A few months back at a Girl Power Hour (@GirlPowerHour) event, I met an events manager for Il Fornaio in Seattle. She emailed me, explaining that they do monthly tastings at the restaurant on the first Thursday of every month, and would love to have me attend. I was thrilled for this invite, but ended up busy every Thursday from February to April! The May tasting rolled around and I was finally able to make it to the restaurant to try out their regional tasting. The restaurant features a different region of Italy each month and for the first few weeks of the month, features a special menu with dishes showcasing that region. May 3rd to 16th featured the Campania region of Italy. This region is the best known of Italy’s Southern Regions and happens to be the birthplace of pizza and fresh mozzarella. Il Fornaio’s chef, Franz, has been with the company since 1996 and called Campania one of his favorite Italian regions. Before each course of our tasting, he explained the ingredients and how they are special to that region. The restaurant’s wine director also explained each wine of our courses and how they paired with the dish. It was my first experience at Il Fornaio and it will definitely not be my last! It was such a wonderful tasting. We each received a packet of pizza dough to make at home, along with a recipe for a margarita pizza (one of my favorites!).
We started out the tasting with the Menesta Schitana, a cannellini bean soup; and the Pummarole e Capri, a tomato, mozzarella and basil dish. The mozzarella used in the dish is buffalo mozzarella, and was quite delicious! The dishes were paired with the 2008 Falanghina Sannio, Feudi di San Gregorio white wine. This was a very fruity wine, with very prominent flavors (pear stood out the most for me). This is a great “summer wine” and paired well with the starters.
Our next tasting from the menu consisted of two pasta dishes. We tried the Strangulaprievete e Surriento, which was a potato gnocchi with fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, basil and tomato sauce. On this tasting plate we also tried the Risotto e Amalfi, a carnaroli rice with shrimp, mussels, clams, roasted red and yellow bell peppers, garlic and brandy. These were paired with a 2008 Greco di Tufo, Loggia della Serra, Terredora, a medium bodied white wine. In my opinion, this wine was much better paired with food than standing alone. It paired very well with the risotto and the apple flavors stood out the most. This tasting course was by far my favorite of the entire evening. I want to go back in there for a large size portion of the potato gnocchi, it was wonderful!
From there we moved onto a tasting of Scaluppine a Caprese, a thinly sliced veal with tomato fillets and fresh mozzarella, as well as Spigula Dinto o Cuoppo, a bluenose sea bass baked in parchment paper with shrimp, mussels, claims, cerry tomatoes and white wine. These tastings were served along with a 2007 Rubrato Irpinia Aglianico Feudi di San Gregorio red wine. This was a very aromatic and full-bodied red with flavors of black cherry and spice that stood out for me. This wine is known to age well and the varietal is one of the world’s darkest colored wines. It had a smooth finish and was a great complement to the “surf and turf” of the veal and sea bass.
We finished our tasting with a Delizia a Limone, a traditional lemon sponge cake filled with lemon pasty cream. This was soaked with limoncello. This delicate dessert was light and fluffy and very enjoyable. It was a perfect end to a very flavorful tasting of dishes. My food throughout the tasting was so good, I forgot to take photos until we reached dessert. Oops.. You’ll have to head in to the restaurant to try for yourself! I am so thankful for the opportunity to try out Il Fornaio, I will be back soon!