Dish & Tell
To love and relish: Gnocco Fritto and Lambrusco
Tue Jul 07 2020
My first encounter with that unforgettably warm and fragrant breath from an authentic Gnocco Fritto took place in its native region of Emilia Romagna in Italy. While inside Osteria RossodiVino, the rustic and cozy lunch spot, the fried dumplings arrived at the table fresh out of the fryer so puffed up and dreamy they might as well be placed under my head for naptime. Its exterior crispness easily rivaled the satisfaction of the crackling blistered skin of a lofty four-hour porchetta, juxtaposed by its interior: ethereally soft, slightly chewy with a gossamer mouth-feel and melt-in-your-mouth-let’s-have-another-shall-we feeling. The fried dumpling is large enough to fit into the palm of the hand, enveloping an endless spread of noble salumi and cheeses from the area, namely Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Gnocco Fritto is perfect with early morning cappuccino but even better with its personal wine of choice, another native called Lambrusco, of which there are many grapes and styles. Gnocco Fritto begs for Lambrusco’s frothy purple bubbles that lip-smackingly scrub the palate clean of the deep-fried indulgence. Its fresh invigorating purity prepares you for the next bite. The duo from Emilia Romagna are meant for each other and thankfully makes room for one more, such as a person like you or me.
Will I ever have Gnocco Fritto and Lambrusco again? In Las Vegas, yes. Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is hosting a summer tasting menu featuring the regional goodness of Emilia Romagna, and in the time of travel bans, an 8-mile drive to one of my favorite spots is clearly the next best thing. From now through July 11, take the four-course culinary trip for $49.
Start with the illustrious yet humble Gnocco Fritto, a fried pillow of dough, arugula, gorgonzola, culatello, red onion, Lambrusco marmellate or the region’s Prosciutto di Parma with seasonal melon, vincotto. (My advice: ask for both and pay the extra). For the second course, the famous Tagliatelle al Ragu in Bolognese sauce, ribbons of a hearty dish that have come to represent Italian cuisine all over the world. For the main, choose from Pollo alla Romagnola- pan-roasted, free-range chicken in a tomato and herb sauce or seared Branzino filet, zucchini, squash blossom, aged balsamic drops - drops of decadence. Finish sweet with Torta Barozzi Chocolate and rum cake, and coffee ice cream.
May I suggest you order a bottle of Lambrusco? Make it two, because locals receive half off the bottle price. Try different styles of Lambrusco, but start with Medici Ermete’s Concerto Reggiano Lambrusco DOC. Made with Lambrusco Salamino grapes, the wine is a charming and intensely fresh frizzante, dry but fruity, with an attractive savory character. If you haven’t had Lambrusco since the 1970s, it’s time to re-discover this wine and all its diversity. From the light and floral Lambrusco di Sorbara, to the full bodied Lambrusco di Grasparossa, redolent of black cherry and plums, you’ll be glad you did!
Marisa Finetti has called Las Vegas home since 2005, after spending 10 years as a zinfandel grower in Dry Creek Valley. Her best of moments in writing include getting her mug shot taken at Penn Jillette’s house, covering a nudist colony while being uncovered, and interviewing a sommelier who enlightened her that there is more to wine than California. Visit her at marisafinetti.com