February 16, 2023

Pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine

I am so excited to share the pairing highlights of the 7th annual week of Italian Cuisine! I attended a few different events including one focused on Parmigiano Reggiano. If you’re curious what the entire week looked like, you can see the full line up here. I was so generously invited to the events by IMPASTIAMO – cooking classes with purpose. There are many others behind this wonderful week, including the Italian Academy of Cuisine – Cultural Institution of the Italian Republic. I got to meet their LA delegate Mariella during a beautiful curated truffle dinner, detailed in the last section of this post!

Casa Romantica – pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine

I headed to San Clemente for a wonderfully curated wine pairing dinner at Casa Romantica – a gorgeous 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival – once the historic home of the founder of San Clemente and now Cultural Center and Gardens. They provide programs for all ages in arts, music, history, horticulture, and literature!

Pronto Italian Deli

The evening was guided by Adriano and his mother Donatella of family-owned Pronto Italian Deli, which opened its doors in Downtown San Clemente in 2021.

According to an article in the San Clemente Times: Adriano, a Sicilian-born classically trained chef, earned a Doctorate in Gastronomic Sciences from the University in Pollenzo, Italy and is now fulfilling his dream of being a restaurateur.

The seeds for Adriano’s dream date back to the early 1980s, when his grandfather, Vincenzo bought the property on Avenida Del Mar as a gift to his grandchildren, who weren’t even born yet. “My father fell in love with this town because of its small-town feel,” said Adriano’s mother, Donatella, who immigrated to Claremont, California with her parents in 1977. “We used to drive down on weekends, and he bought this building because he wanted to leave a legacy for his grandchildren.”

From the meats and cheeses coming from Italy, to all of the from-scratch dishes – their deli is all about fresh food!

Wine & Food Pairings

Before we get to the pairings, here’s a very interesting Italian wine fact: In 2021, the number of wineries in all of the US was 11,000. The same year, in Italy there were 310,000 wineries. This amount means there is 1 winery for every 223 Italian inhabitants.

Sanmartino Prosecco Treviso Millesimato Extra Dry & Parmigiano Reggiano

We started off the evening with Prosecco & Parmigiano Reggiano – the ideal pairing!

But first, a little Prosecco wine history! The first Italian viticulture and enological (the science of wine and wine making) school was founded in Conegliano (a town in the Veneto region), in 1876. In 1966 the Strada del Prosecco, the first Wine Road was created, paving the way for the wine tourism industry. In 1969, Prosecco received the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata = Controlled Designation of Origin) recognition.

Did you know, in 2009 Prosecco’s Conegliano Valdobbiadene’s appelation became Italy’s 44th DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita = Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). This makes it a growing region AND a kind of sparkling wine made from the glera (renamed from prosecco) grape. The prosecco region is in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia Regions, in the Northwest of Italy which is about an hour away from Venice.

Why are Prosecco & Parmigiano Reggiano the ideal pair? The slight sweetness of Prosecco cuts through the nutty and earthy Parmigiano Reggiano, while they balance each other out.

How to serve: I like to keep this pairing simple. Be sure to chill your Prosecco. Cut the Parmigiano Reggiano into big chunks and place on a small cutting board. Pour your prosecco. Enjoy!

Note: Prosecco comes in 4 different levels of sweetness – Brut, Extra Dry, Dry and Demi-Sec

Renato Ratti Barbera d’Asti Battaglione & black truffle crostini

Did you know, Barbera was originally the the wine of peasants. You can hear this in the song Barbera and Champagne by Gaber.

In 1798 Barbera was classified as a Piedmontese wine. Occupying half of the wine region, it is the symbol of their viticulture. The production of Barbera continues to steadily grow because it is capable of enduring tough weather.

Why are Barbera and truffles a good pairing? Specifically Italian Barberas are more earthy yet subtly tart and acidic fruit forward wines. This makes them a wonderful pairing with truffle and mushroom dishes. The Italian Barbera is meant to showcase the food you’re eating.

How to serve: Toasted sliced bread, olive oil drizzle, truffle spread. I would love this Barbera paired with browned butter, sage and mushroom pappardelle with shaved truffles of course 😉

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese (Cabernet Sauvignon) & Proscuitto di Parma wrapped grissini

Bolgheri Tenuta San Guido is located near The Viale dei Cipressi, a famous tree-lined road in the region of Tuscany. They are one of the most famous wine producers in the world! They make the famous Sassicaia, considered the 6th best wine in the world. Its name comes from the soil in which the grapes grow, consisting of many sassi (stones).

You know I have to get into more detail about this section since Proscuitto di Parma is from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy (where Bologna is located).

A bit about Prosciuitto di Parma

“Since Roman times, the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce the highest quality ham. ‘Prosciutto’ is from the Latin ‘perexsuctum’ meaning ‘dried’. In 100 BC Cato the “Censor” first mentioned the extraordinary flavor of the air cured ham made around the town of Parma; the legs were left to dry, greased with a little oil and could age without spoiling. A tasty meat was obtained which could be eaten over a period of time while maintaining its pleasant flavor. Even earlier, in 5BC, in the Etruscan Po river valley, salted preserved pork legs were traded with the rest of Italy and with Greece.” The similarity between present-day Parma Ham and what was made centuries ago is evident!

Similar to the wine designations, certain foods are also regulated closely. “PDO (short for Protected Designation of Origin) is a European Community certification system designed to protect names and traditions of high-quality European foods made according to traditional methods in a defined geographic region. The name Parma Ham for instance is exclusively reserved to hams produced in Parma according to the strict rules defined by the Consorzio’s specifications, which are based on the ancient tradition of its place of origin; in 1996 Parma Ham became one of the first meat products to be awarded the Designation of Protected Origin status.” – Proscuitto di Parma website

A bit about grissini

Grissini, thin crispy breadsticks, date back to around 1670 in the Piedmont region of Italy. You will often see them served alongside other breads at restaurants in Italy. They are popular since they contain less moisture than a regular loaf of bread, staying fresh longer.

There is almost no bad pairing with Proscuitto di Parma – from ripe cherry forward high acidity Sangiovese, to crisp acidic Pinot Grigio, or even a sparkling white or light sparkling red. I think the most important thing is sipping on something with a good amount of acidity! The salt of the proscuitto will cut through the acidity of the wine so you can taste the wonderful aromatics. I would say the only thing to avoid is a super heavy wine. Cabernet Sauvignon was a bold choice for this pairing, but this one worked!

How to serve: wrap grissini (preferably unsalted) with Proscuitto di Parma – this is a very common aperitvo snack in Bologna. I first ate it at my husband Walter’s mom’s house.

Passopisciaro Passorosso & caponata

In 2000 Andrea Franchetti decided to restore an old farm and cellars on the slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano in northeastern Sicily. The winery sits about a thousand meters above the small wine town of Passopisciaro in the district of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the northern slope of the volcano. His arrival on Etna helped to initiate the renaissance of viticulture on the mountain, resulting in an international discovery of the wines of Etna.

“At the top of the steep Passopisciaro property looms a hump of black gravel. It’s where the lava spill from a big eruption in 1947 had stopped, caking up just before it could submerge whole terraces below it, vines, walls, and buildings: on Etna you can lose it all.”

This was my favorite wine of the night! I am a huge fan of Sicilian wine, especially those made from volcanic soil.

I totally forgot to take a picture of the food pairing, so I pulled the caponata photo from Italy Magazine!

Caponata is essentially a relish with an agrodolce (‘sweet-sour’) twist. The base ingredients: eggplant, onion, tomato sauce, celery, vinegar, capers, olives, basil, sugar and salt. There are, however, many variations all over Sicily! The origins of caponata are quite uncertain, but you can get a bit of insight and a recipe here!

How to serve: The caponata we had was served atop toasted bread. This went perfectly with the Sicilian wine, since they’re from the same region – definitely my favorite pairing of the evening!

Week of Italian Cuisine, Truffle Dinner at Casa Modena – Pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine

The grand finale of my pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine were all about truffles! The wonderful dinner was attended by mostly Italians living in Los Angeles. It was wonderful to see how big the Italian community is in Los Angeles (and I am sure I only saw a fraction). It makes me feel more confident in bringing Walter here more permanently one day! We dined at Casa Modena, a wonderful bright and eclectically decorated restaurant in the heart of Los Angeles, owned by Umberto Ferri.

Since he was a child, Umberto’s parents instilled a passion in him for making and cooking with fresh pasta. In 1955 his parents opened La Lanterna, the first commercial company of handmade tortellini and fresh pasta in Genova, Italy. La Lanterna moved to Bologna in 1970, which employs 30+ people today. They still use the same techniques and traditional methods of pasta making that Umberto’s father taught him. Umberto’s sister Claudia now runs the company. Their products are on the shelves of some of the finest gourmet stores throughout Italy.

In 2017, Umberto opened Casa Modena in Culver City, since move to Brentwood. He continues his family’s traditions of fresh handmade pasta while creating dishes that explore the wonderful world of truffles. They only import the best, most flavorful truffles from Italy through “The Italian Truffle Hunter”. It was a special evening experiencing delicious truffles through the lens of someone from Emilia Romagna.

We could really feel Umberto’s passion through his energy as well as all of the beautifully delicious dishes! My favorite was the sea bass and the Sicilian white wine!

The Truffle Menu – Pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine

Aperitivo: crostini with burrata truffles, parmigiano flakes – Spritz and sparkling wine
Primi: tagliatelle with truffle
Secondi: Sea bass fillet with truffle and sauteed vegetables
Dolce: Panna cotta with aged balsamic vinegar
Wines: Cantine Paofini Sicilia DOC (white) // Pinot Noir – Veneto

You can check out their menu here! They offer a la carte as well as curated truffle-focused prix fixed menus.

I am so grateful I got to attend events during the week of Italian cuisine while in town in LA. It was so wonderful learning more about the passion and history that is in the very fabric of Italian products, like Parmigiano Reggiano, Proscuitto di Parma, Italian wines & more! I hope you enjoyed coming along on this quick trip to Italy with me as I shared pairing highlights of the week of Italian Cuisine.


  1. Great article but it isn’t say that behind all of this there is the Italian Academy of Cuisine delegation of Los Angeles that it is a cultural institution of Italian Republic – the dinner at Casa Modena was organized by the Academy as well as the demonstration class of pizza napoletana
    Mariella salvatori Delegate of AIC

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Growing up near Pasadena, CA, my creativity blossomed as I delved into the LA food scene, food styling, photography, and storytelling. Now, I curate content centered around food, beverage, and travel, while indulging in hobbies like thrifting. Italy holds a special place in my heart, where I found love and embarked on a new chapter in Bologna. Join me on this creative journey of food, travel, and love.