Enjoy a 5-Course Wine Dinner at Famiglia Italian American Cuisine
By Christina Ruotolo
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
For those that love their wine with a side of incredible Italian food, head over to Famiglia Italian American Cuisine located at 740 West Firetower Road in Winterville. They serve fresh Italian-American cuisine in a warm and inviting atmosphere. “Famiglia” means family in Italian and that family flavor comes through from beginning to end with every dish they serve. A lovely Italian phrase on their menu speaks to the food, atmosphere, & welcoming nature of the owners and employees. “Abbandonati all’amore e alla Cucina.” means “Love and cook with wild abandon.” This is the secret to their family inspired success.
The restaurant was founded by Andrew Harris, John Furci, and additional business partners three years ago. The Furci family heritage is from Calabria, Italy (SW Italy) and Sora, Italy between Rome and Naples so you are guaranteed a meal with authentic taste. “We’re dedicated to bringing together the legacy of home cooked Italian meals and love of new American traditions. Every meal you eat at our restaurant comes from not only our Northern and Southern Italian heritage, but from our breadth of experiences— from Long Island, NY all the way to Greenville, NC,” Furci says.
Famiglia specialties include a wide variety of Italian and American food including appetizers, NY style brick oven pizzas, soups, fresh salads, pasta dishes, entrees, buildable pasta dishes and delectable desserts. Every four-six weeks, Famiglia hosts a five-course food & wine pairing dinner on a Wednesday night. It’s a great opportunity to plan a romantic dinner, enjoy an un-hurried night out with friends or family.
For my food tasting, I joined a group of energetic and fun patrons at last month’s wine dinner. Dinner starts at 6:30, so make sure to arrive by 6:15pm. It lasts about two hours, so you will have plenty of time for enjoying delicious wine and incredible food. If you frequent Famiglia, you will be happy to know that all of the food courses served during this event are not on their regular menu, so you can experience something new each time you attend.
First, you are seated in the main dining room and given a printed menu with courses listed to the left and a section on the right with wine names and room for notes. You will be served five official courses, each paired with a wine as well as a starter soup or salad. All tables are served at the same time, so everyone gets educated and eats each course at the same time.
An official wine rep is on-hand to introduce each wine that is paired with each course. The wine rep meets with the chef prior to the event to determine what wines and food items they will serve during the event. Patrons are introduced to new flavors that give you a full, authentic, and educational experience every time. After the event, all wines are available for purchase at special prices.
Now that you know the rules, let’s get started. For my pre-course, I was served a tomato basil bisque soup. This bright, creamy soup was tangy and flavorful, a lovely start to the evening. Now for our first pairing; the Principi Di Butera Chardonnay paired with the garlic Parmesan veggie fritters. Zucchini, carrots, broccoli, and onions are delicately battered and fried to a golden brown and served with a zesty dipping sauce. The wine, from Sicily, was straw colored and had a nice bright citrus flavor with a hint of Oak.
Course two was Chicken Cacciatore paired with Brunel Cotes du Rhone. Here is something to make note of, you get a healthy pour for each wine and enough food in each course to keep you full and satisfied. This dish was hot and bubbly with a tender chicken thigh nestled in a rich red sauce made with carrots, mushrooms, and celery. The bone-in chicken was dredged with a flavorful breading top coat and keeping the bone in gave it a deeper flavor. The wine was from SE France and was a blend of Grenashe, Syrah, and Sinso and had aromas of strawberry with a slight pepper note with both finesse and smoothness.
Now that I’ve had a few wines, soup, a rich chicken and tasty veggie fritters, I’m ready to move onto course three which was a beautiful stuffed mushroom paired with a Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie. The mushroom is a new menu item that has been revamped for the wine dinner. It’s a mini Portabello mushroom stuffed with chopped bacon, panchetta, sausage, ricotta cheese, and cream cheese. It was filled with all things creamy, dreamy, and divine. The wine was from Tuscany’s coastal region and made from 100% Sangiovese grapes. It had lovely mineral notes, a warm flavor and paired perfectly with the woodiness of the mushrooms.
What I encountered during my wine dinner thus far was a wonderful array of patrons, many of them regulars sharing stories over the clinking of wine glasses, laughter, and discussing how much they loved the food. One such couple, who frequent the restaurant for dinners and back for another wine dinner was Bob Thompson and Marie Pokorny who are avid travelers, eaters and have been together for 22 years. They enjoy the easy and causal feel you get when coming here where you can be among great food and great people. “The wine dinners are always great fun. They are informal, the service is always great, and the food is excellent,” Marie said.
Course four was a seared lamb chop paired with Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon. The lamb chop was seasoned with Italian seasoning and lightly seared, topped with a lemon garlic aioli style sauce served with roasted potatoes. The lamb was a perfect medium rare, and was both delicate and rich alongside the bright and flavorful sauce. The red wine was a central California coast wine with a slightly oaky flavor as well as back notes of pepper, a perfect wine to pair with rich succulent meats like lamb, sirloins or pizza.
With just one course left, it was sad to see the end near. You end up having so much fun, but like all great food love stories, it always has to come to an end. For the final course on my Famiglia wine dinner was the Sfingi Italian donut paired with a Hogue Riesling. The donut was a lightly fried fluffy donut glazed with a sweet white glaze. It was a light, mellow and delicious finish to the tasting. The final wine was a sweet Riesling made from late harvest grapes, also called noble rot grapes. This extra time on the vine adds filaments in the wine which draw out the H2O leaving a concentrated fruity wine with rich honey flavor, and jammy apricot and peachy floral bouquet.
Co-owner and chef Drew Harris summed up my dinner in a few simple, but perfect words. when he and his staff come out at the end so we can shower the culinary team with a clapping ovation. “Eat well, laugh often, and drink lots of wine,” Harris says. That is a perfect representation of how food, wine and great service can make a meal feel like a rewarding family trip from first sip to last bite.
The wine dinners are so popular they sell-out often, so call ahead of time, make a reservation, pay a simple $10 deposit to reserve your spot, and get ready to be filled with delicious food and impeccable wines. You will become a fan and come back often. The food & wine dinners are $35 per person. The next wine dinner will be Wednesday, March 27th. For those that don’t like wine, they have partnered with Pitt Street Brewing and will be featuring a beer dinner on Thursday, April 4th.
Famiglia is open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-9pm. They also offer daily specials. Tuesday is buy 1, get 1 ½ off on build your own pizzas. Wednesday is ½ price off of wine by the glass or bottle. Thursday, enjoy $3.50 draft beers and kids eat free w/purchase of an adult entree. Friday, enjoy ½ price appetizers with a purchase of a bottle of wine. On Saturday students and military get 10% off their meal. Sunday while you’re enjoying those yummy breakfast favorites, enjoy $3 mimosas (Sat-Sun) and $5 Bloody Mary’s, or buy 1, get 1 ½ off large pizzas. You can order online and they even have a pick-up window for convenience. For more information or to make reservations call, 252-689-6330 or visit www.famiglianc.com .