Now through October 14, Il Fornaio explores the Tuscan region of Italy with a flavorful Festa Regionale menu featuring the dishes of this most famous region recognized for its wine as well as its cuisine. Chef-Partner Vicente Mendoza, who pursues his passion for authentic Italian cooking at Il Forniao's Manhattan Beach restaurant, created this special menu based on his tour of Toscana with Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon.
“I truly enjoyed working closely with Maurizio on this menu – particularly the seafood and pasta dishes which were inspired by meals we enjoyed while traveling together across Toscana. The Insalata di Farro e Fave is a tribute to his favorite place in Toscana, the city of Florence...the salad has a little of everything in it and represents what cuisine in Firenze is all about.”
I always look forward to the beginning of each month, when the new Festa Regionale menu is unveiled. This week, we dined on the patio during sunset and enjoyed a leisurely wine pairing dinner prepared by Chef Giorgio and his culinary team.
Our first course, a rustic Italian bread and tomato salad called Panzanella, showcases the last hurrah of the season's heirloom tomatoes, with cubes of bread, cucumber, red onion, celery and fresh basil, tossed with red wine vinegar and Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. The Panzanella was paired with Vermentino, Poggio al Tesoro Solosole 2011, a vibrant, medium-bodied dry white with zesty acidity and enticing aromas and flavors of peach, apricot and ripe melon.
Two additional first course options are Pancotto alla Contadina, Tuscan kale soup with cannellini beans and toasted ciabatta bread, or Insalata di Farro e Fave, a fava bean and farro salad with asparagus, baby arugula, Belgian endive, yellow pear tomatoes and lemon-olive oil vinaigrette, topped with boschetto tartufato cheese.
It is most definitely worth straying from your diet to try the Mezzelune Cacio e Pere, half-moon ravioli filled with grilled pears, mozzarella and Parmigiano, topped with asparagus-crescenza cream sauce and sprinkled with toasted walnuts. We loved this dish with the Vernaccia di San Gimignano, La Lastra, 2011 - Among the first DOCG white wines, this benchmark Vernaccia from the hillside town of San Gimignano is crisp and delicate with a floral fragrance and flavor of almonds.
Also tempting is the Pappardelle di Castagne, fresh chestnut pasta with Italian sausage, porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, crushed red pepper and Trebbiano wine, or the Crespelle alla Fiorentina, homemade crepes filled with organic spinach and ricotta cheese, and baked in the oven with bechamel sauce, porcini mushrooms and pecorino cheese.
|Mezzelune Cacio e Pere|
We surely could have stopped after salad and pasta, but the night was young and the wine was flowing. The Pollo al Mattone alla Diavola is a partially deboned half chicken marinated with herbs and peperoncino, grilled under a brick, and served with Tuscan salad and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes. Also appealing is Cacciucco Seafood Soup with clams, mussels, whitefish, cod, wild shrimp and calamari, served with Tuscan fettunta bread. The chicken pairs well with Rosso di Montalcino, Col d’Orcia, 2010. This full-bodied, supple and rich red is another great example of the versatility of Sangiovese. It is brimming with earthy aromas and cherry, violet and vanilla flavors. It is complex and harmonious with smooth supple tannins and a soft, velvety finish.
|Pollo al Mattone alla Diavola|
Always save room for sweets! The Meringata alla Fiorentina is a traditional Florentine-style meringue cake with whipped cream, amaretto and chocolate.
|Meringata alla Fiorentina|
A three-course Taste of Toscana tasting menu is offered for $29.99. Toscana and Sangiovese Wine Flights are also available. You can see the full Toscana menu here.
|The view from Il Fornaio, Coronado|
Barefoot Contessa's recipe and video for Panzanella
William Sonoma's recipe for Pear and Pecorino Ravioli with WalnutsFine Cooking's recipe for Tuscan Grilled Chicken under a Brick
Los Angeles Times recipe for Meringata alla Fiorentina