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The Italian Connection

Posted on Jan 01, 2017 in Wine , Chef James Shirley , 45 Central Wine Bar , January–February 2017

Chef James Shirley

The Italian connection with Seaside dates to the very beginning. Many of the elements that make Seaside work came from Italian models. And of course, a great example is our sister city in the province of Siena, in the Val d’Orcia of Tuscany, Pienza. You can even see elements of the Piazza del Campo in the square of Seaside today, and in the beautiful tower plans of the future. The great architects and city planners who influenced town founders Robert and Daryl Davis’ designs in Seaside all have Italian roots. So it’s always a good idea for me to keep the best Italian wines stocked during the week of the Seaside prize, which celebrates people who contribute to their communities and are awarded during the weekend of February in Seaside each year.

Here’s a little Italian lesson for you:

Italian Wine Terms

Rosso Vino da Tavola. This means it’s made from grapes. That’s about all that is promised though — there’s no guarantee which grapes are in the bottle or where they are from. That said, it can be really good juice. Places like the Osteria in Pienza keep a big barrel of Rosso Vino da Tavola in the back to refill the house wine bottles. Theirs is probably local sangiovese grapes.

Brunello di Montalcino. This is one of the kings of Italian wine, and probably one of the best known besides chianti in America. Brunello is made with 100 percent sangiovese grapes, and is grown in the area around the city of Montalcino, and produced and bottled inside the city.

Pienza. On a trip with the Seaside Institute to Seaside’s sister city, Pienza — in the heart of Tuscany — before the first foray into the local area with the group, I met Seaside co-founder Robert Davis and Dr. Ken Ford at the Osteria for a quick glass of Rosso. We ordered the grilled cheese and I got my first bite of Pienza grilled cheese (fresh Romano from just outside the city gates) in a rarebit dish with a sliver of “white bacon” on top — tossed under a broiler for a moment to brown. Wow! With the local wine, it was a piece of heaven. I’m surprised I got my share without losing any fingers.

The next few days held many quick, furtive meetings at the Osteria. As if in a cabal, we became conspirators to eradicate all the “grilled cheese” from Pienza. All in five-minute breaks between tours and charrettes. We’ve been working on reproducing this breadless grilled cheese at 45 Central. Come see how our current rendition of cheese and vitamin G is faring.