It’s August, which means Italians are taking a two-week holiday. While they’re celebrating summer, we want to celebrate YOU. Visit our Facebook page to take part in our first ever #MazzoniMonday. Take a picture of how you’re living like an Italian this week: cooking like an Italian, playing like an Italian, or simply feeling Italian. Post your photo to our wall with #MazzoniMonday. We’ll pick a winner to receive a prize and a feature on our page. Buona fortuna!
When you travel to Montalcino, Tuscany where Mazzoni wines are made, you quickly learn that the folks who live there like to eat steak.
The bistecca fiorentina (often simply called fiorentina) or Florentine steak is one of the region’s most popular dishes.
Tuscany is famous for being “wine country” but it’s also cattle country. And the Tuscans are fiercely proud of their special breed of cattle, the Chianina. It’s an extraordinarily large breed and because of its size, it makes for some of the most prized beef in the world.
Grilling a steak can be a lot harder than it seems. And the Tuscan use a special technique (see below) for cooking the fiorentina, a cut that we know in America as the Porterhouse.
Because they like their beef seared on the outside and rare on the inside, they cook the steak upright on its “T” before cooking either side.
This does two things: It heats and releases the juices of the bone and it warms the entire steak without changing its color. After the steak has “warmed through,” you simply cook it briefly on either side over high eat to achieve the desired char.
Do the Tuscans love steak because they make such great red wine or do they love red wine because they make such great steak? It’s an age-old question that may never be answered.
What we do know is that one of the greatest pairings for bistecca fiorentina is the Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana: the lush fruit of its Merlot sweetens the char of the beef while the acidity of the Sangiovese cuts through the meat’s tender fattiness.
It makes for a great summer grill but it will thrill your meat-loving guests anytime of year, as well.
Here at Live Like an Italian, we look forward each year to the running of the Palio in Siena, the famous horse race held each year in the town’s main square, the Piazza del Campo.
The Tenuta Il Poggione, where Mazzoni wines are made, lies about an-hour-and-a-half drive south of Siena in the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle (in the township of Montalcino). Even as far away as Sant’Angelo in Colle, the townsfolk “live” and thoroughly enjoy the event, following each development and all the pageantry that’s involved.
For those who have never heard of the Palio, it’s an ancient horse race that originated in the Middle Ages.
Each year, on July 2 and August 16 (in two separate races), ten of Siena’s seventeen contrade (wards or neighborhood) compete. They are selected by lottery.
The intense and deep-seated rivalries are as much part of the spectacle as the colorful feasts and parades.
The race is an “anything goes” affair and the ten competing wards will do nearly anything to put their rivals at a disadvantage.
Even an excluded ward (not chosen in the lottery) will rejoice when an adversary loses. The celebrations over a vanquished rival are as colorful as those held for an outright victory.
To read more about the Palio, its history, and legacy, check out this well-written entry on Wikipedia.
And to get a sense of the excitement on race day, watch the video (below) of last year’s August race, which was won by the Onda or ward of the Wave.
We’ll be following the events that lead up to this year’s August Palio and we’ll be posting on the race as the event draws closer and the excitement mounts.
Two and a half years after it capsized along the coast of the beautiful Isola del Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the cruise ship Costa Concordia has finally been set afloat and will probably be towed away early next week, according to Italian news reports.
We were thrilled to read that tourists are flocking back to this gem of an island, with its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and scattering of beachside trattorie where it’s pretty hard to get a bad meal.
“I was here in October 2012,” said an American who is working there, “less than a year from the sinking. I have noticed that the Italians don’t seem too concerned about the wreck now. The island is a major destination for Italians, and there are many tourists here enjoying the sunshine and ignoring the wreck.”
The man, a Floridian, is part of the team that has been working arduously to right the ship and get it out of there.
The island lies (see Google map here) just a short ferry ride from the Italian peninsula and not far from the vineyards where the grapes for the Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and Vermentino-Chardonnay grapes are grown.
You can bet that we here at Live Like an Italian will raise a glass when the ship is finally gone.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be able to remove it early next week.
If you’re not already there, so many of you are on your way to Italy for summer vacation.
For those of you heading to the Siena wine country (where Mazzoni wines are made), we wanted to share a couple of online resources for museums in Siena proper and surroundings.
That’s a photo above, btw, of Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo in the town’s historic center.
The first link we’d like to share comes from “About Siena, Your Tourist Guide to Siena.” It’s a no-frills site packed with useful information. And although the English translation is not always the best, it does the trick.
The second link comes from a site called “Musei Senesi” (Museums in Siena). It’s a little harder to navigate than the first and the English version is pretty spotty.
Those little museums can be very rewarding, in part because of the travel through the countryside to reach them and in part because of their picturesque settings in medieval hilltop hamlets.
Italy is so rich in cultural heritage and Siena and its surroundings can be counted among the country’s gems.
As our friends in America are preparing for a three-day Fourth of July weekend, we know that many of them will be grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for the holiday.
Here’s a recipe for Italian-style roasted bell peppers, a perfect accompaniment to give an Italian flair to your Fourth of July menu.
Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers
yellow and red bell peppers
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly cracked pepper
Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Wash and dry the bell peppers. And then place them on stove-top burner over medium heat (see video below).
Using a pair of tongs, turn the peppers until they have blackened. Once they are entirely black, place them in a brown paper bag and roll up the top of the bag to seal.
After the peppers have cooled, remove them from the bag and peel off the blackened skin (the easiest way to do this is under running water).
Slice off the tops of the peppers and discard. Slice the peppers in half and remove their seeds. Then slice the peppers into strips roughly ¼-inch wide.
In a mixing bowl, toss the peppers with the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and whole parsley leaves to taste.
Let the peppers marinate for at least an hour and ideally for 3-4 hours before serving.
Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay.
Above: The Sangiovese grape is the quintessential red variety of Italy. It’s grown all over the country, from the farthest points north to the island of Sicily. But the best Sangiovese wines come from Tuscany, where Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana is made.
The literal translation of “Rosso di Toscana” is “red [wine] from Tuscany.”
“IGT” on the other hand is an acronym for indicazione geografica tipica, which rendered in English, means “typical geographic indication.”
“Rosso di Toscana IGT” is the name of an appellation.
What’s an appellation?
An appellation is a designation or name given to specific wine producing area. Not only does it denote a geographic area, but it also lays out the grapes and winemaking methods that can be used in that area.
In this case, the Rosso di Toscana IGT covers the entire region of Tuscany, where some of Italy’s most famous wines are made.
The Rosso di Toscana IGT was created many years ago for wines that were made in Tuscany but that didn’t belong to a given appellation.
For example, Brunello di Montalcino must be made with 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.
If you live in Montalcino (the village where both Brunello di Montalcino and Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana IGT are made) and you want to make a wine that has grapes other than Sangiovese in it, you can’t call it Brunello di Montalcino but you can call it Rosso di Toscana IGT.
And that’s exactly what the winemaker at Mazzoni, Alessandro Bindocci, did.
Because he wanted to make a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, he called it a Rosso di Toscana IGT.
The Sangiovese — Italy’s most important red grape — gives the wine its zing and its brilliant fruit notes. The Merlot gives it a smooth texture, rich color, and depth of flavor.
It’s a perfect balance of what the two grapes have to offer.
And it’s a Rosso di Toscana IGT!