Occhipinti iL Frappato & Branzini
A taste of Sicily: Explore this beautiful pairing with Wine Director Jerod Peitsmeyer and Chef Andrew Martin…
Branzino (pl. Branzini) is just one of many names given to the European sea bass. In Greece, for instance, this delicious fish is called Lavriki. The fish is so special that the word Lavriki is used by journalists to refer to high-value, exclusive news stories– a cultural reference to the luck of the angler who catches this fish.
Frappato, an indigenous Sicilian grape, is also considered by many to be one of the treasures of the Mediterranean. This grape, not dissimilar to Gamay Noir in its youthful, playful, terroir-driven character, is one of Italy’s best red wine matches for seafood.
It so happens that we have both of these incredible delicacies populating our spring menu this year. Our whole-grilled Branzino is prepared simply by our chefs in the Sicilian tradition, with nothing more than lemons and sautéed broccolini. The fish is the star of this plate, in all its glory. It is a fruit of the sea that needs few culinary pyrotechnics in its preparation to showcase why this fish is considered such a prize.
(Occhipinti’s vineyards in Sicily, photo: The New York Times Style Magazine)
Frappato, when touched minimally by the winemaker, can also showcase the simple, resonant beauty of the island from whence it hails. It takes a special winemaker to have the restraint to allow the grape to speak for itself. Arianna Occhipinti is one such vigneron.
(Arianna Occhipinti in her vineyards, photo: Swide Magazine)
Her 2012 Il Frappato, grown under the gaze of the Sicilian sun showcases what old vines and a dedication to completely natural farming and winemaking can do to highlight the subtle beauty of such an important local varietal. This is a bottling that brings forth a sense of playful joy that few wines inculcate. If its spunky personality isn’t enough, it’s ability to pair with the bounty of the oceans certainly places this glass pour high on our list of favorites.
“The pairing of red wine and seafood can be challenging, but can reveal surprise and delight. The combination of Arianna’s Frappato and our kitchen’s minimalistic preparation of such a beautiful fish is one such “ah-ha” moment. The two, in tandem, create bliss. The wine makes you want more fish and vice-a-versa. It is a transportive pairing– to a land where the air is fresh and hot and salty and the food is a part of the everyday celebration of life.” -Jerod Peitsmeyer, Dolce Wine Director
“I try to feature a whole fish on the menu every Spring. The freshness and brightness of the dish seems to pair with the season perfectly. Trying to find a quality product that is wild, fresh, and is not too big or small is always a struggle. The branzini we get in is a Mediterranean sea bass, that fulfills all of these needs. We get them, wild-caught, out of Greece and shipped fresh to us through New York. They arrive whole and fresh about 96 hours out of the water.
I scale, gut, score the skin, and stuff them with lemon, rosemary, and thyme. They grill perfectly with a crispy skin. I like the grilled lemon with the whole fish so I can add more lemon as I dig into it and eventually flip it over to get to the other side. It reminds me of the meals at crab shacks back in Maryland. Its awesome that we have a customer base that is also open to handling a whole fish. It’s a process– so best to get a bottle or at least a 1/4 liter of wine to go with it.” -Chef Andrew Martin
Come take a mini trip to Sicily, and enjoy this beautiful pairing from our Spring menu. Cheers!