Please try to tune into my next Instagram livestream about Italian wines from three regions: Tuscany, Piedmont and Alto Adige. It will be 40 minutes long and I’ll speak about history and geography before tasting at least three wines. There will also be an interview with winemaker Fabrizio Francone, of Francone Wine of Piedmont. The event is this Thursday at 6:00 pm [France], 5:00 pm [UK], noon [EST] and 9:00 am [PST]. My Instagram account is: tjlmullen.

Tune in on Thursday!


An index of Vino Voices articles from the last 10 years can now be found by clicking here, or at:


This week’s featured food/wine pairing comes from a small restaurant in the city of Florence in Tuscany, Italy. During a visit last week, friends and I passed a restaurant where we saw a woman making pasta through the front window. That sight lured me in later to try dinner.

Cathedral of Santa Mario di Fiore in Florence


Osteria Pastella is located on Via della Scalla in the city of Florence. This moderate sized restaurant includes outdoor tables.

Owner Pietro Maria Caria is originally from Sardinia, but has lived in Florence for four decades. He first worked in fashion, then construction and finally chose to run this restaurant ‘for fun, for life.’

Outdoor tables (and chatting upstairs neighbor)

Pietro told of his choice.

‘If you don’t have a passion for life, you can do nothing. I adore food, and do this work only for passion! We serve only Tuscan wines and foods. I choose wine from small producers who make only from 3,000 to 20,000 bottles annually. I also love reading and traveling. Love Dylan and Kerouac. I read Idiot Wind by Peyer Kaldheim, and another interesting author is Paul Beatty who wrote The Sellout. Incredible! I love reading.’

Pietro and I toast an after dinner vermouth laced with fruity, herbal flavors


Dinner included four courses.

For Antipasti—Appetizer:

Tartare di manzo tuorlo d’uovo essiccato, cipolla rossa di Certaldo affumicata.

Beef tartare, dried egg yolk, smoked red onion from Certaldo.

This hand cut raw meat comes from free range beef and includes a red wine and pepper sauce as well as mint leaves. Wow! Incredible taste explosion.

Beef tartare, and a lot more

For Primi Piatti—First Course:

Antica pasta di grano Verna del Sicomoro, sugo di astice ed asparago di mare.

Ancient pasta with local Verna wheat, lobster sauce, seaweed samphire.

The sauce is made from wild herbs and includes Pecorino cheese. The dish includes a smoky, structured barbecue taste.

Pasta and lobster sauce

For Secondi Piatti—Main Course:

Coniglio disossato, pancetta, carote e salsa alla cacciatora.

Boneless rabbit, salt cured pork belly, carrots and chasseur sauce.

The dish includes two types of carrots and a demi-glaze ‘hunter’ sauce with mushrooms. Each rabbit portion is within a wrap. Think Tuscan hunting trip meets a Thanksgiving dinner table. The accompanying chunks of beetroot are candied and acidic, delivering a full, earthy, back-to-the-land taste.

Dolce – Dessert:

Pan soffice, crema bianco al miele e profumo di rabarbaro.

Sponge cake, white honey cream and rhubarb spray.

Need we say more?

Sponge cake, white honey cream and sprayed rhubarb paired well with wine

3. WINE.

Having just visited Gorgona island days earlier, which is a colony of prisoners who also work to produce wine (Forbes article to come) I was intrigued to taste other local Tuscan ‘island’ wines. So rather than choose any local chianti classico or Brunello di Montalcino local Tuscan wines, I selected Zenobito, from Cantina La Piana. This IGT appellation wine originates on the island of Capraia (a volcanic island off Tuscany with about 400 residents). It is made from two red grapes: Ciliegola and Colorino. The first grape name means ‘cherry’ in Italian and the grape is sometimes used as a component of chianti wines. The second grape has been used to add a deep color to chianti.

The taste?

Imagine a cross between a Nero Mascalese wine from Sicily—with complex layers of chocolate flavors—and a Central Valley California Syrah—which also has chocolate tones but is more brilliantly bright and focused. That is this wine: with pencil lead and blueberrry aromas and a deep taste with flavors that include blackberries and a chocolate tart, but also with more earthy and acrid flavors—think cranberries and olives. This is a fiery red—an assertive yet easygoing mouthful of blue fruit.

Italian island wine


Before arriving in a city to visit, ask friends who have lived or visited there, or sommeliers who have worked there about which restaurants or wine bars to visit.

My wonderful wine guru friend Gabrielle Vizzavona from Paris recommended a few restaurants, including Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. Merci, Gabrielle!

Valiant Vizzavona amid Vines

There, chef Jeewa Atapattu from Sri Lanka serves amazing food. I was so transfixed by conversing with my dining partner/sommelier/wine marketing guruess Eugenia Braschi (a Florentine local) that I don’t recall whether our dish was panzanella or pappa al pomodoro. With it we drank a bottle of Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco from the Piedmont region. Wonderful.

Eugenia enraptured by aromas
Wonderful Barbaresco from the Piemonte region of Italy

Another restaurant visited during this trip (thanks again for finding this, Gabrielle) was Trattoria Sostanza, recommended by one of Tuscany’s more prominent winemakers. The interior is simple, and no credit cards are accepted. But luminaries from all over the world visit. Why? Excellent food and a great wine list. Try the pasta pomodoro with San Filippo Le Lucere Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese).

Low key and magnificent

Tuscan classic meal

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ruth Manchester, owner of a restaurant in Nantucket Sound, wrote the following:

    ‘Wanted to be at table with you enjoying that fabulous meal. Thanks for sharing. Am really enjoying your posts.’

  2. You’ve done it again Tom. Conveying the joys of wine and food that lurk outside of the main stream, but remain accessible to all and sundry. Where are you taking me next time?

    1. Thanks for tuning in again Michael! I enjoy your posts from Vietnam :). Tomorrow I’ll do a livestream on 3 Italian wine regions, on October 1st a livestream on Douro wines from Portugal and will soon write about food and wine from the island of Santorini in Greece. Stay tuned!

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