Wine pairs best with warm conversation and good food. This philosophy led us to open the Antipasteria at our vineyard. Enjoy wine by the glass, antipasto plates, home-made soup by our very own Grandma Millie, and baked goods.
Cheese plates must be nuanced and deftly balanced, varied in both taste and texture. That’s why we took the time to tweak and test our own to perfection. (And we assure you, none of us minded being guinea pigs).
Classic Gouda, Applewood Smoked Cheddar, and Asiago are paired with dried apricots, dates, Kalamata olives, toasted pecans, and our homemade crackers. These flavors and our wines bring out the best in one another. While the entire wine list had something unique to offer as a pairing, we very much liked how our Sweetheart Hard Cider fit the bill.
In an Italian kitchen, soup is a very personal thing. Culinary tradition, deeply rooted, serves more as a series of guidelines than actual rules. Pasta Putanesca is a perfect example – we all agree on what it is, and would know it if we saw it, but no two recipes are alike. Note: a ‘putana’ may be what your Italian grandmother will call any woman she sees wearing short-shorts, but it actually means ‘prostitute’. After a hard day’s work, putanas of old would cook a big batch of pasta, with a sauce comprised of whatever they had on hand, to feed their clients and gaggle of children. (We mean no disparagement, you have to respect women whose urge to feed the world is that strong.)
Our own great-great grandmother, Carmela LaSena, was certainly no putana- but she was no stranger to the hustle. A Sicilian immigrant who didn’t speak a word of English, she stuffed mattresses in Brooklyn and concocted bathtub gin to help support her five surviving children after her husband died of pneumonia. Her eldest daughter Nancy, at age eleven, died of fright when caught in the crossfire of a pair of street hoodlums. Her heart simply gave out.
Carmela may not have been formally educated, but she was very smart. She apprenticed her four sons to local tradesmen as soon as they reached six years of age. Our great-grandfather, Sam, was unofficially indentured to a butcher and started off by making deliveries on foot. His take-home pay was a bag of meat every week, and that was just fine with Carmela.
Feeding five kids as a single mother is no small feat. Though it was humble, Carmela regarded her kitchen as a sacred space. If you were grumpy, biologically compromised, or copping an attitude, you would find yourself promptly banished. She considered the emotional environment of the kitchen to be just as vital an ingredient as any meat or vegetable. The food nourished the body, the feeling of the chef nourished the soul. She knew the world was tough, and wanted to give her children the strength to face it.
Thus, many recipes were born. Perhaps missing the more expensive ingredients a purist might expect, but supplemented with love and a dash of ingenuity. Her Italian Wedding Soup is no exception. It may be lacking in spinach and orzo, but you’ll certainly wish you could marry it. The customary carrot, onion, and celery are chopped so fine they’re barely visible to the naked eye- a fine trick for a mother who wants to ensure her children aren’t picking out their vegetables. Egg drop takes the place of pasta. The meatballs, tiny as marbles, contain equal parts beef, pork, and veal (or whatever happened to be in Sam’s bag of meat scraps at the end of the week).
Our very own Grandma Millie has carried on the tradition, though she prefers to use a blender for the vegetables. Her memories of her grandmother have also endured. She recalls a reserved and observant woman who showed her love through service.
Carmela had excellent taste, innate to her being, despite the fact that she was a peasant woman who had never been exposed to the finest life had to offer. She took great pride in running a clean and tidy home. Her children may not have worn the finest of clothes, but what they had was well-maintained and neat as a pin. She brooked no disrespect- her sons may have towered over her in height, but could be reduced to mere inches at one sharp look. She never yelled. Her wooden spoon did all the talking.
So, in conclusion, we could spend many flowery paragraphs telling you how delicious her Italian Wedding Soup is, but like Carmela, we would much prefer to show you.
We hope you decide to visit. And don’t worry, we’ve left the wooden spoon at home.