Blind Lady Ale House & Aglianico

On the northern end of the 30th Street beer crawl lineup sits Blind Lady Ale House where pizza and brews are served in an indoor beer garden fashion with small jovial crowds lining long tables. Beer is the ultimate fail-safe pizza pairing, making this environment perfect for fostering a pizza eating culture. With Kimmy Schmidt waiting to entertain my pizza-eating face, I opt out of beer and slink back to my Netflix cave, a Spicy Salami pie in hand, to find a wine to pair.

kimmy schmidt

The pizza is a simple but aromatic wonderland topped with Balistreri salami, fontina and pecorino romano cheeses, and a light tomato sauce. Leading the topping parade, the salami is crafted by San Diego native Pete Balistreri, a Sicilian-American quick to gain a following for his recent venture in artisanal charcuterie. Dense with savory elements, the salami contributes the bulk of the seasoning with classic flavors of chili flakes and fennel.

blind lady from above

The main source of spice comes from the side of calabrese chili oil, which allows for adjustment according to personal preference. The chili oil offers mild peppery heat and a satisfyingly slick texture, finding a comfortable home amongst the salty toppings and juicy tomato sauce. If hotter, the spice would threaten to zap a wine’s more delicate fruit aromas, making a sweeter or less alcoholic pairing more appropriate. Bold, inky and certainly no pushover, wine made from the thick-skinned Aglianico are weighty and capable handling a livelier set of flavors. The red Italian varietal makes the whole of this pizza’s pairing, 2008 Terredora di Paolo, Taurasi DOCG, Fatica Contadina.

blind lady tryptich

Smooth, finely-grained tannins enrich the wine’s already full body, allowing the wine to match each bite in personality and gumption. The moderately high acidity keeps the oil and cheese from overpowering the palate while aromas of blackberry, plum skin, fresh leather and tar provide a layer of contrasting flavors and complexity. Overshadowed by more northern Italian players of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, southern Italy’s Aglianico remains under-appreciated despite its ability to thrive in warmer climates while maintaining a robust yet balanced wine. It is a feisty selection to keep around home, well-suited to pair with rich Italian dishes and hilarious Tina Fey productions.

references:

Guild of Sommeliers Compendium

Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein

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Landini’s Pizzeria & Spanish red

The recent boom of trendy bars and restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy has been all the chatter about town. From the killer wine list at Juniper & Ivy to the shiny upstairs patio of Kettner Exchange, there is plenty to talk about and more foodie fodder still to come. While old neighborhood standards may harrumph about with speculation as to what the competition means for business, the influx of roaming drunk hoards seems well-suited for a pizza joint to thrive in and Landini’s Pizzeria is situated within easy stumbling distance of it all.

San Diego kitchens shut down disappointingly early for a city that parties nightly until two. As bars unleash batches of wooing hot messes and their socially oblivious companions into the streets, Landini’s becomes a magnet for inebriated pizza zombies drawn to the ever-appreciated business model of late-night slices.

Initially enticed by the menu’s fancy sounding toppings of brussel sprouts and butternut squash, I opt for a less cerebral treat after standing in line between drunk toddlers in celebratory feather boas indicating some holiday nigh. Instead, the very chill people of Landini’s recommend a standard issue pepperoni pie, to which I add tomato and mushroom to half and contribute what I can to send some cat to ninja school.

landini's pizzeria

The toppings don’t seem to matter beyond pepperoni as the base components make up the whole of the pizza’s personality. A soft core that runs from crust to cheese is enlivened with collected pockets of juicy tomato sauce and a chewy texture. While the tomato and mushroom are decorative at best, contributing nothing much beyond texture to the pie, the pepperoni is spiced perfectly, calling for a bigger style of red wine to be its match.

landini's pizza and wine 3

Bodega Margon Pricum (Tierra de León, 2007) is a Spanish red made up solely from the Prieto Picudo red grape of the region. Upon opening, the wine is immediately taut, tannins strained and fruit ungiving, and in need of time to breathe. Decanting is an option, offering more surface area for oxygen to interact with the wine and hasten its evolution, while swirling in glass offers smaller format aeration for those seeking to enjoy a glass or two.

As the wine opens up, aromas of black tea, pepper, and dusty earth are at first most notable. Dark fruit flavors emerge in the form of black cherry and blackberries that provide a counterbalance to the meaty landscape of the pizza and inherent spice never overwhelms the wine. With plumply ripe fruit aromas and moderately higher alcohol, there is just enough acidity to match the tomato sauce while the scrubby tannins play nicely off each cheesy bite.

landini's leftovers

Leftovers are an undeniable truth of pizza eating for one. To step up my pizza game, I ditched the microwave and learned a stovetop method for reheating pizza that revives any lifeless crust on the fly. All it takes is a pan prepped to low-medium heat with slices placed in dry for a crisp bottom while covering with a lid to heat the toppings evenly. Serve with eggs and call it breakfast.

Buona Forchetta & Falanghina

Buona Forchetta is a quietly trendy South Park restaurant priding itself in traditional Italian fare and a pretty dope ambiance. An incredible amount of hype built up by local pizza fanatics sets expectations high, especially when personal experience with a range of dishes has placed overall consistency into question. Even still, ravings over Buona Forchetta pizza persists, making their cuisine an on-going, sometimes obsessive study. Curiosity strikes with every recommendation for the place and I find myself perusing the menu again and again, tempting my hunger with the array of options.

buona forchetta pizzas

Close proximity to Hamilton’s, South Park’s keeper of great beers, usually green lights the decision to make the trek for pizza. With sours kept well stocked, Hammy’s is my first stop regardless of whether I’m waiting for a table or saying ambiance schmambiance and ordering a pizza to-go. Although much of Buona Forchetta’s overall experience can be extracted from the quaint atmosphere reminiscent of the chef’s homeland, isolation from the romantic distractions of strung up lights and Italian accents can be quite revealing and just as satisfying. Carry-out means no corkage fee, but it’s worth mentioning that the corkage fee here is extremely reasonable at ten dollars per bottle.

buona forchetta ambiance

Buona Forchetta (left) credit: San Diego Magazine

From the belly of the kitchen’s shiny centerpiece oven, Sofia, built by third generation oven-maker Stefano Ferrara, comes an order of the Sergio pizza. The pie is one of the more popular choices featuring prosciutto di parma, arugula, parmesan and buffalo mozzarella. The pizza is a winner from the very first bite with flavors singing harmoniously together as bright parmesan and milky fresh mozzarella balance with a base of light and acidic tomato sauce. Meanwhile, the prosciutto and arugula not only contributed with bursts of flavor, their layers also enhance the texture of the chewy dense crust, making each bite immensely satisfying.

buona forchetta sergio

With buoyant pizza flavors presented in a classic Neapolitan style, the streak of lesser known Italian wines continues on with Falanghina (2010 Feudi Di San Gregorio, Falanghina del Sannio DOC), a fragrant white wine hailing from Campania in Southern Italy. As the grassy arugula cuts through powerful cheesy core with refreshing bitterness, the cheese in turn bridges the lean vegetal notes of the arugula with the bright acidity in the wine. In general, lively wines with plenty of acidity can gracefully manage cheesy situations while also playing the same role as a squeeze of lemon with bitter greens. The meaty, salty prosciutto enhances stone fruit flavors of peach and apricot in the wine while red apple and tangerine aromas contribute to its juicy, refreshing style. With delicious flavors in full balance, this pizza and wine pairing requires no more than sweatpants and a couch to appreciate this winning combo.

Surf Rider Pizza & Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Tucked away from the Ocean Beach bustle of daytime drinkers, surfers and street gypsies, Surf Rider Pizza Café is a neighborhood gem with a local following earned with their east-coast style pizzas and welcoming hospitality. Unruffled by its OB pizza competitors (Newport Pizza and Pizza Port, gobbling up much of the Newport Avenue foot-traffic with their respective sets of fancy beers), Surf Rider prides itself in churning out a quality product with a zen-like OBcian attitude that spanks a little love into each of their hand-tossed pies.

The signature “Surf Rider Pizza,” is a mainstay in the by-the-slice offerings with roasted garlic, gorgonzola, basil, and tomatoes to entice hungry browsers. Even more tempting, the “Bacon Rider” specialty pie sports all the goodies of the house style with the brilliant addition of bacon, a decisive detail that wins my order. Mere blocks away, 3rd Corner wine shop and bistro keeps shelves stocked with fun wines, from which I source this week’s pairing: The Flood Pinot Noir (Chapter 24, Willamette Valley, 2012).

surfrider wine & pizza

Atop the thin chewy crust of the Bacon Rider, flavor colonies populate the cheesy plains in small groupings of finely chopped bacon and juicy tomatoes. Toppings are kempt and well integrated with the occasional sleeping giant of roasted garlic disrupting the scenery. While subtle in flavor, each bite of garlic clove disperses a tidal wave of sweet aromatic pulp that coats the palate with a soft-focus filter. At the opposite end of the spectrum, gorgonzola is immediately vivid and boisterous, giving the pizza a briny backbone.

slice & a glass

The new world Pinot Noir plays a refreshing role in the balancing act of this pairing, enveloping all the savory elements with a blanket of dark berry fruit. In turn, the contrasting saltiness of the pizza brightens these rhubarb and stewed strawberry qualities in the wine, which sing extra loud in the presence of bacon or roasted garlic. Layered aromas of black pepper, nutmeg, saline and damp earth builds upon this Pinot Noir like a cinematic portrayal of Hi-C’s Flashin’ Fruit Punch dabbling in a high school goth phase: a bubbly, fruity core indulging in dark makeup and a more complex sense of identity.

To contribute to the annual social event of going glossy-eyed numb while friends gather around the television for Super Bowl Sunday, I have gone samurai on my leftovers, chopping them into finger-food-sized pieces. Topped with a chiffonade of fresh basil, these puppies make for a pretty Pinterestable Super Bowl snack to share. In tow, the remaining wine will be a delightful byob treat to shed the gloss from my eyes and make this year’s Super Bowl that much less dreadfully boring.

super bowl sunday