Oliveto, where California’s natural bounty meets authentic Italian gastronomy

oliveto best italian oaklandWe’ve always been big fans of Oliveto in Oakland, California.

It’s simply one of the most thoughtful Italian restaurants in the U.S. today, where Chef Jonah Rhodehamel blends the flavors of California’s superb produce and pasture-raised meats with authentic Italian gastronomic tradition.

“Exceptional ingredients from farmers we know and trust,” write the owners on their website, are “the point of departure for all our food. Carrying that tradition forward, Chef Jonah Rhodehamel’s menus coalesce classic Italian cooking with intelligent innovation.”

Just peruse the restaurant’s website or its Facebook photo stream and it’s not hard to gauge the level of knowledge and thoughtfulness that goes into its food.

And its wine list is equally intelligent in its design and its selection. We love how they list the wines by body and we applaud the way they include wines from all over Italy, including many Southern Italian selections alongside their ample offering from Piedmont and Tuscany.

And, of course, we’re proud of the support that they’ve given Cantele over the years (the 2010 Amativo by Cantele is currently featured by the bottle).

Be sure to check out the restaurant’s blog, too.

5655 College Ave
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 547-5356
Google map

Image via the Oliveto Facebook.

Prides Osteria in Beverly Mass.: groovy food, groovy folks

best italian restaurant salem massOne of the coolest things about social media is how it allows us to travel without traveling.

Honestly, we’ve never been up to Beverly, a 40-minute drive north of Boston in the heart of historic New England.

But after spending some time perusing the Facebook of Prides Osteria — the town’s leading Italian joint — we feel like we know the place.

The restaurant’s Facebook is everything — in our view — that a restaurant Facebook should be: it’s shows off the dining room, the ingredients, the preparation, the food, and the people who make it.

And most importantly, its “food porn” fills our stomachs with mimetic desire: after browsing the page, WE WANT TO EAT THERE!

The restaurant’s social media really conveys the soul of the place. And from what we read in its Twitter bio, it’s all about “Cozy food with balls!”

We love this place and we’ve never even eaten there. And we’re proud to share the news that Prides Osteria serves Cantele 2009 Salice Salentino — our Tre Bicchieri winner — by the glass.

Buon weekend e buon appetito a tutti!

Prides Osteria
240 Rantoul St
Beverly, MA 01915
(978) 969-0083
Google map

Image via the Prides Osteria Facebook.

Dispatch from Torre Colimena by leading wine writer Brian Freedman

torre colimenaAbove: The iconic fortress at Torre Colimena on the western coast of Puglia.

“Wine-wise,” wrote leading wine writer Brian Freedman in an article about his recent visit to Puglia for Philadelphia Weekly, “I’ve been blown away.”

“From value-priced bottles to pricier ones that have been garnered with awards all over the world, [the wines] embody exactly what make Puglian wine so special: Expressiveness and food-friendliness, as well as a sense of exuberance that demands a second glass, and then a third—and, let’s be honest here, a fourth, as long as you’re not driving.”

Cantele, he noted, was among the “spectacular” wineries he visited while he and his family spent a month in rented house there.

After such a rich experience, he’s convinced, he wrote, that “Puglia will be the next big destination in Italy.”

Click here to read his dispatch for Philadelphia Weekly. And here for a post on his family’s stay in Puglia on his personal blog.

Follow Brian @WineUpdate

manduria puglia beach

Images via Antonio Trogu’s and Any.colour.you.like’s Flickrs (Creative Commons).

Vino Roma, a first lady of enogastronomic social media

vino roma hande leimerAbove, from left: Paolo Cantele, Hande Leimer, and Theodor Leimer, outside the Cantele winery in Guagnano, Lecce province (image via Hande’s Facebook).

USA Today has called her “Rome’s leading wine educator.”

But Hande Leimer, aka Vino Roma, does so much more beyond her role as the the star of the groovy Roman fine wine scene.

She and her husband Theodor own and run Vino Roma, a tasting room and wine education center in the heart of the Eternal City. The setting alone is worth the price of admission: it’s situated in a fully restored subterranean Roman-era cellar. With its minimalist subtle décor, the space is simply enchanting.

Having followed their tasting notes on social media for some time now and having tasted with them in person, I have deep respect for Hande and Theodor’s wine knowledge and I highly recommend their tastings, classes, and guided tours, which sell-out quickly btw (advanced booking is required).

But that’s not what I love most about this first couple of food and wine in Rome.

fiano pugliaAbove: “Fiano from #puglia?” wrote Hande on social media when she tasted it at the Cantele tasting room earlier this week. “Yes, fresh and salty, lovely!”

As I follow along on the couple’s culinary adventures through social media, I’ve found that her unbridled exuberance for all things enogastronomic is simply irresistible.

And I can say from personal experience that her joyful exhilaration is as pure as first-pressed extra-virgin olive oil: when I finally met Hande and Theodor in Rome earlier this year, we shared two extraordinary meals at two of the couple’s favorite restaurants (Gatta Mangiona and Da Cesare; we sat next to chef Dan Barber and his children at Cesare, btw).

To watch Theodor marvel over the flavors of classic pajata (the small intestines of a calf cooked with its milk in tomato sauce and served over rigatoni) or to hear Hande discuss the fine differences in vintages of a favorite macerated Ribolla from Oslavja, you take away a slice of gourmet joy, generously shared by them with any like-minded fellow traveler.

best seafood italyAbove: During the couple’s recent trip to Puglia, Hande snapped and posted these photos at Ristorante da Tuccino in Bari province.

That’s not to say that Hande is hypocritical in her reportage of the restaurants that the couple visits and the wines that they drink.

Her self-appointed mission is to seek out and share the best enogastronomic experiences. While never harsh in her judgment, she also never refrains from expressing her disappointment in a dining experience or a wine she’s tasted.

She tends to underline the positive. But she isn’t shy when it comes to sharing a negative impression.

best rosato italyAbove: “I love rosatos from #puglia!” wrote Hande on her social media with her signature joyfulness.

But the most important thing about what Hande and Theodor do — at least in my view — is that they constantly remind us that food and wine is a human experience.

In a world that’s sadly dominated by oneupmanship and where exclusivity and braggadocio often prevail, they focus on the every person experience of aroma and flavor.

They are some of the coolest people I know in our world and my wife Tracie P and I love following Hande on social media and trading notes with her on favorite places.

Even though we’ve only met in person on two occasions, I can’t think of a week when I didn’t comment/like/share one of her posts. She and Theodor have become our friends through virtual media and even though an ocean lies between us, they are involved in our daily vicissitudes; and we in theirs (I love Hande’s rants about Romans’ creative parking habits, btw).

There is no doubt in my mind that we live in a better enogastronomic world because Hande and Theodor are in it.

Jeremy Parzen

Follow Hande and her culinary adventures @VinoRoma, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Places to visit in Lecce: Santa Cesarea Terme

santa cesarea termeAbove: As Paolo Cantele (left) noted on his Facebook, “I know. Don’t remind me. I’m getting a little carried away with the selfies.”

With its crystal-clear waters, Santa Cesarea Terme, on the eastern coast of Puglia in Lecce province, is one of Italy’s best spots for snorkeling and swimming.

It’s also a favorite destination for hot springs.

And it’s just one of the many vacation spots you can reach in a 30-60 minute radius of Lecce, where the Cantele family lives.

porto miggiano

Bottom image via Andrea Cavalera’s Flickr (Creative Commons).

The Revolving Door: Salice Salentino on Thames St. in historic Newport, Rhode Island

revolving door restaurant rhode islandOne of the coolest things about making and selling wine is the awesome places that wine will take you.

We were geeked to learn that the Cantele Salice Salentino is available at The Revolving Door on historic Thames Street in downtown Newport, Rhode Island.

The picturesque thoroughfare is lined with restaurants, bars, and landmark houses and is one of the most popular summer destinations on the East Coast.

Here’s a link to the Newport Discovery Guide site with all kinds of groovy information on this beautiful, classic American town.

Love it!

The Revolving Door
509 Thames St
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 846-0400
Google map

Image via The Revolving Door Facebook.