Fahrenheit.

1. In the meantime, liberally season the short ribs with salt & pepper. In a Deutch oven on medium-high heat, heat 2-3 tbs. olive oil, sear 3 short ribs for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove. Sear the second batch. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same pan, add more oil if needed, sauté the garlic for 1-2 minutes, and deglaze with the wine for 1-2-minutes. Add in the tomatoes, water, parsley, and ribs. Bring to a gentle boil and turn off the burner. Cover.
3. Place the pan in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender.
4. While the short ribs are cooking, bring the pasta water to a boil, and add a handful of salt. Cook according to package directions or al dente.
5. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or local Parmesan cheese.

Cook’s Note regarding Italian traditions: if you want to eat like the Italians, serve the pasta first, followed by the short ribs. Here in the US, we tend to serve them on the same plate.

While the wine and the dish were delicious on their own, a brown sauce would have made a better pairing with this outstanding wine. The acidity in the tomato sauce overpowered the wine and mellowed its flavors. Either way, the food and the wine were both super stars, but they didn’t get long together.

I hope you will give this recipe a try! I recommend this wine for a special occasion and stick with a Sangiovese-based red wine for an ideal pairing.

Happy Cooking & Sipping from Gina’s Kitchen!
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier & Italian Wine Scholar Student (Unit 1 completed)
Winner of 2019 Italian Wines “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award, held in Puglia, Italy
Brand Strategist

Ca’ del Baio, a Piece of Heaven in Barbaresco

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Piedmont (Piemonte) this past June, and experienced the beauty of this picturesque Italian region. I visited many lush wineries in the sub-regions of La Morra, Barolo, Alba, and Barbaresco, and tasted some delicious wines. Barbaresco is a beautiful region in northwestern Italy where the Nebbiolo grape thrives in the slightly maritime climate: warmer, dryer, and milder, allowing the grapes to ripen faster. The Nebbiolo grapes are used to produce the wine that also goes by the name of Barbaresco. It is characterized by its rich flavors with notes of spices and mild perfumes with sweetness and is considered elegant and refined. The soil in Barbaresco has more nutrients and makes it less tannic than Barolo. Barbaresco is also known for Dolcetto and Barbera. 

Upon arriving at Ca’ del Baio── house of the bay horse, means a dark-horse in Piedmontese dialect, which is an inspiration for their logo──Federica greeted us with her contagious smile in her work attire. We knew it was going to be a special tour and felt a deep connection with the winery.  For four generations Ca’ del Baio has been a family affair, as is the tradition in the Langhe region. Nurtured and passed down from father to son, the vineyards surrounding the Grasso family farmhouse have been added to over time through marriage and acquisitions. 

Giulio and Luciana along with their daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, handle all the various aspects of the business. They do it with passion and expertise, from the growing and vinification of the grapes to hospitality and wine sales. For the Grasso family, simplicity, a sense of sacrifice and the deep attachment they have to their land are pre-requisites for guaranteeing wines of quality. Today the Ca’ del Baio estate takes in 28 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Barbaresco and Treiso, both of which are in the Barbaresco winegrowing area.

All estate-grown, their wines are made from a range of highly valued varieties, some typical of the area while others are more international: the whites include Moscato, Chardonnay and Riesling, and the reds Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Almost all the wines are varietals. The most prestigious vines – producing the Nebbiolo used to make Barbaresco – are between 25 and 40 years old, and they go into making the estate’s crus of Asili and Pora (commune of Barbaresco) and Vallegrande and Marcarini (Treiso). 

Since we were on a tight schedule, I did not have time to write my own wine descriptions, therefore, I am using the winemaker’s notes that I found on their website: Ca del Baio. I enjoyed this wine tasting tour that was conducted by Federica. She’s passionate and very knowledgeable in the world of wines. I highly recommend  you make reservations ahead of time before visiting this charming boutique winery. 

Recently, Ca’ del Baio’s Barbaresco Vallegrande 2016 received the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri”( 3 glasses), Italy’s Best Wines award given by Gambero Rosso. It’s the largest food-E-Wine Publishing House in Europe, according to their Instagram profile. 

Enjoying a tasting at Ca' del Baio

Enjoying a tasting at Ca’ del Baio

Ca' del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

Ca’ del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva


Winemaker’s notes: The wine displays a brilliant garnet red colour with shades of orange. The intense nose releases hints of lavender, pine, rose petals, aromatic herbs, spices, and goudron (tar) notes. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and warm. It is exceptionally smooth and velvety in the mouth.


Ca del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

Ca’ del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora


Winemaker’s notes: colour bright garnet red; nose intense and complex, with fruity overtones conjuring up plums and blackberries, and spicy hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts; taste full-bodied, soft and tannic; a big, yet very flavorsome wine.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2016

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Asili


Winemaker’s notes: color bright garnet red, with slight orange tinges; nose intense, with fruity aromas of marasca cherries and hints of violets. Spicy notes of black pepper, liquorice and goudron (tar); taste dry, warm and soft, showing a long, rich, smooth flavour.

Award-winning Ca del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

Award-winning Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande


Winemaker’s notes: colour garnet red; nose intense, with powerful fruit, dried flowers and underbrush; taste dry, smooth and rounded, ending in a warm finish with nicely-balanced tannins.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca' del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Winemaker’s notes: the colour is a deep garnet red with reflections of old pink. The nose is an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of raspberries, jam, and violets that give an ethereal feeling accompanied by sweet spicy notes and hints of cocoa. In the mouth, Autinbej is warm, long, persistent and slightly tannic with an aftertaste of fruity notes.

LCa del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Ca’ del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright straw yellow; nose intense and complex, ranging from flowery to fruity, with hints of nuts; taste dry, full-bodied and well-balanced, with long flavour…Chardonnay, international by nature, Piedmontese at heart.

Barbaresco wine region 

Amazing Barbaresco lineup 

While touring, Federica's dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato to taste

While touring, Federica’s dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato d’Asti to taste

I captured a picture of Ca' del Baio family portrait - Original is not mine

I captured a picture of the Grasso’s family portrait – Original is not mine

Ca' del Baio Barrel room

Ca’ del Baio barrel room


Ca del Baio Wine Room

Ca’ del Baio wine storage room

Ca del Baio sisters

Ca’ del Baio – the 3 sisters – photo from their website – not mine


The Grasso family symbolizes respect for land and passion for wine. They take pride in their work and harmoniously carry on the family’s legacy.  I am so glad that I met this tight-knit family and made unforgettable wine memories. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this article that illustrates our wine tasting journey in Piedmont, Italy. 

“Il vino fa buon sangue”  = Good wine makes good blood
“In vino veritas”  = In wine there is truth
Photos taken by Gina for Foodiewinelover – unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 
Disclosure: some of the information was taken from Ca’ del Baio’s website.   

Happy Sipping! 
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.



Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Barbera D'Alba

Barbera D’Alba

Pasta alla Norma originated in Sicily and is perfect for a small gathering. It is believed to be named after the famous opera called Norma. It’s easy and made with a few ingredients including my favorite veggie: eggplant! In this recipe, I am using whole canned tomatoes but you can use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. This is a great meal for vegetarians depending on their diet lifestyles (with or without the cheese). I served a salad with the pasta and my family ate to their heart’s content. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Serves 6-8 as a main meal

• 1 medium eggplant, chopped in medium size
• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 – (28) ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5-6 basil leaves cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
• ¼ cup pasta water, as needed
• Ricotta Salata cheese, for garnish
• 1-pound penne, rigatoni or spaghetti


1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up oil, sauté the garlic, 1-2 minutes, add the eggplant, cook while stirring for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes covered with lid tilted. Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is too thick, add water toward the end. (before draining the pasta). Turn the burner off.

2. While the sauce is cooking, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt and cook al dente. You will be doing a little juggling.

3. Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well. Serve in a large pasta bowl. Garnish with the cheese and basil.

I paired this meal with a lovely aged Barbera D’Alba from Ca’ Viola winery and it worked magically.

Other wine pairing suggestions: Nero d’Avola, a red grape variety from Sicily or any medium-bodied red wine of your choice.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

Discover the Splendor of Salento and its Signature Italian Wines

Puglia has become one of the hottest spots in Italy where people flock to the beach to bask in the hot sun, enjoy the local wines, and partake in the Italian culinary traditions. This region is known for its wine production, cultivation of tomatoes and artichokes, and is a major producer of olive oil.  It’s also known for its famous “cucina povera” which translates to poor cuisine because the people use simple, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients.  Orecchiette—Italian for “little ears”— a regional pasta shape, fava beans, eggplant, and an abundance of fresh seafood are part of their diet. The Puglian cuisine and the wines produced in this area intertwined nicely.

As a result of my infinite love affair with Italian wines, I have tasted hundreds of them in classes, seminars, festivals, and private gatherings. If you are a wine enthusiast like me, you would be constantly exploring grape varieties from different Italian regions.

In this article, I will focus on Salice Salentino DOC wines from the Salento area. They deserve to be recognized for their richness and signature taste. Their production is still in its infancy stage unlike the wines from other major Italian regions like Piedmont and Tuscany.

Facts and history:
The Salento Peninsula in the region of Puglia is in the southernmost part of the boot known as the heel. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a sunny dry climate. The soil is fertile and the wines tend to be high in alcohol. This is due to the lack of rain in the area which creates a challenge for winemakers to craft attractive wines. The Salento area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, exquisite regional cuisine,
sun-baked vineyards, luscious wines,  and cultural diversity.

In the 1930s, the farmers would combine the Negroamaro grape, known for its earthy bitterness with the Malvasia Nera to add sweet character to the wine. This blend created a perfectly balanced wine. The rosé version followed soon after. Over time, the farmers continued to experiment and created new varieties of Salice Salentino, which now include: Negroamaro, Negroamaro Rosato, (rosé) Pinot Bianco (white wine), Fiano, Chardonnay, and Aleatico.

The Salice Salentino wines became so important in that region, that, in 1976, they were assigned the DOP: “Denominazione di Origine controllata –official quality label (DOC, “controlled designation of origin”.)

Salice Salentino owes its name to the town bearing the same name in the province of Lecce. This province is known for beautiful churches and baroque-style architecture. Lecce has been the main production of these wines for years, and is protected by a Consortium called: Consorzio Di Tutela Vini D.O.P. Salice Salentino. The Consortium was founded in 2003 and consist of 1,858 members, among them are winemakers, bottlers, and winegrowers.  The goal is to promote and ensure the protection of the territories, vineyards, ancient trees, and the indigenous grapes of the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi. The wines from that region are marketed and controlled by the Consortium to ensure the quality and the authenticity of the local grapes. Additionally, it was created to enhance and preserve this area for its great winemaking tradition.

The main grape is the Negroamaro, which translates to “black bitter” in Italian. This grape variety thrives on the terroir that combines clay and limestone soils. The Malvasia Nera is also a popular variety known for its aromatic qualities. Both grapes tend to be dark and intense in flavors.

Production and procedural guidelines:
For many years, the Salice Salentino wines have been made according to the requirements of their procedural guidelines. The entire process, from the grape growing to the final stage must take place in a specific area. It includes the districts of Salice Salentino, Veglie and Guagnano, in the province of Lecce, and Sandonaci, in the province of Brindisi, as well as some portions of the districts of Cellino San Marco (Lecce) and Campi Salentina (Brindisi).

Specific grapes are required for each single Salice Salentino wine.
At least 75% of Negroamaro grapes is required in the Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and the Rosato (rosé wines); whereas 90% of Negroamaro is required in the Salice Salentino Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato varieties. Additionally, local dark-colored grapes like the famous Malvasia Nera of Lecce or Brindisi can be used for blending as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In the Salentino Aleatico wine, (red) at least 85% of the Aleatico grapes is required, and can be blended with Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or local Primitivo.

The Salice Salentino Bianco (white) is made 70% from Chardonnay grapes, if it does not have any other appellation. There are other types of Salice Salentino Bianco—Chardonnay, Fiano and Pinot Bianco which must contain at least 85% of the corresponding grapes.

There are also Spumante (sparkling wine) versions of the Salice Salentino on the market. This method involves natural fermentation without the addition of carbon dioxide. The Bianco, Rosato, Negroamaro Rosato, Pinot Bianco, Fiano and Chardonnay are generally used for this style of wine.

The Riserva (reserve) versions of Salice Salentino Rosso, Negroamaro, and Aleatico are aged for at least 24 months, including at least 6 in oak barrels.

The Dolce and Liquoroso versions of the Salice Salentino Aleatico are also produced and  make great dessert wines. The Dolce Naturale must have a finished alcohol of 15% and Liquoroso must have 18.5% which is like a fortified wine. Once produced, the wine is bottled in glass bottles that can have different sizes and corks, depending on the type of product.

Flavors and characteristics:
These Salice Salentino wines are enjoyed worldwide. The red ones are generally cherry, ruby or garnet-colored, and their shades become more intense as they age. The Riserva tends to have a brick color. The red wines are robust and full-bodied and can generally be classified as dry wines. The Rosso Riserva and Rosso Riserva Negroamaro have fragrant aromas of ripe fruits such as plums and cherries with a touch of spices. The sensory experience as perceived by sight, smell, and taste varies depending on the grape variety that has been used, and the way the wines are produced.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties are predominantly sweet, dense, and are higher in alcohol.

The wines from the white grapes are straw yellow in color, refreshing, and fragrant with delicate fruit notes; while the Bianco and Fiano varieties have greenish hues.

Lastly, in the spumanti made from traditional wines, yeast notes are easily detected due to the re-fermentation process.

Food & wine pairings:
In general, meat-based recipes, and complex dishes are paired with the Salice Salentino from red grapes to stand up to the robustness of the wine. Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk also makes for a killer pairing. The Salice Salentino Rosato pairs nicely with salamis, less-intense dishes like chicken and pork, delicate cheeses, and fragrant frittatas.
The Salice Salentino Bianco goes well with swordfish and salmon, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The bianco variety also pairs nicely with a Caprese salad using tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil from the local farms. Whenever possible, pairing food and wine from the same region is ideal, as they are grown in similar soil.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties make great dessert wines and would pair heavenly with the popular pasticciotto. This traditional dessert is known for its a flakiness, buttery short crust filled with an exquisitely rich vanilla pastry cream. There are also chocolate and pistachio versions of the filling. This dessert is also common for breakfast.

My food & wine pairing experience:
I had the pleasure of tasting the Rosalbore Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato DOP from Cantina Sanpancrazio, a beautiful rosé made with 100% Negroamaro grapes. The color is deep coral, (like I’ve never seen before) lightly perfumed with aromas of strawberries and gentle floral notes. The palate follows the nose, with luscious flavors of semi-ripe strawberries, and the tannins are soft. This wine is intense and well-structured with a lingering finish. The alcohol content is 13.50% by volume. The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the heaviness of the Rosso (red wine) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety).

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

I paired this delightful rosé with a delicate frittata made with tomatoes, scallions, pancetta, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It was like the king meeting its queen (the rosé) in the quest for a beautiful romance. This food and wine combination went together harmoniously and felt like a never-ending fairytale on the palate.

I also tasted the Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP from Cantine De Falco which is made with 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera. The color is garnet, showing fragrant spices like vanilla and nutmeg on the nose, dark cherries, and plums on the palate, with nuances of cocoa, cigar box, and oak. There is a hint of sweetness in the wine that comes from the ripeness of the fruits. The tannins are velvety, and the finish is persistent. The alcohol content is 14% by volume.

In the region of Puglia, it is common to eat horse meat, and it would make perfect sense to pair this big wine with it. However, since we do not consume this type of meat in the United States, I prepared braciole, an Italian-style gourmet beef dish that is stuffed with garlic, parsley, and prosciutto and then rolled up. They were seared on medium-high heat, then simmered for a couple of hours in a rustic-style tomato sauce. The stuffed meat and the acidity in the tomatoes were a perfect match for this majestic and full-bodied wine. This dining experience was the epitome of a beautifully balanced meal.

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP



I hope this reportage on Salice Salentino wines has piqued your curiosity to explore this splendid Italian region and its autochthonous grapes. These wines are not only luscious, but they are affordable. This combination makes for a win-win sensory experience. Now, that I have tasted these wines, it’s time to visit Puglia. I will dream about it, until it becomes a reality.

Happy sipping from my kitchen to yours,

Update: I received the “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Contest 2019” award/trophy for writing this blogpost.  An all-expense paid trip was included, and the ceremony was held at Rosexpo Festival on June 22nd, 2019, in Puglia, Italy.  I am excited and feel grateful to the Consortium for choosing my blogpost to represent wines from Salice Salentino. I visited this beautiful region and relished on their wines and local cuisine. I will always remember this epic moment…

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award


Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Recognized in Lecce, Puglia, Italy on June 22, 2019

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Fattoria di MonteMaggio, A Magical Boutique Winery in Tuscany

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

My husband and I recently took a spectacular trip to Italy and visited some amazing regions, rich in cultures and traditions.  One of our destinations was Tuscany and we were living our dream of “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life). We were blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills and the lush cypress trees. Finally, all the landscape pictures we had seen were coming to life and the views were similar to that of a postcard. On the first day, we got to visit this beautiful winery called: Fattoria di Montemaggio, located in Radda in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico region.

It’s truly magical with a stupendous view of the valley, and well-manicured grounds. There were full-blown roses and fresh artichokes growing in the immaculate garden. Ilaria, the estate manager greeted us with a beautiful smile and gave us a tour of the vineyards. It was clear how passionate she was about her job and demonstrated a great knowledge in the viticulture and viniculture process of wine making. She gave us a little lesson about the stubborn Sangiovese grape, as I explained in an earlier post:  The temperamental Sangiovese grape variety . I pointed out to her that the ground seemed very dry and she replied: “we need to make them suffer”. Of course, she was referring to this particular grape variety.  After a tour of the vineyards and some photo snapping, it was Denis, the cellar manager, who guided the wine tasting.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of wines in the company of Riccardo, our amazing tour guide and the multi-talented Katarina Andersson. She is a translator, an educator and a wine writer at: Grapevine Adventures. The wines were luscious and of high quality which were no surprise to us, after seeing the labor of love that went into producing them. Fortunately, because of the terroir and the micro-climate, Fattoria di Montemaggio is able to grow many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, with small additions of Merlot, Pugnitello, Chardonnay, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo.

A few months ago, I was able to get their Chianti Classico in my area and paired it with Pork Chops in Tomato sauce. It worked delightfully.  I brought back a couple of bottles from this recent trip and cannot wait to crack them open. If you intend to visit Tuscany, I highly recommend that you put Fattoria di Montemaggio on your itinerary. You will be very happy with this gem of a place.

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The rose garden at Fattoria di MontemaggioThe view at Fattoria di MontemaggioIMG_8849The views at Fattoria di Montemaggio

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on this beautiful winery and the enchanting photographs that I captured during my visit. My wish for you is to have the opportunity to visit this lovely place and bask under the Tuscan Sun.

Happy Travels!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Level-2 -World renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Culinary Personality, Cookbook Author and Lover of Global Cuisines

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer

Fattoria di Montemaggio

Fattoria di Montemaggio



The Temperamental Sangiovese Grape Varietal

Chianti Classico Sangiovese

In 2009, I attended wine classes at the United States Sommelier Association, and passed a written and blind wine taste tests. I earned a Level 2 Sommelier certificate.  In February 2017,  I decided to pursue my wine studies, and attended  classes  at WSET, a world-renowned school, which stands for Wine, Spirit Education Trust. I received a Level 2 certificate and passed with merit.  I don’t consider myself a sommelier, and I don’t use that word to describe what I do.  I prefer to save it for someone who is actively working in the wine industry.  Sommelier is a French word that means a wine steward who’s trained and knowledgable in wines. I am not into fancy wine descriptions, but I can tell you one thing, after drinking and sipping hundreds of wines, I know if a wine is compatible with my palate or not.  By now, my taste buds know exactly what I like.  I prefer Old World wines, full-bodied, earthy with deep ruby colors, and flavor profiles that include aromatic spices, cloves, black peppers, nutmeg, hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, leather, barnyard, licorice with a lingering finish. I usually go for a complex wine, with layers of flavors for special occasions.  At times, I also enjoy medium-bodied wines, and New World wines with floral notes. There are so many grape varietals, (varieties)  from so many regions of the world, however, today, I will focus on the Sangiovese grape. It is a very difficult grape to grow because it needs warm weather, and for that reason, vintages can vary from one season to the next. It is considered one of the most widely planted red grape in all of Italy. The Sangiovese grape does particularly well in the terroir of beautiful Tuscany. However, it is a temperamental grape, that requires a lot of attention. It is not easy to keep it balanced, because of its high acidity content. It is harvested late, because the ripening process is slow. Tannins can also be rough. Sangiovese is also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes to make one of my favorite blends called “Super Tuscan”. In June 2017, I finally visited Tuscany, and some amazing wineries in that region. I enjoyed some delicious wines made with the Sangiovese grape.

My tasting notes on Tenuta di Renieri:  It is a blend made with mostly Sangiovese, and is from the enchanting region of Chianti. It has the Chianti Classico label, which is a highly rated, small wine-region with a DOCG designation, (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita is the highest designation in Italian wines. The wines must be evaluated by a tasting committee before they can be bottled, to assure the highest quality standards.) This wine shows unique characteristics, and bottles from that region have the seal of a black rooster to distinguish them. It’s a beautifully balanced wine with alluring nose of nutmeg spice, bursting with flavors of lush cherries, with a long finish that keeps you begging for more.

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Marchese Antinori, Chianti Classico, Riserva 2006. It’s an excellent wine, very complex with an everlasting finish.

Winemaker’s Notes:

“92 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): …positively sparkles on the palate. Dark wild cherries, minerals, graphite, violets and spices are just some of the nuances that flow effortlessly… The French oak contributes an additional measure of volume and ampleness I doubt the wine truly needs given the superlative quality of the fruit in 2006. A rich fabric of minerals reappears to frame the intense, deeply satisfying finish… The 2006 is one of the finest vintages I can remember tasting. (Oct 2010)”

Massarena, Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Distinctive flavors of cherry, a superb wine for that special occasion. Pairs nicely with a tomato-sauce based dish.

Poggerino Vendemmia Chianti Classico 2011

Lovely wine, with flavors of plum, with hints of vanilla, medium-bodied, made with 100% Sangiovese grape

I hope you will pull yourself together, and pour yourself a Sangiovese! I would love to hear your experience with this wine varietal. If you are not too familiar with Italian wines, just visit a large chain store, and get the help of a wine clerk. Many of them are highly trained and very knowledgeable. What I like the most about buying wine in large chain stores, if you are NOT happy with a wine, you can return it, and they will gladly refund your money, or give you a store credit. Don’t get me wrong, I also love to support the small boutique shops, as they carry some very unique wines. Just get out there, and start exploring the world of wines. There are so many of them, and so little time!

Fattoria di Montemaggio

Vertical wine tasting at the magical Fattoria di Montemaggio in Tuscany

Above is a picture of a vertical wine tasting at the magical Fattoria di Montemaggio in Tuscany. They are a boutique winery and produce high-quality wines.

Hope you enjoyed this blogpost! Happy Sipping!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
except for the grape photos in which the proper credit was given.


Sangiovese Grape

Image courtesy Colombaia in Chianti



Caprese Salad

In 2007, my family and I embarked on an amazing Italian trip, and one of the itineraries was Capri. It is a breathtaking island, and we took a ferry from the bay of Naples to get there.  We visited the famous Blue Grotto, ate some regional cuisine, and took a tour of the island. I must admit, I was very scared going up the mountains on the tour bus, but it  was a travel experience that I will never forget. Today, I am sharing with you an easy and delicious dish, the Caprese Salad.

It’s been in the 90’s already in South Florida, and I couldn’t think of a more refreshing salad, called Insalata Caprese, in Italian.  It literally means Capri Salad because it originated in that magnificent island. In Italy, it is usually served as an antipasto, and made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The colors represent the Italian flag. My son recently brought me home a basil plant, and I already had some beefsteak tomatoes, and leftover Mozzarella that I recently used in my Chicken Parmigiana. I always have extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar readily available. I was on the go, and needed a quick-lunch, and this salad hit the spot. It was a great way to reminisce about our trip. (We were there again in 2008, but that’s another blogpost.)

Serves: 2 as a meal – Super easy


  • 1 Beefsteak Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Basil leaves, for garnish
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, of Modena
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


Arrange the tomatoes and Mozzarella on a serving plate, lightly season with salt & pepper, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and some balsamic vinegar. Garnish with basil leaves.

Voila, the salad is ready to be served! It is such a beautiful culinary creation, and so easy to prepare. Make it for your guests, and I assure you, they will love it.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen To Yours!



Capri, Italy, June 2007 – Hubby and me




My Wine Story

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy


Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Sideways was a painfully funny movie in 2004, that piqued my curiosity for wine. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until then, that I decided to do some exploring, and ordered wine with dinner and pairing it with the food.  This process took a while, but, little by little, I would acquaint myself with the various grape varieties. It didn’t take long for my palate to fall in love with this magical juice and enjoy every aspect of wine tasting.  Of course, I was still in the learning stages because, I had no knowledge of the wine making process, and how it went from the vineyard into the wine glasses.

In August 2008, my hubby and I took a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and met the most wonderful people. Some of them, I have kept in touch with, and became very good friends. Tonia, in particular caught my attention, because I was intrigued the way she was pairing all her meals with a wine. At that time, I was still considered a novice, and was “thirsty” to learn more about the art of wine tasting. I realize, she was pairing a different wine with each course, including dessert. At that point, I was eager to discover more about this interesting experience.

As I continued to learn about food, people, and cultures, I became fascinated with the world of wines.  It prompted me to attend the United States Sommelier Association, at the Cordon Bleu in my town, in 2009. I studied under the guidance of the wine master, Rick Garced, and learned about the wine making process. I tasted delicious wines from the most famous regions around the word.  I also learned how to pair food and wine harmoniously.

I met the most amazing and kind-hearted fellow sommelier(s), and instantly made a connection with some of them.  We had tons of fun in class and studied together for the test. Oh, how I dread that word, because it flares up my anxiety. I remember not sleeping the night before because I was too nervous, but with all the studying and the support of my classmates, I passed the blind tasting and the written test with flying colors. It was a big deal for me and for all of us, after spending hours studying and sipping wine together.  After earning our certificate of achievements, we would organize wine gatherings at our houses, and enjoy some luscious wine and food pairings. There was always a theme, and each person would bring a wine from a particular country/region and a dish to pair with it. Since then, we have attended a few more masterclasses together and continue to gain knowledge in wine tasting.

It’s been nearly 14 years that I have been sipping and savoring on red wine, but my passion for white wine has evolved over time. I am fortunate to have visited some of the most renowned wine regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma in California, and Long Island, New York. Most recently, my dream came to reality when I visited Tuscany, Italy, one of the most famous regions in the world. There are so many more regions and wines to explore, but one of the best ways to learn, is to drink wine, write notes, take pictures of the labels, and document them.  I also learned how the terroir has a major effect on the wine. The root of the word is terre, which means land/soil in French.  Today, I will share with you the art of wine tasting.

You will be using your sense of  sight for the appearance, smell for the nose,  and taste using your palate.  First, place a white paper or cloth on a table, pour about an ounce of wine in a clear glass, tilt a little and look at it. Make sure it’s sound.  Next, you need to swirl it to bring out all the fragrances, then smell it, sniff it so you can get a whiff of the aromas.  Please keep in mind, wine tasting is subjective and there is no right or wrong in my opinion. I may smell black pepper while someone else detects licorice.

Lastly, the best part, it’s time to taste. Take a sip and swirl it around your mouth, keep it there, you will be doing an inhaling motion with your mouth slightly open, repeat at least one more time, then swallow. At this point, you will determine all the flavor profiles in the wine, this can take some time for the more complex wines, as they are layered with various flavors.  By tasting the wine, you will find out the acidity level, the sugar content, the tannins, the length, the alcohol level. When all these are in perfect harmony, it is said to be a well-balanced wine.

As you swirl the wine, you will notice the dripping on the inside of the glass, commonly referred to, as legs or tears. The slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content.  You will also learn about the length of the wine. That is determined by how long after you swallowed the wine, the flavors remain in your mouth. The more lingering the length, the better the quality of the wine. A low-quality wine is known to have a short finish, meaning, as soon as you swallow it, the taste disappears from your mouth.

I’ve recently attended the acclaimed James Suckling’s Wine Tasting events: Great Wines of Italy and Great Wines of the Andes in Miami. I tasted some of the most delightful and highly rated wines.

In December 2016, I decided to pursue my studies further, and attended the world-renowned WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education Trust. The class was taught under the supervision of the James Beard award-winning wine and food writer, Lyn Farmer. I am proud to hold a second level sommelier certificate.  I hope you have enjoyed my wine story and my photos. For more photos, please check out my Instagram page: Foodieandwinelover.

This year, I will be working diligently on my cookbook that will include a treasury of my recipes, global cuisines and cultures, and food and wine pairing suggestions. I am also planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Stay tuned!

Cheers to a fabulous 2018!







The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome


Wine tash from Italy - June 2017

Wine stash from Italy – June 2017

Tuscany, Italy - June 2017

Tuscany, Italy – June 2017

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

James Suckling and Yours Truly

James Suckling and Yours Truly

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Happy Sipping!!!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels
Future Cookbook Author
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover




Veal Bolognese over Pappardelle

The traditional Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagnia,  a famous region in northern Italy, north of  Florence.  It is commonly called Ragu Bolognese. There are different versions,  just like you will find different versions of  tomato sauce and pizza.  The Bolognese is always a meat-based sauce, usually veal, with some carrots, onions and tomato sauce. Milk or cream can also be added to give it a more authentic feel. Today, I will share with you my version of the Bolognese sauce.  It is quick, easy, delicious and you can double up the recipe to feed a large crowd.


foodsausageandpeppers+ 126

Browning the pancetta

Sweating the veggies

Browning the veal

Cooked Pasta

Voila! Dinner is ready


  • 1 – 1/2 lbs ground veal
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 chopped tomato (Pomi) or any other brand,  about 26 oz
  • 1 strained tomato (Pomi) or any other brand,  about 26 oz
  • 1/2 cup water and more pasta water, if needed
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Flat leave parsley, chopped, to garnish
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Parmesan cheese)
  • 1 lb. Pappardelle pasta

Degree of difficulty:  Easy
Serves 4  (hungry) people as a main meal
This recipe takes a minimum of  45 minutes to an hour to prepare, but you can extend the cooking  up to 2 hours if you have the time. You will need to add water occasionally, and stir constantly to reduce the sauce. The flavors will be more infused and you will get a richer sauce.  However, this recipe is a quicker version for today’s busy lives , and the best part of it, your loved ones will not know the difference.


1)  On medium-high heat, in a 6-8 quart stock pan, heat oil, brown pancetta, 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside.

2)  There will be some oil left in the pot, add the onions, carrots and garlic  and sweat for about 2-3 minutes.

3)  Add veal, brown for about 5 minutes by stirring occasionally, then add tomato paste,  continue to brown until you get a nice caramelization.

4)  Add strained and chopped tomatoes, pancetta, 1/2 cup water, salt & pepper, oregano. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you feel like the sauce is too thick, add some pasta water. Remember, this is a meat sauce and it is supposed to be thick and not watery, therefore, use your judgement.

5)  On another burner, get the water boiling for your pappardelle or whatever pasta you’re using, cook according to package directions.

6)  Drain pasta, (save some water if you need it for the sauce) and pour it over the meat sauce. Make sure all the pasta is nicely coated and serve immediately. If you let it sit, the pasta will absorb all the sauce and it will become dry. Have the grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table for individual use. If you don’t feel comfortable serving it this way, place pasta in bowls and pour sauce over each one. Sprinkle chopped  parsley to garnish it and give it your personal touch.

I paired this Bolognese with a delicious Rosso di Montalcino that went together magically.  You certainly can use a nice Chianti instead, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I promise you, your loved ones will thank you for this amazing dish. They will think you spend the entire day in the kitchen to create this delectable and hearty meal.  With winter around the corner for some of you, this meat sauce will keep you warm and your belly satisfied.  I hope you will try this recipe and have fun with it.

Disclosure, I don’t get paid to advertise products on here,  I use whatever brand I have in my pantry at the time of cooking. I like to change it up anyway and experiment. That’s what makes cooking fun and interesting (at least for me).   Use whatever brand you prefer, be daring and have confidence.  If you view cooking as a chore, it will be boring and uninteresting, but if you cook with passion, you will enjoy every step, and your meal will always be a success. I must admit, I enjoy getting compliments from my family because  it encourages me to cook more for them. I’m not perfect and I’ve made a few mistakes in the kitchen, but I learned from them.  The only way you’re gonna learn and create your signature dish is by experimenting.  There is always room for improvement and I welcome feedback. I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog, and will give my recipe a try soon.

Cheers and Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen!











Experiencing Colossal Rome

My paternal great grandparents were originally from Teora, a small town in the province of Avellino, in the Campania region of southern Italy.   My great-grandpa, Anselmo Martino owned a  lovely property with a small vineyard on it.  He employed many people from the town,  they harvested the grapes in a festival atmosphere, singing and  dancing.  He was also a shoemaker.  It’s no wonder, I have such passion for shoes and wine.  The property has been sold since then to the Caprio family.  My dad had always wanted to visit Italy and begged me on several occasions to go along with him, but I wasn’t ready to take this long transatlantic flight from Miami. Then, In 2007, I realized my parents were getting older and it was time to take this adventurous trip to Bella Italia. I knew, once I committed to going, there was no turning back. I mentioned to them about planning a family trip to Italy, and they were ecstatic about it. We were 7 of us, hubby and me, our boys, 16 and 19 then,  my brother, my mom and dad. We were all ready to embark on this amazing travel adventure. Since it was our very first time visiting, I thought it would be a great idea to take a tour and have them plan everything. We enlisted in Perillo Tours, and were very pleased with the entire experience.  In February, we booked a multi-city Italian trip for an escapade of a lifetime  in June 2007. The anticipation was building during that time span and, we used every moment to plan for a perfect family vacation. As time got closer, we made sure all the travel arrangements were in place, did our last-minute shopping, made sure we packed walking shoes for the cobblestone streets,  summer clothes, outfits for the evenings and lots of toiletries.  I will never forget that day, on June 3rd, 2007, my parents and my brother met us at the house and we took a limo to the airport. We were chanting on the way and extremely excited about what was about to come. We landed in Rome early morning, got picked up at the airport, then dropped off to our hotel. The Grand Hotel Beverly Hills is  located right outside of the city center near the famous Villa Borghese and the elegant area of Via Veneto.

Photo courtesy, Grand Hotel Beverly Hills

Photo courtesy, Grand Hotel Beverly Hills

One of my favorite cities in the world is Rome because of my fascination with its ancient architectures, magnificent artwork  and rich history. I also love it for its breathtaking sightseeing,  scrumptious cuisine and delicious wines. The next day, we visited the Vatican and were amazed by its opulence and lavish gold accented decor. Afterwards, we took a tour of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and were astonished by its grandeur and splendid beauty. We bought some souvenirs and grabbed some lunch at Piazza Navona.

Lunch at Piazza Navona

It is not a trip to Italy unless you visit  the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)  “A traditional legend holds if  visitors toss a coin into the fountain,  they are ensured a return to Rome. ”  We tossed some coins into one of the most beautiful Italian masterpiece fountain in the world in the hopes to return someday.  Hubby and I have been back twice since then, and my parents and the family once more. Magically, it works!

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Trevi Fountain

Mom & Dad at the Trevi Fountain

Mom & Dad at the Trevi Fountain

Peter-John at the Trevi Fountain

Peter-John at the Trevi Fountain

The highlight of the trip was definitely the tour of the breathtaking Colosseum. It was a surreal experience that gave me the chills, and felt like I was living a part of history. It was a magical moment that I will cherish forever. We then took pictures with the gladiators and bought souvenirs to keep these memories alive. It was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner.

Mom and Dad with the gladiators


Family Photo at The Colosseum

We ate dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Al Grappolo.   It was a fun evening with an abundance of delicious food, elegant wine and some good laughs. It is fair to say, I was the loudest and very giggly because I walked into the lady’s room and there was a man in there.  I was already feeling tipsy, I went back to the table and had everyone in the restaurant in stitches. The next day, we visited the Spanish Steps, (Piazza di Spagna)  a major landmark that attracts millions of people each year.  It is located near the old city centre and  consist of 138 steps. At the base of the Spanish Steps, there is a beautiful fountain and some quaint shops.

The Spanish Steps with Mom & Dad

The Spanish Steps with Mom & Dad


At the Spanish Steps with hubby, Peter

Facing the Steps is Via Dei Condotti, a very glitzy street filled with luxurious brand named stores such as Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and so much more. Dad offered me a Gucci bag as a special gift for accompanying him on the trip,  it was very hard to resist. First, we stopped at a coffee shop, named Caffe Greco, beautifully decorated  but on the pricey side.  A cannoli set us back 8 euros but it was worth the splurge. We were rushing as mom and I could not wait to get to the Gucci store.

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Shopping at Gucci

Of course, no afternoon would be completed without  a refreshing gelato or granita, shaved ice with flavored syrup, topped with whipped cream.

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Gelato and Granita Time

One  night, we went to a Gala Party at the extravagant Palazzo Brancaccio,  had an amazing dinner and drank delicious wines to our heart’s content.  We were serenaded by an amazing orchestra and danced the night away.  It was a magical evening of fun celebrations with the family and new-found  friends we met on the tour.

Palazzo Brancaccio

Palazzo Brancaccio

Arriving  at the bay of Naples was another special moment that I will always cherish. The bus made a stop so we could shoot some family pictures overlooking  the magnificent view. We were having the time of our lives.

On that trip, we also visited Pompeii, Sorrento, (ate dinner at the beautiful  restaurant La Tonnarella,) Capri,  Florence, Venice and Milan. That will be another blog all together. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity  to take this once in a lifetime vacation with my amazing family. Please note, back then, I was not big on taking food pictures and the camera was barely adequate to take decent photos. The pictures featured here are from 2 separate trips. Thank you all for coming along with me on this amazing  travel adventure. There are a lot more details to this trip but it would take me too long to describe.

Update: Since this family trip, My husband and I visited Rome on other occasions, and most recently, in the summer of 2017. We explored Trastevere, a quaint neighborhood of Rome with multi-colored buildings and cobblestone streets. Many locals hang out in this charming area which is a walking distance from the City Centre. The restaurants are reasonable and they serve delicious and authentic food.

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas aka Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Aficionado, WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
World Traveler – Lover of  Global Food Cultures & Traditions










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