Articles by: Charles Scicolone

  • Dining in & out

    Judging the Pizza and Prosecco Competition

    I was speaking to Rosario Procino, owner of Ribalta Pizzeria, at a wine tasting and the conversation turned to pizza in Naples and NYC. As we were talking, Megan De Angelo of Colangelo, a PR firm, came by to see Rosario and joined the conversation. She said that she was organizing a Prosecco & Pizza Competition at Ribalta and invited me to be one of the judges. 

    The event took place during Prosecco Week.  Prosecco is the largest selling sparkling (spumante) wine in Italy.  Italians drink it as an aperitif (no self- respecting Roman or Venetian goes out to dinner without having a glass of Prosecco first), with food, and to celebrate. When I am in Rome the first meal I have is at Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter. I always order the same dish, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella with a bottle of Prosecco. I think it goes great with any type of fried food, shellfish and Pizza. I am a big fan of sparkling wine with pizza.

    Prosecco production takes place in the area of north east Italy lying between the Dolomites and the Adriatic sea. Since July of 2009 Prosecco can be produced in two regions; the Veneto(most of the production) and Friulli-Venezia Giulia.

    Sparkling (Spumante) Prosecco) can be Brut, Extra Dry Dry or Demi Sec. Brut is dryer than Extra Dry. It is made from the Glera (formerly known as Prosecco) grape (85- 100%) with the possible addition of Verdiso, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay up to 15%. Most Prosecco is non-vintage.

    Sparkling Prosecco is made by the Martinotti-Charmat method, meaning that the wine is given a second fermentation in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank (autoclave) rather than in the bottle.

    The were four Pizzerias  that competed in the challenge:

    Josh Johnson and Jordan Floyd– Barboncino – 781 Franklin Ave. Brooklyn, NY. 7188-483-8834

    Steve Spinelli- Porta.- Jersey City, N.J. 201-544 -5199 and Asbury Park N.J. 732-726-7661

    Pasquale Cozzolino – Ribalta – 48 East 12th St. NY, NY    212-777-7781

    Flavio Garelli- Cacio and Vino – 80 2nd Ave. NY, NY 212-228-3269

    Each pizzaiolo was given two Proseccos DOC, one Brut (to be Brut it can have up to 12g/l of residual sugar) and one Extra Dry (12 to 17% of residual sugar). They had to choose either the Brut or Extra Dry to pair with their pizza.

    Both Josh Johnson and Steven Spinelli went with the La Marca Extra Dry Prosecco NV (Veneto) to pair with their pizza.

    La Marca is made from the Glera grape 100%. The wine is named for the La Marca Trevigina zone in the heart of the Prosecco region. It has hints of fresh citrus, honey and grapefruit with mineral undertones.

    After we tasted the Prosecco with the pizza,  orange juice  was poured into our glasses to create a mimosa cocktail.  We tasted his pizza again with the mimosa.

    The next two Pizzaioli chose Prosecco Castello di Roncade Brut Traviso DOC NV (Veneto) to go with their pizza made from 100% Glera (residual sugar 9g/l).  It has hints of citrus fruit with herbal and grassy notes and a dry finish.

    Each pizzaiolo made 6 pizzas- one for the judges and 5 for the guests.  The pizzaioli brought all of their own ingredients- anything necessary to make the pizza. They shared a wood-burning oven. There were no restrictions on ingredients and creativity was encouraged.

    After we tasted all of the pizza and tallied the votes, it was a tie between Pasquale  Cozzolino from Ribalta and Flavio Garelli from Cacio and Vino.  All the pizza we tasted went very well with the Prosecco but we broke the tie by giving the grand prize The pizza from Flavio because it  paired better with the Prosecco.  The prize was $2,500.

    I felt like a winner too.  It was a great afternoon and I enjoyed tasting pizza and prosecco.

  • Dining in & out

    Wine Under the Volcano Vesuvius

    Rosario Procino, the owner of Ribalta, one of New York’s best pizzerias, invited me to attend a tasting and dinner, I like to call the event  “Under the Volcano”, the volcano being Vesuvio, sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Vesuvio.   

    The speakers were Luciano Pignataro, a very influential  blogger, food and wine writer. I follow his blog  (English) and (Italian) for all things Neapolitan and Southern Italy.   The other speaker was Ciro Giordano, president of the Consorzio  from Cantine  Olivella. They spoke  about the area in general and the different grapes used in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio such as such as: Caprettone, Catalanesco, Falanghina and Piedirosso.

    The wines featured would be the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco and Rosso.

    Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio may be the most known wine in Campania. The name means the tears of Christ. Legend has it that when Lucifer was expelled from paradise he stole a piece of paradise to take with him. In his flight he dropped this of piece of paradise and it became the bay of Naples and the surrounding area. When Christ saw this he cried and where his tears fell, Lacryma Christi was born.

    Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio can be made from many different grapes and the producer may change his mix from one year to the next. Starting this year the producer  can put the name of the grape or grapes on the label.

    There were many wines at at the tasting but five producers each presented a Lacryma del Vesuvio Bianco and Rosso.

    Rosario explained the food to go with the wines prepared by his chef and pizzaiolo Pasquale Cozzolino.




    Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC made from 85% Coda di Volpe and 15% Falanghina Bianco. The vineyards are in the Mt. Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 500 meters; the training system is Espalier with guyot pruning. Harvest is by hand. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented is steel at a controlled temperature. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, pineapple and peach and good minerality due to the volcanic soils.

    Rosso DOC made from 85% Piedirosso and 15% Algianico. The training system is Espalier with spurred cordon pruning. Fermentation is in steel at a controlled temperature. The wine is full bodied with hints of red fruit and spice.

    Rosario said this zucchini dish was typical of the area.  Zucchini a scapece is thin slices of zucchini fried and dressed with garlic, vinegar and mint.




    Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, “LacrimaBianco,” made from 80% Caprettone and 20% Catalanesca. The vineyards are in the Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 450 meters, the exposure is west, there are 4,000 vines per hectare, the training system is Espallier with guyot pruning.

    The wines are 10 years old and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Classic white wine fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains is steel for 3 months and in the bottle before release.

    Vesuvio Rosso “VIPT”  The age of the vines is 15 years. There is along maceration on the skins in temperature controlled stainless tanks. The wine remains in the bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of red and black fruit with cherry and prune notes and a touch of violet.

    The next dish was eggplant parmigiano, so good I ate most of it before I remembered to take the picture.




    Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio “Cratere” Bianco Made from Caprettone and Falanghina from Agro Vesuviano. Soil is predominately sandy, the training system is low arbour and cordon spur and the harvest is by hand the first week of October. Cryomaceration takes place and the fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for two weeks. Harvest is the first week of October by hand. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for a few months. This is an aromatic wine with hints of yellow fruit, apricot and mineral notes.

    Cratere Rosso  made from Piedirosso, Aglianico and Sciascinoso from Agro Vesuviano. The soil is predominately sandy and the training system is low arbour and cordon spur. Harvest is manual in late October. There is a long maceration with delestage and fermentation is for two weeks in stainless steel. The wine is aged in stainless steel and bottle before release. This is a wine with hints of red fruit, violets, licorice and spicy notes.

    Spaghetti al Pomodoro, Ribalta’s version has been named as the best in New York City.




    Lacryma del Vesuvio Bianco made from 80% Caprettone, 15% Falanghina and 5% Greco. The Caprettone is distributed over three vineyards located at 30, 120 and 200 meters. Falanghina and Greco are at 30 meters. The Falanghina and Greco are fermented together with a pressing and fermentation without the pomace. The Caprettone is vinified alone with a 24-hour maceration period with the pomace. Then a soft pressing and fermentation takes place without temperature control.

    Andrea Matrone, the enologist,  said this helps to obtain a wine with slightly more intense color and a bouquet of aromas that are more related to the varietal and less to the fruity or floral notes due to fermentation. The wine has hints of citrus, almond and a touch of sage with good acidity.

    Rosso made from 75% Piedirosso, 15% Sciascinoso, and 10% Aglianico. The Piedirosso is cultivated in 3 vineyards located at 30, 120 and 200 meters. The soil is volcanic sand/lava and basalt. Sciascinoso and Aglianico are cultivated at 30 meters. Maceration is for 10/12 days and delestage takes place. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats and tonnenau barrels. The wine has aromas and flavors of red fruit and cherry with hints of spice and a touch of smoke.



    Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco made from 100% Caprettone. The vineyard is at 200/250 meters. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh and fragrent wine with hints of citrus fruit and a touch of almond.

    Rosso made from 100% Piedrosso.The vineyard is at 220/250 meters. Traditional red wine fermentation with skin contact takes place. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques. The wine has hints of fruit, violets and a touch of sage. The winery is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvio.

    And last but not least the famous pizza pala – this is a pan pizza and everyone at the table grabbed a slice as soon as it came out. I was lucky to get  a picture.  The crust was crisp and the toppings fresh and balanced.  Another great pizza at Ribalta.


    More info  Consorzio Tutela Vini Vesuvio >> 

    Facebook page >>

    Via Zazzera, 28 (4,399.65 mi)
    Sant'Anastasia 80048


    About Ribalta Restaurant  >>

    Rosario Procino and Pasquale Cozzolino have brought Naples into the heart of New York to make you experience a one-of-a-kind taste: to taste the true Neapolitan pizza. Forget all that you have known about pizza so far. At Ribalta the ingredients are all the Neapolitan ones: from the flour used for the dough, to natural yeast, to tomatoes, to Buffalo-milk mozzarella from Campania. For those who were born and raised in Naples, pizza is not just food, it is an experience indeed which has that original, true taste.

    People working at Ribalta are extremely traditionalist as far as dough is concerned: Pasquale only use the mixture of flours for pizza certified by the Italian flour mill “Le 5 Stagioni” and the natural yeast coming from Italy, which makes pizza light and easy to digest. Toppings, instead, are very fanciful and delicate in order to cater to the different customers’ tastes. For this reason our menu also boasts – besides the traditional pizzas – unusual combinations; customers can also ask for customized pizzas, even putting together the ingredients of their own pizza.



  • Dining in & out

    Cirò, from Calabria: The Perfect Pairing for Roast Lamb

    Cirò Classico is produced in two different parts of Calabria. Cirò is the name of the ancient town on the hill that gives the wine its name, while Cirò Marina is on the coast. The wine region is located in the eastern foothills of the Sila Mountains and extends to the Ionian coast. The soil here is mainly calcareous marl with some clay and sand deposits.

    The most important wine is the Cirò Riserva from the classico zone in the Crotone province. The wine must be made from 95% Gaglioppo grapes and the remaining 5% Trebbiano and Greco bianco. However most producers use 100% percent Gaglioppo

    Many producers use the albero basso training system (low bush vines), which they think produces the best grapes. Because of the shape of the vines, harvesting must be done by hand. Some producers are now switching to more economical vine training methods which may not produce the best grapes. Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva is the best red wine that Calabria has to offer. The wine must be aged at least two years before it enters the market and at least 6 months must be in oak barrels.

    The region’s winemakers also produce Cirò Rosso Classico and Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore.  

    Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva is tannic and full-bodied with good structure and up to 14% alcohol. There are hints of blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plum, leather and spice. Some can be very robust and can last for 10 years or more. Most are priced under $20. They are a perfect combination with meat dishes such as roast lamb.

    Where to find them in NYC

    Astor Wine & Spirits

    399 Lafayette Street 

    New York, NY, 10003 

    (212) 674-7500


    In Vino Veritas

    1375 1st Avenue

    New York, NY, 10021 

    (212) 288-0100

  • A traditional dish from the Veneto region: risi e bisi
    Dining in & out

    What to Eat and Drink When You Are in Veneto

    The cuisine of the Veneto, more than any other region of Italy, reflects the influence of cultures around the world due to contact with them through Venice as a major port and center for trade.

    The marshy region along the Po River offers the perfect growing conditions for rice, especially the Vialone Nano variety used for risotto. Risotto variations are made with seafood, meat and vegetables and one not to miss is Risi e Bisi, rice cooked with green peas and chicken broth, then finished with cheese and butter. Some say that a proper risi e bisi should be made with an equal number of peas to every grain of rice. Unlike risotto made else where, risotto in the Veneto is cooked all’onda, meaning until it is wavy or soupy.

    A perfect wine to go with risi e bisi is Prosecco— a classic wine made from grapes grown to the north of Venice. Fresh and lively, prosecco comes in different styles; the most popular is spumante, (meaning bubbly), but there are also frizzante (lightly efferevescent) and tranquillo (still) varieties.

    Another highlight of Veneto cooking is Fegato alla Veneziana, calf’s liver with onions. Sliced onions are slowly cooked with white wine or vinegar until soft, tender and lightly browned. Then thin slices of liver are quickly sauteed until just browned and mixed with the onions. The typical accompaniment is polenta, either soft or grilled until crusty.

    Fegato alla veneziana goes perfectly with Valpolicella, a red wine made from grapes grown near Lake Garda. It is a fresh and fruity red wine with hints of red fruit such as cherry and raspberry.

    The fish and seafood from the Veneto Lagoon is renowned, especially Moleche, also called moeche, which are soft shell crabs. The crabs are available for just a few weeks in the spring and fall. Only about 2 inches in diameter, the soft shell crabs are coated in a light batter and fried in hot oil until crisp and golden.

    To drink with moleche, choose a Veneto white wine such as Soave. The wine comes from grapes grown in the eastern part of the Province of Verona. Soave wine has aromas of pears and peaches with a hint of almonds.

  • Mt Vesuvius
    Mt. Vesuvius
    Tourism: Articles

    Bella Napoli

    What brings us back again and again is the city’s dramatic beauty, its ancient layered history, the colorful people, and the incomparable food.  But with so much to see and do, our favorite Neapolitan pastime has to be just walking through the streets and enjoying the city as it reveals itself to us.

    Vesuvius, like a sleeping giant, dominates the view of the bay and calls our attention with the changes in the weather, the light and the time of day.  In the streets, magnificent architecture, albeit crumbling in places, surrounds us.  The people are warm and welcoming, and always helpful to visitors and the musical Neapolitan dialect is a pleasure to hear.  

    The food is superb!  Who can resist a perfect pizza, the freshest seafood, or pasta with the finest tomato sauce.  Plus pastries, like the incomparable sfogliatella, crackling crisp on the outside with a warm creamy filling within.  Not to mention the best coffee anywhere.

    We will never tire of Naples and all it has to offer

  • Cerasuolo di vittoria
    Dining in & out

    Understanding Cerasuolo di Vittoria

    One of the wines that caught my attention was the Cerasuolo di Vittoria. It sells for around $20, sometimes for less, and is an excellent wine for the price. The production area is southeast Sicily and includes the provinces of Ragusa, Caltanissetta and Catania. It gets it name from the town of Vittoria. The climate in this part of Sicily is hot and dry with very little rain.

    Cerasuolo di Vittoria is made from a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes -- typically 50% to 70% Nero d’Avola and from 30% to 50% Frappato. Cerasuolo in Italian means cherry and the wine lives up to its name. Frappato is a low acid grape and contributes the flavors of cherry and strawberry. On its own it makes a light bodied wine. Nero d’Avola has high sugar levels and very firm acidity, which gives the wine its structure and body. If the wine contains a greater percentage of Nero D’Avola, it will age much longer. The wine should be consumed within the first ten years though there are some that could age for 15 years or more. Cerasuolo was the first wine from Sicily to be granted the DOCG and producers can also make a DOC version of the wine.

    The minimum alcoholic content is 13%. The wine is released into the market only after it remains for three months in the bottle but not before the June 1st, following the harvest. For Cerasuolo di Vittorio Classico, the period of aging in the bottle cannot be less than 8 months and cannot be released before March 31 of the second year following the harvest. The wine has hints of red fruit especially cherry with a touch of strawberry, good acidity and a nice finish and aftertaste. Serve this wine with lentil soup, roasted meats or pecorino.




    For more about wine, go to

  • Dining in & out

    Understanding Aglianico del Vulture

    Aglianico is an ancient grape variety. It was first cultivated by the Phoenicians and later brought to Southern Italy by the Greeks 3,000 years ago when they colonized the area. In Italy, Aglianico was first planted near modern day Pozzuoli and from there it spread to other parts of Campania and then Basilicata. Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) wrote about it in his Natural History.

    Wine made from Aglianico was called Falernian and was highly regarded by the Romans. The Aglianico grape was known as Elenico (Italian for Greek) until the 15 Century when it began to be called Aglianico. The name might also come from vita hellenica, Latin for Greek wine. The debate goes on. The Aglianico grape prefers volcanic soil and grows at altitudes of 300 to 500 meters. It ripens late and is often one of the last non-dessert grapes to be harvested in Italy being  picked from late October to early November. When yields are kept low, the grape will produce intensely flavored wines.

    Aglianico del Vulture must be made from 100% Aglianico grapes and must be aged for at least one year. If it is labeled riserva it must be aged for at least two years.
    This is a full-bodied wine, tannic, with good acidity and good aging potential. The wine has aromas and flavors of dark fruit with hints of blackberries, plums, and a hint of leather and smoke. My favorite pasta is all’Amatriciana and I eat it whenever I can, especially when I am in Rome or when Michele makes it at home. It is a perfect combination with Aglianico del Vulture because the robust wine can stand up to the rich flavors of the pork, tomatoes, and cheese. Aglianico del Vulture also goes with lamb and beef stews or on the grill, sharp cheeses and meat ragu


    ENOTECA DI PAOLO: 200 Grand St. NY, NY, 212 680- 0545

    IN VINO VERITAS: 1375 First Ave NY, NY 212 288- 0100  

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Understanding Primitivo

    One of my favorites wines was made from the Primitivo grape. It is a big, dark red wine with hints of plum, spice, rustic earthy notes and tannin when it is vinified secco (dry). The name of the Primitivo grape may come from the fact that it ripens earlier than other varieties in Puglia, as early as the last week of August.

    The DOC zone of Manduria, around the town of Sava, in the province of Taranto, is where many believe the best Primitivo is produced. It is also grown in the Gioia del Colle DOC in the Province of Bari. The grape has a high sugar content due to its thin skin, which allows for the evaporation of the water content in the berries.

    Primitivo has the ability to produce two crops during a season, but the second is not used because of the lower sugar content and higher acidity. The latest studies show that Primitivo probably came to Puglia from Croatia. It has also been proven that Primitivo is related to Zinfandel, a grape that came to the US in the mid 19th century and made its way to California.     


    Primitivo wine made in the Gioia del Colle zone must have a minimum alcohol content of 13%, and 14% for the riserva. In the Manduria zone the wine must be made from 100% Primitivo to be DOC.   


    Primitivo can be made into several types of wine, secco (dry), amabile (semi-sweet), and dolce (sweet). There are also liquoroso (fortified) versions both dry and sweet. Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale (made from late harvest grapes) was the first wine from Puglia to receive the DOCG certification. Serve a dry Primitivo with barbecued meats, such as the Pugliese favorite, bombette.


    Find it in NYC:

    Astor Wines&spirits: 399 Lafayette Street (212) 674-7500

    Bottlerocket Wines And spirit: 5 West 19Th Street (212)929-2323

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    IL VINO. Understanding Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made from the Montepulciano grape variety, while Vino Nobile is named for the Tuscan town of Montepulciano and is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape variety.

    The Montepulciano grape is grown in other parts of Italy but it reaches its greatest expression in Abruzzo. The DOC in Abruzzo extends between the Apennine foothills to a few miles inland from the Adriatic Coast.

    The best wines are made from 100% Montepulciano. Under the Italian law Montepulciano d’Abruzzo must contain at least 85% Montepulciano grapes and up to15% Sangiovese. The wine must be aged a minimum of five months before it can go on sale. In order to be labeled Riserva, it has to be aged for 3 years with some time in wood. 

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a deeply colored and rustic red wine, medium to heavy bodied, with hints of cherry, pepper, spice, plum and a touch of blueberry. These wines can be drunk young. However in the hands of the right producer the wine reaches great heights, and can be rich and elegant with hints of tobacco, leather, dry fruit and spice. These wines can last for 30 years or more. 

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a wine that goes very well with food. Homemade spaghetti alla chitarra dressed with lamb ragu is one of the region’s iconic dishes. Other regional specialties include meat stuffed fried olives, crepes baked with cheese and meat sauce, and grilled or roasted lamb.

    There is also a Rose labeled Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, known as Cerasuolo, meaning cherry red, a reference to its color. It is dry and elegant with a slight hint of red fruit and is a perfect complement to lighter dishes like chicken or fish. 

    For more about wine, go to 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Extraordinary Wine Values From Southern Italy

    Every year the Italian Trade Commission sponsors Italian Wine Week in New York City at the Midtown Hilton Hotel. For this year’s Vino 2016, the spotlight will be on the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily. 

    Why are these wines undervalued?

    I was delighted to be asked to moderate a panel on “Extraordinary Wines Values from

    Southern Italy.” This topic is very interesting to me because I drink these wines often, have Southern Italian roots, and enjoy traveling in the region. 

    As a former retailer and wine director for an Italian restaurant in NYC which had a large collection of Southern Italian wines, I know firsthand that these wines are undervalued and not well known. 

    First, they are unfamiliar to most customers

    Part of the reason for this is that they are made from unusual grape varieties that are not recognized by most consumers. Pallagrello, Coda di Volpe, and Gaglioppo, for example, are not the kinds of grapes that most consumers are familiar with, so they are reluctant to try the wines that are made from them.

    Second, most American tourists still do not visit Southern Italy Another reason the wines are not well known to American consumers is that most tourists visited Northern and Central Italy.  But as interest in Southern Italian food and travel continues to expand, many consumers will have the chance to sample these wines in the places they are made and bring their new-found interest back home with them. 


    Southern Italian wines are a “hand sell”

    These wines are what we in the business call a “hand sell,” meaning that it often takes talking about these wines and explaining them to the customer in order to get them to try a bottle or two. They are high quality wines, which reflect the grapes they are made from and the terroir where the grapes are grown—and they go very well with food! When a customer in the restaurant asked for my recommendation, I would suggest a wine from Southern Italy.  When they saw the “low” price, they often seemed surprised.

    But I always felt a lot of satisfaction in knowing that I had made many of them into more educated wine drinkers and loyal fans of these wines. As they left the restaurant, they would thank me for my suggestion and would ask where to buy the wine at retail.  So the situation is changing. And by bringing attention to these great wine values, the spotlight on Southern Italy during Vino 2016 is bound to have a definite impact on the American market as well.