28 November 2012

More than a tasting

The Italy Pavilion has been doing a yeoman’s work over the past several years to inject one of the country’s main exports back in the forefront of the pavilion, cuisine. From an overhaul of Tutto Italia to the new pizzeria, Via Napoli, there is barely a corner on this pavilion that has not seen the addition of a world class eatery. Today, we’re venturing into the cozy wine cellar known as Tutto Gusto.

The first thing you will notice upon entering the wine cellar is that it has a very warm feel about it. There are large plush chairs, dark wooden tables, and the stone walls and pillars that should make this a dim, quiet space. However, there is warm cheery lighting, my personal favorite are the lamps made from wine bottles, and a bright display case which keeps Tutto Gusto feeling welcoming and friendly.

Tutto Gusto had been open for a few months when I was finally able to stop by, and I very much wanted to get the full experience, which means wine and a smattering of small plate items. When the wine cellar first opened, guests were able to select a variety of meats, cheeses, and other charcuterie elements, including olives and salads. The ability to order items individually is still an option, and I especially recommend the olives, but Tutto Gusto has worked very diligently to come up with some sampling plates that are perfect for sharing. My group selected the L’Alpina and La Maiala plates.

L’Alpina is a cheese plate which features cheeses that hail from Italy’s northern province of Piemonte. The plate included a Fontina Valdostana , a semi-firm cow’s milk, La Tur, a creamy blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk, and a Gorgonzola Cremificato, a sweet blue cheese. Some were saltier than others, one offering was very smooth and perfect for spreading, while another was more brittle and perfect for nibbling on, but that is the joy of small plates such as L’Alpina. In fact, of the group I dined with, we all had very different opinions on how each cheese ranked alongside the others, but we all agreed they were all exquisitely crafted.

The same held true of the La Maiala plate, which included a selection of salted and cured meats from Chef Barcatta. The Chef has excellent taste, as well all thoroughly enjoyed each of the three meat offerings. This plate included Prosciutto di Parma, an aged dry cured ham, Finocchiona, a fennel and peppered salame, and Salametto, a small, dried, and spiced pork sausage.

Each of the plates also included a suggestion for a wine flight that would pair well with the components of the plates. The flights at Tutto Gusto are not simply thrown together, but hand-selected based on region, type of grape, or seasonal flavors. For my part, I went a bit off menu and tried the special wine flight that was announced on a card at the table, but not on the menu. It was called Old Face, New Places for its inclusion of recognizable grape varietals, but in a new composition.

The flight included 2 oz. pours of a Chardonnay, a 2010 Tenuta Di Nozzole ‘Le Bruniche,’ a Pinot Noir, a 2009 San Giuseppe, and a Zinfandel, a 2009 Primaterra Primitivo. So, what do I mean by ‘new composition’ of the wines? As a general rule with white wines, particularly Chardonnay, I like a crisp wine. In the case of the Le Bruniche, however, I found a buttery wine that felt comfortable just resting in my mouth and that had the feel of liquid sunshine to it, as silly as all of that sounds. The Pinot Noir was dark, which I expected, but also a clean, light feel to it. In other words, it didn’t linger on my palate as most Pinot Noirs do. I tend to like Old Vine Zinfandels, and the Primitivo, the original grape of California’s Zinfandel, is probably about as old vine as you can get, and I loved every sip of it.

Tutto Gusto has many other food offerings, including sandwiches and pasta dishes, but the small plates with some fantastic wines will always gobble up my attention. Tutto Gusto may not be the perfect place to dine with your family, but for a quiet, romantic pause, or a place to sit and talk with a group of friends you haven’t see in a while, this is the place to be. I have yet to sample anything at Tutto Gusto that would leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m willing to bet I’ll never find that dish or glass either.

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