About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Great Italian Choices in Central Mexico

The very first blog published on Roger’s Grapevine was entitled “Great Italian Food & Wine Just South of the Border”. It dealt with my discovery, during several trips to Mexico, of the preponderance and popularity of Italian food in Mexico. That led to my discovery of many Italian connections and traditions in the Mexican wine industry. Mrs. Wine Guy & I had the opportunity to reconfirm this discovery of great Italian dining during our recent sabbatical in central Mexico.

We managed to revisit some old favorites, including Frascasti’s in Guanajuato. Frascati’s is located in the Hotel San Diego adjacent to the main Jardin (see photo of Mr. & Mrs., Wine Guy at left). We had also planned to dine out at Bella Italia in San Miguel de Allende, a restaurant I had mentioned in that first blog. Bella Italia is located just a block off the Jardin. It not only offers good Italian food and a respectable wine list, but occasional live music, as well. When we discovered our stay didn’t include the one night that week that Doc Severinson was playing, we opted to try something new. (This former Tonight show bandleader now resides in San Miguel). The restaurant also sometimes showcases two talented Latin musicians, Gil Guttierrez and Pedro Cartas who have recorded and toured with Doc. There were two more Italian restaurants in San Miguel that we did experience and add to our “places we’ll return to” list: Mare Nostrum and Antigua Trattoria Romana.

Mare Nostrum is Latin for “Our Sea”, the name commonly given by Italians to the Mediterranean. It is located on Calle Unmaran just a few blocks down from the Jardin and we literally stumbled on it while returning to our B&B after an afternoon of shopping. After visiting with hosts Brenda and Julio, we elected to return later for dinner, having already had our midday meal. That evening we began with an excellent caprese that included some very large and fresh leaves of basil. Our entrée was delicious ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and sweet potato. We accompanied our meal with a Pedro Domecq Cabernet Sauvignon from Baja Norte. As a sommelier, I was highly impressed by Julio’s nearly perfect presentation and serving of the wine, one of the best I’ve ever encountered in any wine bar or restaurant in Mexico. The quality of food, the graciousness of our hosts and the affordability (modest, even by Mexican standards) made it a delightful and enjoyable dining experience. It struck me as odd that during both our afternoon visit and evening dinner, the patronage at this neighborhood establishment seemed to be almost exclusively ex-patriot. It was only later in our journey that it dawned on me that the Latin name of the establishment may be impacting patronage by Spanish speaking locals who may not have Latin education. The Spanish word for sea is mar but the closest Spanish word to "mare" is "mareo", which implies seasickness or nausea due to motion. Just a guess on my part, but there is no denying that Mare Nostrum is well worth a meal out if you’re in San Miguel de Allende.

Antigua Trattoria Romana is located close to the art institute at the “y” formed by the intersection of Zacateros and Codos streets in San Miguel (see photo of the Wine Guy on front steps). Mrs. Wine Guy and I enjoyed a delightful lunch there enroute to the panteon (city cemetery) for Dias de la Muertos activities. This restaurant has been a San Miguel favorite since its opening in 1989 and its local owner, Fernando, has a love of Italy, especially Siena. We enjoyed sharing memories of this great Tuscan city with Fernando during our visit. Among the decor items you’ll notice inside are two large photos. One is of the owner, Fernando with an Italian restaurant owner, Luciano. The other is a photo of Luciano running ahead of the horses in Siena’s famed Palio held each year on the El Campo or town plaza. However, we'll also remember Antigua Trattoria Romana for their fresh and authentic pasta, which they make themselves. There is a respectable wine list here and Mrs. Wine Guy and I each enjoyed a glass of L.A. Cetto Zinfandel Rose’. I’ve remarked before about my impressions of this Mexican winery’s better wines and I found our choice to be very enjoyable with lunch. It was definitely not the sweeter, fruiter type of white zinfandel that you find from most California vintners but rather, a true rose’ of Zinfandel that let the wine's flavors fully express themselves. It complimented our pasta well. We hope to return here again on a future visit.

From San Miguel, we traveled on to the touristy, but charming and hospitable town of Tequisquiapan and it was there we added a third restaurant to our list of favorites: K’puchino’s Restaurante. This delightful establishment is a favorite among locals and tourists alike (most of the tourists here are from Mexico City on weekends…Tequisquiapan is not yet on most U.S. tourist’s radar but should be, especially with the expansion of the nearby Queretaro International airport). Located just off the main palazzo at #7 Independencia, it offers a very nice wine list, excellent service, live music on the weekends as well as great food. The best meal we had was actually a traditional Mexican arranchera with nopales. That dinner was accompanied by one of The Wine Guy’s favorite Mexican wines: Cetto’s Nebbiolo Riserva. What was most memorable for Mrs. Wine Guy, however, was their fabulous cappuccino. Throughout our stay, she insisted we pay a daily visit there just for the cappuccino (often accompanied by one of their tasty desserts). It will be a must visit on any future stay in Tequis.

As I stated in my first blog on Roger’s Grapevine: if you love Italian food and plan to travel to central Mexico, you’re in for some real treats and surprises. Don’t fail to dine out Italiano when you’re south of the border. Enjoy!

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