One of the silver linings of Pennsylvania’s strict liquor laws is the abundance of BYOB restaurants across the state. And lucky for us, many of those eateries serve Italian and Italian-American food, a legacy of immigration to the northeastern United States. Next time you’re gathering an array of wines to pair with an Italian spread, be sure to add some Pennsylvania vintages to the list.
Below is a list of classic Italian dishes paired with PA varieties. And keep the state’s Italian BYOBs in mind as you plan a special outing for Mother’s Day. Cent’anni!
Melon & Prosciutto with Moscato
Start your meal by indulging in the classic tango of sweet and salty. The iconic combination of ripe melon and prosciutto is improved by a cold glass of Moscato. The acidity and fruit-forward aroma of the wine will complement the sweetness of the dish while providing a counterpoint to the funky, umami brine of the cured ham. Moscato’s slight fizz will also wake up your tastebuds and prepare you for the feast to come.
Salad of Bitter Greens, Lemon Dressing and Shaved Parmesan with Off-Dry Riesling
Another great way to kick things off is with a medley of bracing, bitter greens — think endive, chicory, and arugula tossed with a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil. The dish is often balanced out with thick shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and, if you’re lucky, salty anchovy fillets. Those sharp greens will taste delicious alongside a crisp, off-dry Riesling: the sweetness will temper their bite and accentuate the savoriness of the cheese.
Burrata, Grilled Bread, Fresh Black Pepper, and Good Olive Oil with Grüner Veltliner
One of the world’s most magnificent pleasures is a ball of mozzarella cheese containing fresh cream and stracciatella (more tender shreds of mozzarella cheese). The dish’s transcendent mellowness demands textural and flavor counterpoints in the form of crusty grilled bread, punchy black pepper, and bright, slightly-bitter olive oil. It also calls out for a vibrant, acidic white wine like Grüner Veltliner. An increasingly popular Pennsylvania grape, this Northern Europe transplant will cut through the richness.
Roasted Whole Branzino, Lemon and Herbs with Pinot Grigio
One simple Italian classic deserves another: Pair your whole fish with this fresh, drinkable white. The lemon will accentuate the wine’s citrus flavors and the pile of fresh herbs will create a grassy counterpoint to the varietal’s signature stone-fruit and honey notes. But most importantly, Pinot Grigio will not overwhelm the subtle flavors of flaky white fish.
Spaghetti Carbonara with Noiret
Now we’re getting serious: This creamy pasta dish is a Roman icon for a reason. Boasting layers of richness — salty cured pork, egg, and mountains of funky grated cheese — it’s really the hit of freshly grated black pepper that balances out the plate. Pay homage to that unsung hero with Noiret, a hybrid red that boasts a huge kick of black pepper in the nose, along with complex berry notes and balanced tannins.
Shrimp Scampi with Chardonnay
When you’re talking about Italian-American cooking, garlic is one of the elemental ingredients. Here’s a showcase for the versatile bulb: Heaps of chopped garlic are sautéed until fragrant and then tossed with shrimp, lemon juice and a handful of parsley. Chardonnay has long been beloved alongside seafood, and in this situation, reach for an unoaked iteration which will showcase the grape’s green-apple bite and understated earthiness.
Eggplant Parmesan with Pinot Noir
It would be tough to enjoy a deluxe Italian meal in Pennsylvania without a serving of red sauce (or gravy, as some locals call it). This indulgent vegetarian dish features fillets of fried eggplant, plenty of mozzarella, and the bold zip of tomato sauce. This is firmly in red-wine territory, and something high in acid like Pinot Noir will both cut the richness of the dish and play well with the tomatoes. This light, aromatic wine variety is incredibly food-friendly and sure to be a crowdpleaser.
Rabbit Cooked in Wine, Tomatoes and Oregano with Lemberger
Rabbit braised with wine and herbs might feel homey for a restaurant dish, but it can provide a symphony of flavor: sweetness and zip from the wine, spring verve from the herbs, body from the tomatoes, and savoriness from the tender meat. With this offbeat choice, choose an offbeat wine like Lemberger, a red wine variety originally from Germany. This versatile wine is famous for its dark blue-purple color, ripe berry aromas, spice, and high acidity. Those qualities will highlight the rabbit’s earthiness.
Tiramisu with Late-harvest Vignole or Vidal Blanc
Here’s a real question for you: Is there any dessert in the world as transcendent as tiramisu? You have the sweet tang of mascarpone cheese, the bitterness of dark chocolate and espresso, and the marvelous textural contrast of ladyfingers. With its decidedly adult flavor profile, it’s the dessert for people who don’t always love dessert. Because of that, it can stand up to an amaro or, even better, a Pennsylvania dessert wine. Choose a late-harvest Vignole or Vidal Blanc, and allow the concentrated fruit flavors to pull cherry notes from the chocolate and the wine’s citrus undertones to play well with fresh cheese.