I was trying to figure out how the all-Italian wine list at Gradisca on W. 13th Street was organized. Clearly it wasn't alphabetical or by price. After further scrutiny I realized the arrangement was geographical, with northern wines from Trentino, Veneto, Piedmont etc. on top and Sicilian wines at the bottom. Wines from Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio and so on were in the middle. I don't think I've ever seen that before, certainly not without subject headings to let the diner know what's going on.
The list even had two red wines from Emilia-Romagna, a region widely regarded as having the best food in Italy, but I've even heard people from there disparage its wine. I respect that: If you're proud of where you come from, you also can admit to your home's shortcomings. So when eating in fine-dining restaurants in Emilia-Romagna cities such as Parma and Bologna, it's not uncommon for the sommeliers to recommend fancier wines from other regions, such as Lombardy, Piedmont or Tuscany. Locals, of course, drink the local stuff, which is produced to go well with the local food.
Gradisca’s owner, Massimo Galeano, is from Bologna and his chef, Matteo Boglione, is from Florence, in Tuscany, so the food reflects those two culinary traditions, which in many ways are opposite. Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine is known for its complex preparations, while Tuscan food is known for its straightforward, almost rustic approach.
What I ate:
Parmigiano crisp with sautéed chanterelles
Polenta with cheese sauce and porcini
Carpaccio with porcini, Parmigiano-Reggiano and thyme pesto
Bocconcino di bufala with Prosciutto di Parma and truffle sauce
Pistachio-crusted scallop and carrot puree
Cinghiale with potato gnochetti
Beef filet over white asparagus puree, potato cake with truffle and leek
Warm chocolate cake with crème anglaise
Four gelatos: vanilla with candied chestnut, nougat, limoncello and hazelnut