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Perfect Pairings: Tasca d'Almerita Fondazione Whitaker Grillo 2016 and Fritto Misto at Coppa Osteria

Ideal way to go out.
Ideal way to go out.
Photo by Kate McLean

Let's go back to Italy, yeah? Sicily in particular, and to narrow it down even further, a tiny island less than half a square kilometer located off the western coast of Marsala. It's here on the Island of San Pantaleo, Mozia in particular, that the Grillo grape is grown into the best version of itself.

This wine is an excellent example of how terroir and climate can transform a widely used grape into something worth a double take. One sip, two sip, swish it around your mouth. As it's warmed on your palate imagine vines growing out of ancient slated rock in the hot summer sun with salty ocean breezes blowing through your hair.  (Feel free to continue the fantasy...)  Even a beginner's palate can taste the sense of place this wine encapsulates. You can taste the savory ocean presence, you can taste the rocks resting below, you can smell the lemon.

The island is so small that once the grapes are harvested, they are transported on boats, across the lagoon, to be produced at the Regaleali estate in Sicily. Tasca d'Almerita, known for producing high quality Sicilian wines, ferments and ages this particular Grillo in stainless steel on lees for five months. The choice of stainless steel, over say, oak barrels, allows the wine to truly reflect the surroundings in which it was grown.

If this wine could be enjoyed with one mate; it'd have to be Fritto Misto. Fritto Misto makes an excellent summertime snack with wine like this; crisp, airy, lightly breaded shellfish and vegetables. The batter is made from rice flour and typically a sparkling beverage. Think tempura but Italian fryers instead of Japanese.

The only restaurant in Houston you can find this exact pair is at Coppa Osteria in Rice Village. In fact, they just so happen to offer them together as a special for $33.

Get down on this special quick at Coppa Osteria.
Get down on this special quick at Coppa Osteria.
Photo by Shannon Smith

General Manager Josep Prats, stated, "I've always loved Sicilian wine, and this one in particular really over-delivers for the price."  Coppa Osteria is a great place to try wine in general because of their reasonable prices and by-the-glass offerings.  And say you're not ready to commit to the whole bottle, Prats consistently features a Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino and Super-Tuscan by the glass (that's rare.) Also, 50 percent of their wine list is either organic or biodynamic which, fingers crossed, is the way of the future.

Sounds like an excellent way to spend an afternoon, and I'll bet you five bucks in Sicily someone else is enjoying this exact combination at the exact same time you are.

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Also, it's important to note that just because a bottle says Grillo, doesn't mean it's good. There's a lot of bad Grillo out there, so best to focus on a reputable winery producing this grape.

Tip: For new-to-the-party wine lovers, a fast way to get a leg up on ordering from lists is to find regions you love. Like Sangiovese? Brunello di Montalcino. Big Pinot Noirs? Santa Lucia Highlands. Malbec? Luján de Cuyo.

Coppa Osteria is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Houston Press is searching for perfect food pairings and where they can be found. We welcome reader suggestions and ask you to send them to dish@houstonpress.com.

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