We put ourselves in the hands of Andrea Rossi and Ryan Keough, the general manager and executive chef at Spuntino in Westbury, and were rewarded with an excellent five-course tapas meal with wine. Spuntino is a new tapas and wine bar in the The Gallery at Westbury Plaza shopping center on Old Country Road, a large high-ceiling, gleaming space with an open kitchen and one wall of doors that open out onto the wide sidewalk, allowing for outdoor dining.
Rossi, who is from Venice, is committed to Slow Food, a global grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries, which began in the 1980s in response to the proposal to build a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps in Rome. As their web site explains, “Slow food was founded to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature.”
At Spuntino, efforts are made to locally source the ingredients used in the dishes, such as greens from Long Island’s Satur Farm, or to use Italian ingredients that are specific to a region such as olive oil from Bolgheri, an area that enjoys a unique micro-climate that is perfect for growing olives. Because the first Spuntino (the Westbury restaurant is the second) is in Clifton, New Jersey, the gelato comes from a family-owner manufacturer there who makes it fresh daily. “I order it fresh every day,” says Keough. Rossi adds: “We want to find the local guy so that our ingredients are traceable and people can trust the food.”
Our first course was a meat and cheese platter that included 18-month-old Prosciutto de Parma, prochetta Toscana and sweet sopressata; the cheeses were Parmigiano Reggiano, gorgonzola with fig jam and provolone. We started with a bellini of 2012 Prosecco Lunetta and peach puree. Prosecco, like Champagne, can pair with everything says Rossi. In this case it was a good accompaniment for the meat and cheese. Bubbles in general cut through everything. Prosecco is the only wine that can be paired with just about everything from appetizers to desserts.
Next came a variety of bruschetta: gorgonzola, apple and walnut drizzled with honey; marscarpone and strawberry with basil; and watermelon and pickled fennel and ricotta with mint. This was accompanied with 2012 Vermentino Argiolas Costamolino. Says Rossi: The thought process is simple, to build up the flavor profile of the wines, starting from lighter wines with good minerality to fuller bodies offers a variety of good pairings without been too intrusive. Mascarpone and gorgonzola cheeses pais well with young, acidic, crisp whites such as Vermentinos.
Carciofo—fried long-stemmed artichoke hearts from Lazio—was next, along with speck in carozza (smoked prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted red pepper on rustic bread), and hand-cut calamri. Our wine was 2012 Pecorino Saladini Pilastri. The Pecorino, an early-ripening grape produces a wine of great structure and character. Intriguing minerality, with notes of citrus and a little burnt toast characterize this high quality, classic wine, which pairs well with fried fish in this case as it has enough body to sustain the speck in Carrozza thanks to the touch of smokiness and nuttiness in this wine.
For our meat and fish course, we were served lamb chops, charred octopus, hanger steak and Mediterranean sea bass. The wine that accompanied it was Piancornello San Antimo Sangiovese Grosso 2012. We took into consideration the earthiness of the sarmoriglo and the texture of the hanger steak and found a wine in between that could have enough body and be delicate at the same time, such as the sangiovese grosso, the grape of the Brunello di Montalcino.
Finally, dessert. The big hit was ciambella, a hot little pillow of fried dough, served rustic style in a paper bag, with dipping sauce of your choice: chocolate, Nutella or salted caramel (we opted for all three). Other choices include affogato: vanilla gelato swimming in espresso and topped with whipped cream, a plate of almond biscotti, lavender panna cotta and chocolate torte. The wine? Fizz 56 Brachetto. Lastly we paired a nice brachetto with dessert — an effervescent finish with notes of sparkling strawberries are a palate cleanser and pleaser…nothing better to coat the palate.
All in all, an extremely satisfying meal.