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by Fred McMillin
for May 25, 2000

 

Mother Needed a Cure


Mrs. Di Lelio was having difficulty recovering from childbirth. She was not eating well. Her husband-chef went to work to cure that. Alfredo Di Lelio whipped up a new version of Italy's favorite fettuccine...ribbon-like egg noodles, butter, cream and Parmesan cheese. It worked at home, and then at his restaurant in Rome.

Fred at Alfredo's

Fred at Alfredo's.

 
Alfredo II and Alfredo III

Alfredo II and Alfredo III and enthusiasm

The year was 1914. Thirteen years later, the dish became world famous, when it was discovered by movie stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Alfredo was known for the flamboyant presentation of his creation. When we visited Alfredo's years later, we found his son and grandson, Alfredo the Third, had learned the lesson well. Also, Alfredo III showed me how to eat the long noodles without cutting them...as explained in our Postscript.

Before we turn to the wine, let's check the origins of fettuccine. Milestones:

405 A.D.—A Germanic tribe brings their Nudel (noodle) dish to Italy.

1280 A.D.—Marco Polo stimulates Italy's interest in pasta by telling of China's use of noodles, which he calls "lasagna."

1400—Commercial pasta production commences in Italy. It is so popular that the shops must hire nightwatchmen to protect their inventories.

Enough. Today there are dozens of variations of Italian pasta. What's the distinctive characteristic of fettuccine? The thin pasta is rolled and then cut into 1/4-inch-wide slices...the Italian word for slice is fetta. Now, to the wine at Alfredo's. It was a light white, about three years old, judging by the yellowing color and the maturity of the nose and flavors. Can't say more because it was poured from a pitcher! Hence, today's wine is a white, light, third-year California-Italian varietal, Pinot Grigio...


Wine of the Day

1997 Pinot Grigio (gree-zhoh) by Ivan Tamas
Appellation—California's Central Coast
Winemaking—No oak. Fermented and aged in stainless steel to maximize the lime-grapefruit freshness.
Winery Stature—Listen to America's foremost critic Robert Parker, Jr.: "Produces terrific wines that represent excellent values."
My Panel's Rating of the Grigio—RECOMMENDED
Contact—Jennifer Pazio, (925) 456-2383, FX (925) 456-2381
Price—$9


Postscript

Alfredo III's instructions on forking fettuccine:

To eat the long ribbons without cutting them:

  • Fork in right hand, large spoon in left.
  • With fork lift small amount of noodles free of the dish.
  • Set spoon on plate. Point fork down into bowl of spoon and twirl.

Note—For more about the Ivan Tamas Winery and what they do with the grape that makes the most wine in the world, see the Oct. 19, 1999 WineDay title "Reely, Reely BIG."

References:
Ladyfinger & Nun's Tummies by Martha Barnette
Food Chronology by James Trager

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created May 2000

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