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Report 2013: Two Splendid Weeks in Northern Italy

By Engred from Oregon, Fall 2011

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Page 8 of 14: Grappa and More Grappa

Following another nice breakfast, we set off for a day filled with grappa. It started with a small detour to an annual festival of the animals and livestock auction on the outskirts of Bassano del Grappa. By the time we arrived, there were many stands set up, selling everything from boar salami to small grape presses and small farming tools. There were several stands selling cooked sausages and other foods, along with beer and vino. The streets were packed and everyone was in a festive mood. Great fun and I could have bought several things to fill my suitcase.

After taking a tour, we made our way back to the van as we did not want to be late for our appointment at Nardini. Not at the Nardini shop at the base of the bridge, but at their newer headquarters, across the street from their production facility, near Bassano del Grappa. We had a wonderful tour of the company’s remarkable corporate building with Antonio Nardini, on of the owners! The complex was designed by architect, Massimiliano Fuksas to resemble the bubbles that are formed in the production of grappa, and built in 2004. After the tour we had a small tasting, which was surprising – it isn’t all firewater! Actually, very enjoyable and the Amaro is even available here in Portland!

We left Nardini (Buon Lavoro) and made our way out of Bassano towards Marostica. Going out of Bassano, there is a great view of the castle and fortress wall on the hill above the town – well it is a great view if you are not driving! We made the short drive to Marostica, which is famous for a life-sized chess match that is held in the town piazza every other year in early September. Unfortunately, we arrive too late to see the chess match, but we stopped in to a lovely food shop! Famiglia Gastaldello was a wonderful store, filled with all manor of cheese, cured meats and other foodstuffs. The proprietors could not have been nicer, offering us samples of several things and they had the largest mortadella I had ever seen! It would be a wonderful stop if you were renting an apartment in town and needed to stock up on supplies or were needing provisions for a picnic.

Leaving the store, we drove around the center of town, which was very charming and indicative of the towns in the area – you could really see life in a small Italian town going on. We made our way out of town and up the hill to our lunch destination, Ristorante la Rosina. The charming restaurant is perched on the edge on the hill, so you have an amazing view over the Venetian hills and lowlands. There are rooms for rent and it would be a lovely place to stay if you have a couple of days in the area. We got a table on the terrace and enjoyed a lovely leisurely lunch. The restaurant is owned by a gentleman who is a cycling enthusiast. So much so that we passed a small chapel dedicated to the saint of cycling that he built not far from his property. Every few years the Giro passes through this portion of the Veneto, mainly due to the owners involvement in the cycling community. I fell down on my job and did not take notes or pictures of our meal (serious reprimand is in order) but it was a very good meal that was accompanied by the cutest dog that had one folded ear.

Fully satiated by our meal, we piled back in the van to head of to our next grappa appointment, Capovilla. Unlike Nardini, I had never heard of Capovilla, which is a very small production grapperia. Driving into the compound it became clear why the name Capovilla was new to me. It is a very small operation, headed by Vittorio Capovilla. Vittorio greeted us and gave us a wonderful tour of the grapperia, from the machines that make the grappa, to the inside cellar full of wooden barrels of grappa, to the outdoor storage area of steel tanks, to the room where they hand label and pack the product. Not only does Vittorio receive grape must from some very famous wineries for whom he makes private-label grappa (Dal Forno was a label I recognized), he and his friends source local products with which he makes grappa. He had grappa made from everything to wild strawberries to clementine. Since grappa is so powerful, the only way to taste it was to “finger taste” the various tanks. Amazingly, you could really taste the flavors of the individual fruits in the different grappa. Very interest and entertaining visit!

The day ended with dinner at Da Gerry in nearby Monfumo. Standout dishes included an interesting plate of sauteed mushrooms, polenta and frico, a wonderful prawn dish and fantastic burrata. After a long day of grappa tasting and a tasty dinner we were ready for bed!

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