Ask Mr. Italy Archive
Seated in a high chair with marinara smudges settled into the creases of his youthful smile, a young Christian Pèpe was introduced to the family business, Pèpe International, when he was a sprout. As he grew, he could be found in the back of the family bakery dusted in flour, awaiting his turn at the counter. When that time finally came, the 11-year-old could barely peer over the counter as he assisted customers. Son of Rich Pèpe, proprietor of Pèpe International, Christian has cleaned the proverbial powder from his face and is preparing to take the reins when his father retires.
Mr. Italy is here to explain the Italian tradition of the “aperitivo”. Stopping off at the local wine bar for a glass of Prosecco or Italian cocktail after work is the perfect way to end your day, or begin your evening by meeting up with friends to get the night started.
What higher compliment can Italy’s greatest vintner pay to the sun and soil of California’s vineyards than to purchaser and plant 600 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon high above the Napa Valley and to vinify the grapes for his Atlas peak label under the name of “Consenso”?
The Italian winemaster, Marquese Piero Antinori—who is referred to in Hugh Johnson’s “Encyclopedia of Wine” as “the voice of Italy in world wine circles”—told The Pine Cone this week, “I’m in love with that property!”
For Italians, the center of family life occurs around the dinner table, where warm, lively conservation enhances the flavor of soulful, hearty food. Carmel’s Caffé Napoli adopts each diner into an oversized Italian American clan—arrive here and it’s suddenly Sunday dinner in South Jersey. The senses come alive in concert—the smell of grated hard cheese and tomatoes, the sight of animated, arm-waving dialogue, the sounds of silverware gnashing and Sinatra’s dulcet tones as a calming undercurrent.
Can you believe this used to be a sand mine?” My dining companion’s initial comment as we sat squarely in the middle of the opulent Tuscan villa-like surroundings that is Péppoli. From sand mine to the Bay Club at the Inn at Spanish Bay to what is now the fifth jewel in the crown of sophisticated restaurants partnered by Marches Iero Antinori—“the most important winemaker in Italy”, according to Wine Spectator magazine—world-class Pebble Beach Resorts just got a whole lot worldlier.
Question: I am a big fan of your “Little Napoli” Restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea and love to spend hours there while staying at the Highlands Inn several times per year. It was at your restaurant that I was introduced to what has now become my favorite wine, Antinori’s Chianti Classico called Pèppoli.
We are thinking of going to Tuscany during the harvest time. If possible, can you help arrange a tour of the Antinori Winery and also suggest some places to stay and restaurants to visit? We are looking for places that are fun, off the beaten track, relaxing, and beautiful (aren’t they all beautiful?!!). – Stephenie W.
Diana can’t get enough of “the perfect combination of fudgy and cakey – intensely chocolaty, but not in the way that necessitates a gallon of milk to consume.” WARNING: This is a very difficult article to read if you are at all hungry (or if you just love chocolate) !