Saturday March 17th was a gorgeous day.  It was a sunny day,    with azure blue skies, and almost 70 degrees.  So what’s a nice Italian boy to do on St. Patrick’s Day?  Why, go to Little Italy in the Bronx, of course!  A day on Arthur Avenue, the best Little Italy in New York City, was just the thing to chase away the gray doldrums of the winter we didn’t really have.
The first stop on the Avenue is typically lunch at Zero Otto Nove.  This little Trattoria, owned by our friend Roberto Paciullo, is a must stop for lunch and serves typical Salernian cuisine and excellent thin crust brick oven pizza.  089, as the letters represent, is the area code for Salerno, where Roberto is from. He settled on Arthur Avenue years ago, because it reminded him of a little Italian village at home. Indeed, the avenue is repleat with butchers, bakers, fish mongers, pasta stores, cheese stores, salumerias, restaurants, gift shops, produce markets, enotecas and espresso cafes.  With lunch, which consisted of a pizza with fresh buffalo mozzarella, broccoli rabe and crumbled sausage, we enjoyed the 2009 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino.  This is my second tasting of this bottle in 2 months and it’s as delicious as the first time.  Dark cherry red in color, the nose is fresh with berry fruit, and floral aromatics. The palate is a bit spicy and delicious. This one is not to be missed – if you can find it.  I haven’t located it at retail, but I’m looking.  91 points.  This is among the best Rosso di Montalcino I’ve tasted.

2009 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino
After Fernet Branca and espresso, it was off to shop. For a variety of salume, we stopped at the Calabria Pork Store for a taste of some hot soppresatta. The wonder of this place is the thousands of curing meats hanging from the rafters.  Everything from whole prosciutto di parma to homemade soppresatta hangs gloriously, and admittedly does add a bit of “funk” to the aroma of the store. 
Interior – Calabria Pork Store

Next up, is cousin Pete’s Meat Market.  Yes, it turns out that Pete is cousins with my significant other, so he chuckles when he see us and is always his pleasant self.  This is the best butcher in the city – period. Picking up something for dinner is not only recommended, it’s required!
Pete’s Meat Market

Looking over the Market. Chocolate Easter Eggs visible at upper right
Next to Pete’s, “Michele’s Deli”, aka Mike’s,  has a wide variety of wares. Mike’s is one of the more commericalized spots on the Avenue, but the product is still top quality.
A Crowded Mike’s Deli
Dinner that night was nothing short of spectacular; from vine to hoof, as it were.  With a pork roast, butterflied and stuffed with prosciutto, pecorino cheese, and baby spinach, and then covered with pancetta, we added rosemary roasted potatoes and a wild mushroom ragout. 
Ready for the Oven – Courtesy of Pete!

Ready for the Table!
The main conterno for this was an amazing wild mushroom ragout.  I started by braising some pancetta in some extra virgin olive oil with garlic, sage and a few whole pepperoncini.  The spice was nice, I didn’t want to over due it.  Once the pancetta got a bit crispy, I added crimini, baby bella, white button, shittake, porcini, and oyster mushrooms and then followed with a large dose of Italian flat parsley. 

The Mushroom Ragout Soffrito

Wild Mushroom Ragout – Ready per la Tavola!
Finally, we had some appropriate vino rosso to accompany….
I recently reported on both of these 2006 Brunello, but each was so good, it was hard to keep our hands off of these. The 2006 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino was just as good as the first time I tasted it, here: 2006 Stella di Campalto.  The wine continues to display such an ethereal aroma. It’s complex and  displays deep fruit, spice, leather, and that wonderfully elusive floral sweetness. It’s remarkable to smell. The palate is identical – huge, but with an almost brutish elegance. The only change I sensed here was that it took a bit longer for the aromas to come around.  I wonder if the wine is starting to “shut down” a bit?  Time to let the remaining bottles slumber.  Overall, still a solid 98 points. Wonderful wine!

2006 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino
Next up was another repeat wine that was brought by one of our guests®.  The 2006 San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino was also tasted right at the beginning of this month.  Naturally, there’s not too much to add, save to say that the fruit seemed bigger and sweeter this time around and I was tempted to up my previous score a point or two. We’ll split the difference and say, it’s a “93”! And a great value in Brunello at $32.
Lastly, with some cheeses we opened the 2005 Negrar Amarone Classico.  I was not at all familiar with this producer and it too, was brought by the guests®.  It’s a deep dark color, as one would expect in this young wine.  It was also very tannic, the variety of cheeses cut through them nicely.  I loved the aroma, with black fruits, slight dried fruit ripeness, and a bit of barnyard, hay, earth going on. A bit funky, but in a good way.  On the palate, it’s all black raisiny fruit – full bodied and long.  You could easily lay this down for a decade, but it was delicious with the cheeses.  93 points.

2005 Negrar Amarone Classico
That pretty much ended the day of gluttony.  We much prefer St. Patricks Day in this fashion. Lastly, in addition to the delicious pork roast that we brought home from Pete’s, we also brought home 1 hot dog, or, as the Italians would say:  “A Cane Caldo!” 

Please Welcome “Friday” to the Family!

 Cane Caldo!

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