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My interest in the Italian food-and-wine cultural exchange that was held in Providence early in October was piqued when an interview guest brought it up on my radio show.
I was broadcasting from the Newport Mansions Food and Wine Festival, which was an overwhelming success from all standpoints. On a picture-perfect early fall weekend, literally some of the world’s finest wines were being served on the back lawn of Marble House.
I was interviewing the individual who was responsible for orchestrating the selection of vintages being poured. He is a highly regarded sommelier from New York City named Michael Greenlee, who happens to be a native Rhode Islander. We were chatting on air about his homecoming. Greenlee mentioned that he dined out at Al Forno because he wanted to revisit his taste memories of great Italian dining in the Ocean State. He brought up the “Week in Emilia Romagna” dinner that the iconic Providence restaurant hosted Oct. 3. Coincidentally, I had received advance word about the event from its organizer just the day before.
Al Forno was one of two Providence venues on a tour of five eateries from Rhode Island to Cambridge, Mass., which were having special nights focusing on wine, food and the culture of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The Wine Consortium of Romagna together with the Consulate General of Italy in Boston and the Honorary Vice Consul of Italy in Rhode Island hosted the dinner events, featuring recipes paired with wines from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.
Emilia-Romagna gets its name from Via Emilia, the ancient Roman road that runs through it. Its larger towns are Bologna, Modena and Ravenna. The view along the Via Emilia or the A14 motorway is dotted with mounds and hills, orchards and vineyards alternating with farmhouses, towers and even castles. Native culinary offerings include Parmigiano cheese and tortellini.
Chef Filippo Artioli from Emilia-Romagna worked with Al Forno chef David Reynoso, as well as the chef in each restaurant on the tour, to prepare a traditional menu that also showcased the evening’s wine selections. Artioli owns a restaurant in the town of Bevagna in Emilia-Romagna called Redibis.
As is typical in Italy, his place is farm-to-table. The chef and restaurateur is also a forager. A review of his restaurant described how he “collects all [the fresh ingredients] he wants to use for the evening dishes in the surrounding meadows and forests.” Artioli’s philosophy showed in the menu for the dinner series. To start, piadina Romagnola – a Romagna-style flatbread; followed by lasagne verdi alla Romagnola – lasagna made with greens.