Fall Wine Tasting at Simposio Ristorante

In 2007, Vasco Luti, owner of Simposio Ristorante, opened the restaurant's new location in an unlikely shopping center at the corner of Westheimer and Dunvale. Historically, this native Tuscan focused on Northern Italian cuisine, but last night, Simposio debuted some new wines and Southern Italian dishes at the first of many tastings.

Two months ago, Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio joined Simposio Ristorante as the new executive chef. A first-generation Italian-American, Palazzo-Giorgio trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in both the US and Europe. His goal as the new executive chef is to showcase seasonal ingredients in both Northern- and Southern-Italian-inspired dishes.

Last night's fall tasting featured four stations pairing food and wines from Tuscany, Sicily, Piemonte and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The first station in the spacious entryway, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, served a mushroom-topped polenta cake and a cabbage roll filled with beef and risotto. The Piemonte station served a pancetta-wrapped shrimp-and-rabbit ravioli.

On the patio were the Sicily and Tuscany stations. The first featured a fried risotto ball, bite-size eggplant topped with cheese, and meatballs. The second served cheese and arugula wrapped in bresaola and a stuffed mushroom. Each station served generous portions of both white and red wines from the respective regions.

The fried risotto ball, rabbit ravioli and meatball were the favorites of the evening. I did not try the eggplant but heard from others it was delicious. The Tuscany station was the least successful of the four. The pungent mushroom overpowered the flavor of the filling, while the bresaola had too much cheese. I could not have driven home had I tried all 13 wines. Of the ones I did try, though, my favorites were the Villa Rubíní Schioppettino, Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba and Ceretto Barolo Zonchera.

I look forward to returning for dinner to sample their homemade pastas and desserts. I will stay away from the piano bar, though. While pretty to look at, the bar's stone façade will scrap your knee or scuff your shoe if you aren't careful.

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Jane Catherine Collins