Italian food paired with Italian wines. That’s the simple formula for many Italian restaurants, some exclusively regional, that have recently opened in Miami. The focus is often slow food — simply prepared, using quality, authentic, ingredients. Some, like Ken Lyon, have taken it a step further by inserting into his menu at Fratelli Lyon, a manifesto, describing the “heirloom legumes from Puglia, grass-fed meats, sustainable seafood products, ad infinitum.” He also dares us to “ask almost any Italian what makes the food taste so good in Italy.” I guess the chef must have asked an Italian, or maybe the owner may have asked, “How do we put together an Italian wine list?” It’s short, but somewhat imaginative, and it contains a couple bargains and splurges to accompany the various regional dishes.
The fave summer-quencher rosé is represented here by a tasty Bastianich offering called Refosco (2006). Yes, it’s THAT Bastianich, of Joe and Lidia fame, and just having the name on the bottle adds a touch of New York glam to the list. The wine’s crispy and dry and goes well with the salumi, like the prosciutto di Parma, that comes sliding off the shiny red Berkel hand slicer (which, if I had my way, would be the focus of this design-heavy room). At $30, it’s about twice retail — not bad, but that doesn’t apply to another Bastianich offering, the white Tocai Friuliano (2006), that’s on the list for $39 yet retails for about the same as the rosé.
Speaking of whites, the 2005 La Vis “Dipinti” Müller Thurgau, a fascinating bottle from way up north in Trentino, ought to be priced a little lower than $32 (about $10 retail). But it rewards you with a slightly licorice aroma that evolves into a dry, tropical fruit taste and also goes well with those hand-sliced meats. The Müller Thurgau grape is an off-shoot of another food-friendly grape, riesling. Special mention goes to the 2007 Ceonbium from Lazio, just north of Rome, which is produced from vineyards organically farmed by the sisters of the Cistercian order. The sisters, see, are doin’ it for themselves — with flowery and herby scents and flavors, and a good backbone of citrus fruits. At $54, it’s about twice retail and has the sturdiness to stand up to more substantial dishes, should you choose to stray from the salumi list.
A quick word of warning: the wine list shows pours by the glass as 100ml (about 3.3 ounces). That’s awfully small, when a minimum by-the-glass pour ought to be at least five ounces. The way to go here is by the bottle, which will probably limit your tastings.
Onto the reds, where the amazing Primofiore 2003 can be had for a minor splurge of $72. This offering is from the Giuseppe Quintarelli family, a producer of many sought-after wines at much higher prices (their 1999 Valpolicella is here for $140) and normally retails for about $40. The wine, from the Veneto region, is a corvina blend and has what is called good “structure,” which means that it won’t wimp out next to heartier dishes like slow-cooked osso buco (veal shanks) or bue brasato (braised beef in Barolo sauce). For a real splurge, try the Montefalco Reserve 2000 from Paolo Bea. Yes, it’s $122, and yes, the economy is slowing down, but this Sangiovese blend from the Montefalco hills of Umbria has both a softness and rich succulence that will stay with you and your date for a long time.
And perhaps pleasing your date is the most important element of ordering your wine. Just ask any Italian.
Fratelli Lyon, 4141 NE 2nd Ave., Design District; 305-572-2901