Wine Pairing Dinner: Di Lisio’s Italian Restaurant; Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Guidoi Folonari (left) and Tony Di Lisio introducing the wine dinner
Although a new restaurant to us, Di Lisio’s has been around for a while and does wine dinners once a month on Sundays. Friends told us about this wine pairing dinner and the menu looked delicious with calamari salad, tuna pizzaiola, short rib cannaloni, osso buco on saffron risotto and a cheese plate. The wines were from Guido Folonari’s “Three Killer B’s” (Donnaolimpia 1898, L’illuminata and San Giorgio vineyards) and Guido himself was at the dinner to tell us about his wines.

Di Lisio’s Italian restaurant is family owned and operated by Tony and Maria Di Lisio. Tony is a native of Naples Italy and began his restaurant career in his home country, but has spent many years in the restaurant business here in the United States. When we entered the restaurant we were greeted by Tony and his wife and you immediately got the feeling you are part of the family about to sit down and have a delicious home cooked Italian dinner. Practically everyone who attended the wine dinner was greeted with hugs and were on a first name basis with the owners.

The dinner was five courses and the menu included:

Chilled Calamari Salad in an orange bowl with lemon and parsley.
Paired with: Donna Olimpia Vermentino, Costa Toscana.

Tuna Pizzaiola in a light cherry tomato sauce with capers, kalamata olives and a blush wine cream sauce.
Paired with: Tenuta L’illuminata Colbertina, Berbera d’Alba.

Short Rib Cannaloni in a beet puree on a broccoli rabe cream.
Paired with: Donna Olimpia Tageto, Costa Toscana Rosso.

Osso Bucco on Saffron Risotto topped with mushrooms and micro greens.
Paired with: Tenuta San Giorgio Ugolforte, Brunello di Montalcino.

Cheese Plate of Honey Goat Glacier, Wildflower Blue and Smoked Provolone cheeses with onion orange jam, fig chocolate spread and grapes.
Paired with: Tenuta L’illuminata Tevabio, Barolo.

The first three course were out of this world delicious and went well with the three easy drinking very modestly priced wines. The calamari was tender and delicately flavored with lemon juice, the tuna was dressed with an incredibly good sauce with capers and kalamata olives, and the cannaloni was accompanied by crunchy broccoli florets, beet puree and shaved cheese. The osso bucco was paired with the Brunello di Montalcino at $56 a bottle (regularly $70) which had a good aroma and flavor with pleasant tannins. The Barolo at $52 (regularly $68) was paired with the cheese plate and was more about tannis than aroma or flavor. In the end we purchased the Vermentino at $15 and the Barbera d’Alba at $17.

A very enthusiastic crowd attended the event and most people seemed to be “regulars” which speaks well for the restaurant. There seemed to be some sort of a problem in the kitchen and food was very slow to come at times but the wait staff was very pleasant and friendly. Although possibly a little petty, we don’t expect to have to reuse our fork for each course, especially at a $75/person dinner.

Guidoi Folonari provided interesting information about his wines and an abundance of rich Italian persona; Tony Di Lisio’s cooking and Italian hospitality could only be described as memorable. In the end it was a fun Italian wine pairing dinner that brought back images of wonderful food, wine and good times we’ve had in Italy.