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Chicago wine and food writer Tom Hyland celebrates the cuisine of Italy's Piemonte region in "The Wines and Foods of Piemonte." On Saturday, March 11, Ristorante Bartolotta fetes the book with a special lunch featuring Piemontese food and wine pairings.
This is a region that's close to my heart – it's where some of my great-grandparents emigrated from when they came to America – and so I'm always eager to see it get some much-deserved attention.
Though most foodies know Barolo and Barbaresco, the food of Piemonte – hearty and rich – has a lower profile here. Hyland's book is wine-heavy, which comes as no surprise, but also includes interviews with chefs from this northwestern region of Italy, helping to open the door to folks who want to learn more about the culinary delights of Piemonte.
In advance of the lunch at Ristorante Bartolotta in Wauwatosa on Saturday, from noon until 2:30 p.m., we caught up with Hyland to ask him about his book and his passion for Piedmont.
Admission to the four-course lunch, with three wine pairings, is $85 and includes a copy of Hyland's "The Wines and Foods of Piemonte," which sells for $40.
OnMilwaukee: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into writing about food and wine?
Tom Hyland: I had more than 15 years experience in the wine business, in retail and wholesale. I was tired of that, but wanted to continue in the industry and expand my knowledge, so I started to travel and write.
Of all the interesting and delicious places in the world, how did you discover Piemonte?
Enough trips there convinced me of the greatness of the wines as well as the beauty of the land. It was a region that was not as well publicized as other Italian regions, especially Tuscany, so that immediately drew me there.
What especially captivated you about the region?
The variety of the wines – red and white, the quality of the wines, and the fact that these are second, third and fourth generation farmers growing the grapes and producing the wines.
Why don't more Americans know about this region, especially considering what a paradise it is for food and wine?
Simple, not enough people travel there. Everyone goes to Rome or Venice or Florence.
If someone wanted to visit for the first time, what places and foods should they be sure not to miss?
I wouldn't name one or two things. I'd say to make sure they eat in a local trattoria or osteria to truly appreciate the excellence and value of the local cuisine and wines.
Surely, there are other regions in Italy with low profiles here but with serious eats. Any advice for the curious?
Umbria has a superb cuisine, but doesn't get the attention is deserves. Friuli is great, especially if you love seafood.
What can folks expect at your event here at Ristorante Bartolotta? Will you give a presentation, what's on the menu, etc.
An honest lunch with Piemonte cuisine and representative Piemonte wines. I think those attending will get a good understanding of how these wines and foods work together.
Here is the complete menu and pairings, as provided by Ristorante Bartolotta:
Vitello tonnato: Classic Piemontese veal carpaccio with tuna sauce
Nervi Bianco, Erbaluce di Caluso
Agnolotti di fonduta di fontina al sugo d’arrosto: traditional Piemontese pasta filled with fontina cheese fondue served with roasting meat jus
Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti "Le Orme"
Spezzatino al Barolo: beef stew braised in Barolo wine on soft polenta
Guidobono, Barolo "Le Coste di Monforte"
Semifreddo alle nocciole Piemontese IGP: Semifrozen Piemontese hazelnut mousse
Tickets to the lunch can be purchased here.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.