Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


With a little help from our friends

You've seen the post about my friend Jennifer who is photographing our wedding, right? In almost every aspect of our planning, we've recruited loved ones to participate and it has made the experience richer and more special than we could have imagined.

We happen to have amazing and talented friends (I know I know, I said that already), and Lena is one of them. We met on a summer abroad program at Oxford in 1998 and have been in each other's lives ever since. (I was with her when she met her husband and I was in her wedding.)

We've shared so many good times...Lena is funny, smart, beautiful and is an incredible mother to their little one, who happens to share my birthday.

The girl is super crafty in a way that could put Martha Stewart to shame. She makes birth announcements, invitations, and various other stationery-centric things so when I asked her to make our wedding invitations, she enthusiastically said yes. (Thank you!) Knowing Lena's incredible eye for style, I knew we would have fun collaborating and was confident that she would take the image and the colors I had and make magic out of them.

Aren't they fantastic?

I just love the ribbon that holds in the R.S.V.P. envelope, the square shape with rounded corners, and the typeface that she chose. Lena, you outdid yourself!

Being engaged has been one of the most exciting experiences we've had. The planning and anticipation will soon transition into the wedding, an immensely special day in our lives. Having the announcement of our union made by the loving hands of one of my best friends is a memory that we will both treasure.

Thank you Lena, you are a dear friend!


Please send a Lettere, Maria

Last weekend as Jeremy and I had the pleasure of lunching with Michele Scicolone at Keste' in New York, I came across the most unlikely but very familiar sparkling red wine.

Please read Jeremy's report on the food here, and his definitive essay answering the question on the pizza with wine or pizza with beer debate.

Although DoBianchi and I do love some Lambrusco, and its southern counterpart, Gragnano, this was neither. Imagine my surprise when I saw an open bottle of Lettere (pron. LEH-te-rey) open on the counter of Keste'! The dork in me squealed with delight, as this is such a rarity to see in the states. When I ordered it from the waiter (quite rudely, I gave my dining companions no other option) he insisted that I meant Gragnano. "No, Lettere" I said..."Gragnano...?" he responded.

Just look at those purple bubbles! How can you not want to dive in?

I got up, showed him the empty bottle, and successfully resisted the urge to explain the difference. He dug around the back of the refrigerator and found the last bottle. Whew.

It turns out that the Cantine Federiciane Gragnano supplier was out of stock, so they sent the Lettere in its stead. They are practically interchangeable, so it was a fluke that we stumbled upon this bit of Campania in Manhattan's West Village.

There is no better companion to pizza (besides beer) than a cool glass of fizzy red wine. All over Campania, Gragnano and Lettere are the pairings of choice for all types of pizza and panuozzi. They are fragrant, simple, and low in alcohol. The zesty bubbles make quick work of pizza dough and rich mozzarella without overwhelming the delicacy inherent in REAL pizza napoletana.

So, Gragnano and Lettere are two sub zones of the Penisola Sorrentina DOC and are named for the eponymous villages. (You can read a post I wrote about Gragnano almost 4 years ago here.)
The grapes allowed in both for 'rosso frizzante' are piedirosso (min 40%), sciascinoso (the local name for Olivella**) and/or aglianico (max 20%), and 'others' (max 40%).

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Drinking a Gragnano and a Lettere from the same producer can reveal a slight difference between the two, but they are equally delightful. One of my favorites from my days in Campania was Vini Iovine, though I'm sure they aren't available in Texas. Any adventurous Texan importers out there...?

Lettere is one of those rare pieces of southern Italian authenticity that one can occasionally find stateside. Along with Gragnano it is a wine that you simply must try, for the the sheer fun of it.

Well, I'll leave the etymological research of the name Lettere to my DoBianchi, but for now if you live in New York, go out and get some!

**The name olivello is a reference to the elongated shape of the grapes, similar to an olive. It is believed that there are two different types of olivello, one being sciascinoso, the other being true olivello. There is much more than a footnote to be done about this grape alone, not to mention the dialectical name for piedirosso. Stay tuned.