Why Grappa?

One Romantic Dinner in Rome and My Life Would Never Be The Same

Let’s start at the beginning. Why am I here on this page, writing about Grappa at all? It goes back to Easter week, 2015. I was in Rome on holiday, overwhelmed by history and art *everywhere* I looked, eating Pizza al Taglio, Carcofe alla Giudia, Bucatini all’Amiticiana and drinking wine from Lazio (mostly Cesanese). Food and restaurants were selected from online research and recommendations from friends (and our AirBnB host!).

I had dinner one night on a recommendation from a friend. Ristorante Salumeria Roscioli looked to be a nice but unassuming deli and wine shop from the street. The aromas were enticing as we entered. There was a huge, well-stocked deli counter to the left, and a wall of wine bottles to the right. You could see intimate small tables with bistro chairs in the back. We were ushered downstairs to the wine cellar, where additional tables had been carefully placed amongst the shelves of wine.

Each dish after the next, from antipasti to secondi, was a revelation. Our host (“server” sounds too pedestrian) Patricio guided us through the menu and wines deftly, asking about our preferences and extrapolating that to what we would most enjoy.

It came time for Dolce (dessert), and Patricio recommended Crème Romana (a local variation on what we as Americans knew as Crème Brule). I asked him what to drink with this and he smiled, saying “I have just the thing”.

He brought me a 2007 Berta Tre Soli Tre and I was stunned at the very first sip. I was experienced in drinking Scotch Whisky, Bourbon, Rye and Rum, but had never experienced something like this before. This grappa—unlike any I’d tasted before—was perfect with my dessert. It did not compete on the palate with my dolce, it complemented it. Most spirits want to overwhelm one’s senses with powerful aromas and flavors. Here was something flavorful, but restrained…artisanal, but not boastful. I had had Grappa before, but not of this quality, not made with such craft.

Before we left the restaurant, I asked Patricio where I might get a bottle of good Grappa. He directed me to Enoteca Costantini on Piazza Cavour. I found a bottle of what he had poured and brought it home, along with a couple of others that were recommended at the shop.

When I returned home I began searching online to learn more about Grappa. Who made good Grappa? Where could I get some in the US? What restaurants near me had robust Grappa programs where I might continue to explore this elixir?

In the past, I had used multiple websites to learn about Scotch Whisky, and Bourbon/Rye, and even Rum. But nobody was writing about Grappa. Not consistently and with focus. An article here, a column there, but nothing substantial.

At first I was aghast, but then an idea took root and grew. I would write about Grappa! Of course, no one can write about Grappa without drinking Grappa and traveling to Italy, so this appeared to be a win-win proposition!

I took a first, major step in realizing that plan by traveling to Piedmont in this past summer of 2017. I will in future weeks write of my experiences there: The distilleries I visited; the people I met; the Grappa I tasted. These are all interconnected for me. I hope as my writing proceeds you will gain a sense of that interconnectedness as well as a greater awareness of Grappa, its history, the people who make it, and which Grappas you might best enjoy (and with which foods).


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