Chianti Classico and Faux Tuna

“It’s Chianti Classico Time” was the theme of a lunch today at Manzo Restaurant at Eataly, but if you ask me, it’s always time for Chianti Classico. Chianti comes in many different styles and goes with many different foods so it just might be the perfect red wine.  Do you like your wines young and fruity or aged and mellow –no matter, there is a Chianti Classico to suit every taste.  No wonder it has been around for hundreds of years.

Chianti Classico comes from Tuscany, so the chef at Manzo prepared a special menu based on the classic foods of the region.  To start, there was Tonno del Chianti, meaning tuna from Chianti, which sounded like a strange choice.  You see, Chianti, in addition to being the name of the wine is also the name for the completely landlocked portion of Tuscany known as Chianti.  What kind of tuna would you find in Chianti, I wondered?  One taste and it was obvious that it was not tuna.  It tasted great, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  Fortunately, Silvia Fiorentini from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico was there to explain.  Tonno del Chianti, she said, is a dish made famous by Dario Cecchini, Tuscany’s most famous Dante-quoting butcher.  Cecchini makes it by marinating cubes of lean pork shoulder with herbs and spices, submerging it in olive oil and cooking it slowly until the meat is falling-to-shreds tender.  The tender pork was served on arugula leaves topped with slivers of pickled red onions and sweet dried tomatoes.

The next course was Ribollita, Tuscan vegetable and bean soup recooked with cubes of bread until thickened.  A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from Tenuta San Felice was all it needed and I felt as if I had been transported to Tuscany.

Wild boar, known as cinghiale, thrive in Tuscany and are something of a nuisance to farmers, much as deer are here.  Their meat is rich and flavorful and prized by Tuscan cooks who use it for slow cooked winey pasta sauces and stews as well as salumi.  At Manzo, it was prepared “hunters’ style”, alla cacciatora, in a thick tomato sauce studded with bits of carrots and celery and accompanied by polenta.

Our dessert was Schiacciata all’Uva. In Tuscany, this is a simple focaccia-type bread (schiacciata means flattened) topped with tiny and intensely flavored wine grapes and dusted with sugar that is eaten around the harvest time.  But Manzo’s version was a tender little round of sweet bread served with satiny honey ice cream and drizzled with honey.  Worth every calorie!

There were over 20 wines to taste.  I wish I could have gotten to all of them, but unfortunately I did not.  I did enjoy the Tenuta di Lilliano 2008, the Castello di Ama Riserva 2006, Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia 2005 and the Banfi Riserva 2007.

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