In 2001, author Alan Tardi was the chef/owner of a Manhattan restaurant, Follonico, where his Italian dishes were embraced both by critics and a loyal following of “foodies”. That summer, he decided to close his restaurant, refocused his priorities and eventually moved to a tiny hilltop village in the Piedmont district of Italy: Castiglione Falletto. Romancing the Vine is the story of Tardi’s first year in Italy, when he learned to cultivate the vine that makes the country’s most celebrated wine, Barolo, and where he left any big-city slickness behind to immerse himself in a totally different way of life. Tardi introduces us to the tough-to-crack Piedmontese, including Renza, the barkeep and village matriarch, who is addicted to TV quiz shows; Ivana, the charming and independent woman who becomes Tardi’s girlfriend; and Ivana’s brother Fabrizio, who is struggling to reclaim his father’s abandoned vineyard in the heart of Barolo.
Romancing the Vine is rich with the lore of one of Italy’s most fascinating regions, and full of detail about the cultivation of grapevines, the harvesting of the nebbiolo grapes that make Barolo, and the fermenting, tasting and bottling of the new wine itself. And, since no restaurateur could live in the Piedmont without prying loose some of its culinary secrets, Tardi studs his book with twenty-five special and authentic recipes from the region, including Pollo al Babi (Flattened Roast Chicken, “Frog-style”), Fonduta, and Torta di Nocciole (Hazelnut Cake).
Romancing the Vine offers a “cellar rat”’s view of a great wine harvest and an enthusiast’s look at a unique piece of Italy with all of its idiosyncratic pleasures and challenges.