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Fact Sheet: Top Italian Lists

Although Piedmont and Tuscany still command top billing on most Italian wine lists in America, other, once-overlooked regions are now intriguing sommeliers as well. Here's what 10 top Italian restaurants are recommending to their customers. Wine prices here are from the restaurants' lists; they will be lower at retail stores.

10 RESTAURANT STARS

BABBO New York City Babbo's 800-selection, all-Italian wine list is a worthy accompaniment to celebrity chef Mario Batali's haute-peasant cuisine. Best Buy Wine director David Lynch's pick is the red 2000 Foradori Teroldego ($30) from Trentino. "The Teroldego grape gives this a flavor unlike anything else—I tell customers to think of violets and tar."

IL CIGNO Scarsdale, New York The 550-bottle list of this Northern Italian outpost is the passion of chef and owner Steve DePietro, who has spent 15 years collecting deep, multiple-vintage selections of Barolos from top producers. Best Buy The 1999 Alasia Barbera d'Asti Rive from Piedmont ($35). Says DePietro, "The wood tempers Barbera's acidity and shows off its roundness."

GALILEO DA ROBERTO DONNA Washington, D.C. Chef Donna's high-end Piedmontese cooking is complemented by a 2,000-selection wine list. Best Buy The 2000 Nebbiolo from legendary Piedmont producer Bruno Giacosa ($60). "It's more approachable than Barbaresco,"says wine director Michael Nayeri.

LA GROTTA Atlanta Owner Sergio Favalli has stocked the list of his Northern Italian restaurant with Piedmontese and Tuscan standards, but he has a weakness for wines from regions like Veneto. Best Buy The 1998 Domeni Veneti Amarone Valpolicella ($52), a soft Veneto red that Favalli says "has lots of power."

LIDIA'S Pittsburgh This cousin of New York's famed Felidia features hearty Northern Italian cuisine and an all-Italian list divided up into $20, Value and Reserve wines. Best Buy Beverage director John Klink's current favorite is the 2000 Arnaldo Caprai Rosso di Montefalco from Umbria ($56). "It's like a food-friendly Cab," he says.

ITALIAN VILLAGE Chicago This 75-year-old restaurant has a major wine collection: Its three dining rooms share a 45,000-bottle cellar. Best Buy Wine director Ron Balter suggests the 1999 Del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Tuscany ($39). "Vino Nobile is a sister wine to Chianti, but it's a much greater value."

TONY'S St. Louis Founded as a casual, neighborhood spot in 1946, Tony's has evolved into a restaurant with a national reputation and an extensive wine list. Best Buy Owner Vincent Bommarito recommends the 1998 Querciabella Chianti Classico ($45): "It's soft and easy to drink and works with a wide range of dishes."

CAFE JUANITA Seattle This restaurant emphasizes classic Northern Italian dishes and small Italian wine producers. Best Buy Wine director Judi Ham favors the rich, low-acid 2000 Sergio Zenato Lugana Riserva ($34), a white wine from Veneto.

PAOLO'S San Jose, California This 45-year-old local institution serving popular Italian standards has a 300-selection wine list that leans strongly toward reds from Tuscany and Piedmont. Best Buy The 1998 Costa di Bussia Dolcetto d'Alba ($32). Sommelier Jalil Samavarchian says, "It has a fine deep color, earthy notes and a long, long finish."

VALENTINO Santa Monica, California With one of California's most famous wine lists, Valentino offers some 4,400 selections, including encyclopedic offerings of Super-Tuscans and Barolos. Best Buy Owner Piero Selvaggio favors the 2000 Morgante Don Antonio Nero d'Avola ($32) from Sicily, a "supple but well-structured red wine."

Published April 2003
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