Alan Tardi shared some of the most comforting Italian food in New York during his tenure at Follonico, his restaurant on 24th Street, just west of Fifth Avenue. From his kitchen, he would welcome guests with delicately fried oysters topped in caviar, then take them adventuring through Piedmont and northern Italy, starting, perhaps, with bagna cauda—a small crock of garlic, anchovy and olive oil heated from below, surrounded by vegetables to dip into the warm bath. Piemontese sustenance in its simplest, most comforting form. Chef Tardi was a regular panelist for the Italian tastings at our offices in New York until he closed his restaurant after 9/11 and moved to Piedmont to work with winegrowers and to write books. Now, Tardi is back in New York, and he was the first person we thought of when Stephanie Johnson, our Italian editor, mentioned how winegrowers in Alba drink dolcetto at home as their preferred red for casual family meals. Tardi started a dialogue with restaurateurs in Piedmont’s top three districts for dolcetto—Diano d’Alba, Dogliani and Alba—coming away with three simple recipes that are sure to provide warmth and sustenance through this winter.
Meanwhile, our creative director, Nick Mrozowski, scoured Milan for a photographer to get shots of their dishes, but pandemic restrictions barred them from travel across a regional border. So, Nick found Elisa Carucci in Turin and we sent her an assignment letter to prove to the authorities that she was driving to Alba for work. Her rich and vivid photographs bring home a sense of the Langhe hills, as do Tardi’s suggestions for dolcettos to meld with each dish. While none of us can travel this winter—or should—we can find comfort in these simple pleasures of food and wine, in learning the preparation of a classic dish or, in the case of our editorial team, a new way to chase down that sense of community surrounding wine and food, a community that’s been hit so hard this year.
For this editor, the pleasure of working with an old friend on this story ran deeper than nostalgia. Alan and I share an interest in the primal connection of food and wine, a direct connection between people and their sustenance. Tara Q. Thomas and I share that same interest and she has, for almost as long as Alan, been a friend and colleague whom I rely on for food advice. In fact, this is the first major food story we are publishing since Tara has taken a leave from her primary editorial duties, becoming our editor-at-large while she edits the next edition of the Oxford Companion of Wine with Julia Harding, MW.
During her book project, Tara will continue to work with the Wine & Spirits team as a critic and writer, as well as a trusted advisor. Our editors and our entire team already miss her; we wish Tara and Julia courage in their research, as we rely on the Oxford Companion as a trusted reference.
For this issue, Tara’s contributions include her coverage of the Northern Rhône in our tasting report, accompanying our focus on syrah, grenache and Mediterranean red varieties from the US, South Australia and South Africa. You’ll find a lot of warming winter wines in our recommendations—comforting and welcome sustenance.
This story appears in the print issue of February 2021.
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