Taste of Wine founding Editor Frank Mangio with column Travel Writers Scott & Nancine Hagner, share a tasting of Niner wines from Paso Robles at a recent Vittorio’s wine dinner. Photo courtesy Frank Mangio
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Taste of Wine: Italian eateries may be hard to pronounce, but they stick around

With Italian restaurants, you learn as you eat, starting with the name, which could be a family name, a place, a restaurant item or a menu description.

Let’s review some family names such as: Maestoso or Cesarina, places like Firenze or Positano and a menu or equipment item like Dolce Pano Vino or Il Fornaio. Then there is the menu selection which could be challenging. Do you like a meaty sauce? Look for Bolognese. A very popular appetizer is Bruschetta, a toasted garlic bread topped with tomatoes.

The perfect Italian meal, an “off the menu” Gnocchi potato dumpling with stuffed Ricotta cheese, meat sauce and fresh grated Parmesan cheese from Rosina’s Italian Restaurant, San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio

Rigatoni is my favorite pasta.

It’s large and hollowed. The ribs on the outside of this pasta catch the red meat sauce packed with olive oil, Italian herbs, sautéed mushrooms and sweet onions. Sprinkled over this ensemble of Italian flavor would be an aged grating cheese from the world-class cheese capital, Parma Italy, called Parmesan.

Italian wines can be confusing. Most of the wines are labeled by the location of the vineyard, not grapes. The following are locations:  Barolo, Barbaresco, Valpolicella, Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Super Tuscan and Campania.

Italian restaurants fall into two broad categories: small, family-style eateries with one, maybe two locations. Homemade recipes are scratched out as specials added to basic menus that have to include five or six basic pizza dishes with unlimited choices of “items” for a buck or so more, pastas that have to include spaghetti with a basic marinara (tomato) sauce and lots of Garlic bread. For a few more bucks, you’re better off with the meat sauce (Bolognese). Order it with three meats sauce (veal, pork and beef) and you have the best!

I recently reviewed Rosina’s Italian restaurant run by brothers Giancarlo (front room taking orders and dishing out the kudos), and Gianfranco (back room making sure the dishes were Italo-sensational), while Mamma Rosina was vacationing in Italy. Best tip for you is to know that Thursday is Lasagna night.

Rosina’s has one of the finest wine lists for a small, family operation, from small production Napa Valley greats, to a variety of Tuscan Brunellos to stock their busy full bar selections. Rosina’s is a few miles from the 56 freeway off Camino Del Sur in north San Diego. Visit rosinassandiego.com.

Vittorio’s family style trattoria is also off the 56 freeway and Camino Del Sur but that’s where the similarity ends. Owner/Manager Victor Magalhaes is constantly promoting with his own delivery service, a loyalty program, full bore internet marketing, date-night specials, $10. Sunday pasta dinners and major monthly wine dinners with top names at extraordinarily reasonable prices per person. At a recent Paso Robles winery five-course wine dinner at Vittorio’s, guests filled the large banquet room. The wines ranged from a Spanish Albarino to a beautiful, complex red blend, for $70 per person. Niner Wine Estates has a total of 223 acres across three different vineyards in Paso Robles and the Edna Valley. All wines are 100% estate grown. For a treat, try Fogcatcher blend. For more on Niner, visit ninerwine.com. For Vittorio’s, go to vittoriossandiego.com.

Diners in San Diego county have many choices from a full range of Italian restaurants with new ones being created weekly. Consider us to be your guide to the newest and the best of this remarkable style of food and wine.

Mangia y bevi salute.

Wine Bytes

• The Carlsbad Oktoberfest is from noon to 9 p.m. Oct. 5 at Holiday Park. Meal and admission ticket for 10 and older is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Admission only $5.  It’s the 37th annual event presented by the Carlsbad Rotary. A traditional German meal will be served along with craft and domestic beer. Get the full story at rotaryoktoberfest.org.

• A natural wine tasting happens at Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 5. Twenty-five-plus natural wines will be tasted, wines with the true essence of the grape, with minimal intervention. Admission $20. Wine club members $15. Details at (760) 745-1200.

• The La Jolla Art & Wine Festival is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 from Girard to Prospect. This is a free event with art, gourmet food, live music, wines and craft beers, spirits and sips. Visit ljawf.com or call (619) 233-5008.

• Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad and the NSEFU Wildlife Conservation Foundation invite you to A Toast for Tusks Wine Tasting Fundraiser from 2 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13. Enjoy tasting, delicious food and live music with silent auction bidding. Tickets are $60 per person. Call for details at (619) 334-8084 or witchcreekwinery.com.

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