Are you a foodie? I am a definitely a foodie. Furthermore I am an oenophile; a foodie-oenophile is a dangerous combination. Really, I fail to understand how you can be one without the other, but I hear rumors it does exist. I love a good meal. I love a good glass of wine. Combining the two is heaven on earth for me. It is like a tango, where two become one effortlessly flowing in harmony creating an alluring and sensual union. This describes the wonderful evening I recently had at one of Dallas’ most coveted restaurants: Lucia!
Lucia is one of, if not the, most sought after table in Dallas for a few reasons: first, the food is undeniable delicious, unique and feels intimate, like your closet friend who happens to be a James Beard finalist chef is cooking you dinner in his or her home; second, it has limited seating, 36 seats, so you can imagine with food that good everyone wants to enjoy it but space is limited; third, not only does the food prepared by Chef and co-owner David Uyger feel intimate, but the atmosphere created by co-owner Jennifer Uyger also feels intimate, we were greeted with a warm welcome from the hostess and Jennifer came to our table to introduce herself and welcome us in no time at all. The small space and casual setting, plus the intimacy of the food and atmosphere feels more like dining at the Uyger’s home than at a Dallas restaurant.
Tables at Lucia are very hard to acquire. At the beginning of each month the calendar opens for reservations for the following month. You must act fast because weekends fill up within minutes, weeknights quickly but not quite so fast. In fact Eater Dallas even published a humorous article in 2015 on how to get a table at Lucia. Success for us seems to be weeknights rather than weekends. My husband booked a reservation for my birthday but it turned out I was in France so we had to cancel. We were thrilled when Jennifer told my husband about a wine maker dinner Lucia was hosting and asked if we would like to attend. YES!
The evening’s dinner featured Winemaker and Owner Renato Vacca and his beautiful wines of Cantina del Pino. From the Langhe region of Piemonte, Cantina del Pino is in the land of Barbaresco. Sitting high above the Tanaro River, an hour from Torino, Cantina del Pino rests comfortably equal distance between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps that provide a majestic view and protection from the extreme weather conditions of the area.
History of Cantian del Pino from their web site:
Domizio Cavazza was the director of the Royal Enological School in Alba from 1888 – 1913. When he arrived he surprised everyone by purchasing land and making his home in Barbaresco. The noble families expected he would reside near the more famous estates in Barolo. He purchased the Ovello cascina (farmhouse and land) and he began making wine. For the first time the wine made from the nebbiolo vineyards surrounding the village was called Barbaresco. For the people of this area it was a huge compliment. Cavazza was very charismatic and an outspoken supporter of the farmers in the Langhe. Cavazza celebrated the birth of his first son by planting what became a well-known landmark in the region, a large Mediterranean pine tree. The estate began to be known as the ‘cascina del pino’ or winery of the pine. Renato Vacca’s great grandfather purchased the vineyards after Sig. Cavazza prematurely died and his family moved to Torino. The Vacca family has been here ever since.
Renato Vacca is the fourth generation winemaker of Cantina del Pino. His great-grandfather began the vineyards as a grape growing operation. When Renato was old enough his father sent him to winemaking school. Upon his return Renato told his father than now that he had the knowledge and skill to make wine he no longer desired to sell their grapes; instead he wanted Cantina del Pino to craft wine.
Renato’s exceptional winemaking skills have earned Cantina del Pino many awards and accolades over the years. All of the vineyards are located in Barbaresco. They are a small production family winery where every step in the wine making process is controlled by the family. They respect the environment by not using any chemicals on the vines, most of which average 40 years old, with some as old as 70 years. They do not fine or filter the wines. Fermentation is done in stainless steel with aging in wood lasting two years with another one to two years in bottle before release.
We want our wines to reflect the terroir of Barbaresco and there is nothing done to manipulate them.
We enjoyed a wonderful five course food and wine pairing. I will tell you up front it was delicious. I was with my husband and not in an official “work” mode so I took a few pictures and some quick notes but nothing formal. Sadly I neglected to take a photo of Renato and his partner Franca. The wine bottles were not available for view as wines had been decanted so I have used a few images I captured from Google.
Anancini paired with Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex Et de La Salle Metodo Classico Extreme Brut 2012
Anancini is stuffed rice balls (often risotto), coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. They are often filled with mozzarella and sometimes ragu. Lucia’s Anancinis were delicious. Such a great way to begin a meal. In Rome Anancini is considered “street food” sold on the go like a slice of pizza. YUM!
Grazier’s Edge with rye berries, preserved lemon and root vegetables paired with Cantina del Pino Barbera d’Alba 2013
This was a wonderful antipasta. Unique and inviting. The cheese was soft, creamy and delicate to the palate while the rye berries with root vegetables were hearty and warm on a cool, rainy evening. A beautiful dichotomy of flavors that blended beautifully with the delicious Barbera d’Alba’s flavors of red and blue field berries, plums, a touch of spice and savory herbal notes that coated the mouth with elegance and finesse.
Tajarin with ragu and gnocchi with fonduta and mushrooms paired with Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Gallina 2011 and Ovello 2011.
These were fun pairings in many ways! First I must say the pastas were the best I have had since being in Italy last fall. Fresh and delicate with creamy texture both perfectly blended with the pork ragu and fonduta and mushrooms respectively. Second the wines were crafted exactly the same, the difference being the vineyards and respective ages of the vines. I found both wines to be wonderful. The Gallina was fruit forward, well-structured with round acidity and well integrated tannins, a truly beautiful drinking wine. The Ovello, one of the premier vineyard sites in Barbaresco due to its south/southwest exposure and sandy limestone soil, was more complex with the fruit taking a step back to the earthy qualities of minerality, herbaceous notes and a touch of balsamic flavors, velvet on the palate with a wonderful mouth-coating quality, full body, rich lingering finish that begged for another sip. Both wines drank beautifully on their own but paired elegantly with the food. My husband and I decided due to the subtle differences in the wines we preferred the Gallina with the gnocchi and the Ovello with the pork ragu. It is so much fun to compare wines where the only difference is terroir.
Berkshire pork short rib with chicories, anchovy and aged ricotta paired with Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Albesani 2011.
The short ribs were elegant and beautifully prepared with a light almost airy mouth feel, very unusual for ribs but very delicious! The Albesani was the third in the terroir series. The wine was crafted in the same manner as the Gallina and the Ovello, with the grapes coming from the clay soil of the Albesani vineyards. It was the trifecta in the Cantina del Pino terroir series 2011 Barbarescos. This wine was light in the fruit was more red driven than blue and black in the previous too, it also offered soft notes of candied violets along with a touch of spice; delicate and round on the palate, well-structured with perfect balance. Another winner yet completely unique to the other two.
We ended our delicious meal with date cake with coffee/cardamom gelato and dry fruit with a cup of decaf. Perfect!
I cannot recommend enough dining at Lucia. The food, atmosphere and hospitality felt like dining in Italy. I cannot wait to return and share more with you about this wonderful restaurant. Furthermore, I highly recommend you seek out Cantina del Pino wines. You will be delighted! They are distributed throughout the US and by Victory Wine Group in Texas. If you live in Dallas you can find that at my favorite wine shop: Pogos! I hope to have time to visit Cantina del Pino on my upcoming trip to Italy. If so, I will definitely share more with you of this wonderful small production winery in Barbaresco!
And on our way home as we crossed the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge heading east to head north and back to the burbs:
My Song Selection: So we had a wonderful evening of outstanding Italian food and Italian wine! We made some new friends and finally made it into a restaurant we knew we would love! It felt like a moment in Italy. Furthermore, Jennifer Uyger’s aunt was an opera singer, more Italian connections. So it seems logical my song pairing would be Italian. However, as I mention at the beginning a good food and wine pairing is like a tango; elegant, provocative and enticing and that is precisely our palate experience at Lucia.
Get your own bottles of Cantina del Pino and dine and Lucia and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!