Forget Champagne

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How to ring in the New Year the Italian way; here are some sparkling Italian wines to choose from: 
Brachetto d'Acqui - From the Piemonte region, it is one of my favourites. Highly aromatic, sparkling, and light rose in colour.  The taste is sweet with floral and fruity notes. 
Franciacorta - It is the Italians' version of Champagne.   A dry sparkling white wine tasting like a Champagne with distinguishing notes of brioche, biscuits and lemon. 
Lambrusco - This is sparkling red wine that it typically sweet. It tastes of red and dark berries. 
Asti - Used to be called Spumante but the name has been removed from wine labels. This is a sweet white sparkling wine and low alcohol.   This was always served on New Years Eve growing up. 
Prosecco - This is from the Veneto region of Italy. It tends to be lighter, crisp and dry with notes of green apple and citrus.

The Recipe for Success

Much to my surprise even the imported amaretti just don't compare to my mama's recipe.  Quite frankly, the amaretti from Italy have preservatives as the nuts go stale more quickly than the other ingredients.  A lot of amaretti that are available have almond flavouring. I just never understood the appeal of almond flavouring; it doesn't taste good.

The amaretti cookie was a family favourite growing up and a specialty of my mama.  She gave me the recipe that my nonna gave to her.  We decide that we would launch a cookie that tastes just like my mamas.

To offer a consistent cookie we had to my mama's recipe make modern day measures.  There was a lot of trial and error with weight, oven temperatures and family taste testing. We have developed an amaretti cookie like no other you will find in Canada.  Even those who don't like amaretti will like our Italian treat.

I Want Eataly

There are Eataly locations across Italy and now in the US.  It is set up as a fine food store where you can buy, eat and take classes about Italian food.  In the larger locations they have multiple specialty restaurants that satisfy cravings of pizza, pasta, meat or fish. 

I had the opportunity to eat at the Torino, Bologna and NYC Eataly locations. I just can’t get enough!  Some of the most memorable meals that I have ever tasted have been at Eatly. It is truly inspirational!     

They has been talk about bringing Eataly to Toronto for several years now.  In the Fall of 2014 Mario Batali, part owner of Eataly in the US, indicated that Eataly will definitely be coming to Toronto but still no firm dates.  I can’t wait; maybe a trip to NYC will tide me over.

A Slice of Italy in Canada

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I don't go to Italy as often as I like so I am always looking for authentic and delicious Napoletana wood oven pizza in Canada.  To assess the pizza I always order a Margherita.  It is a simple pizza with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.   It allows you to taste the nuances of the pizza and it is a strong indicator to see if I will return and try other pizza selections.

Here are some of my favourite Napoletana wood oven pizzas in Canada:

Pizza Libretto, Toronto – I like to rotate my grains. The best tasting spelt crust pizza that I have ever tasted was Libretto. Don't be afraid to try it; the spelt gives notes of spice.  The house sausage pizza is a favourite.

Pizza e Pazzi, Toronto – Splurge for the buffalo mozzarella on your pizza - it is worth it. For the hot spicy lover try the Diavola - the hot salami is really good.  The wine menu is exceptional and it has on more than one occasion had me hunting for the bottles at the LCBO or wine agencies to repeat the experience at home.

7 Enoteca, Oakville - A great pizza  but maybe (I am too picky) I would like it even more if they removed the semolina dusting to the bottom of the pizza.  They have some of the best tasting salami I have ever tasted and is sliced using a hand powered meat slicer.  Impecciable architecture and great place for a romantic date. 

Pizza via Mercanti, Toronto – They put a lot of loving care into their ingredients.  The bocconcini di pizza are delicious pieces of dough filled with fior di latte, ricotta, hot soppressata and prosciutto cotto.  Not in the mood for pizza? Try one of the many house made pastas or risotto; they will never disappoint.

Norm Hardie Winery, Prince Edward County - It is a simple menu with a handful of pizzas and a salad option. It is an outdoor pizza oven, so it is only open in the summer.  On my last visit, I truly felt I was in Italy.  A favourite is the white cheddar pizza.  Don’t forget to visit the winery! I have a few cases of the some of the best Pinot Noirs in Ontario from there.