I recently enjoyed one of the greatest meals of my young (ahem) life, while passing through the tiny little town of Loreto in the Marche region of central Italy. Lest the location fool you, chef Errico Recanati of Ristorante Andriena does have one Michelin star, so, well, he’s good. Just to be sure, however, I confirmed.

Photo by Ristorante Andreina

This dinner was part of a press tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rosso Conero, the Montepulciano-based wine made in the Marche region. Though not that prevalent in the US, these are lovely wines, especially the simpler, fresher DOCs. (The DOCG riservas can suffer from too much oak and manipulation, though some are excellent.)

Anyway, here’s what we ate, along with a wine pick for each course:

Vittello Tonnato
The modern riff within this Piedmontese comfort-food classic was more visual than gustatory, but it was nonetheless tasty.

Paired with: Strologo Zero Solfiti Rosso Conero DOC 2016. Not due to the (lack of) sulfites – I mean really, who cares? – but because it’s a fresh, bright version of Conero perfect for lighter fare.

Hare Risotto
Perhaps not that exciting to look at, but this rich and hearty bowl was wonderful to eat.

Paired with: Garofoli Piancarda Rosso Conero DOC 2014. Just pure, clean Montepulciano featuring fresh, friendly fruit, perfectly ripe, balanced acid tannin and a hint of oak.

Photo by Icy Liu

Ember-roasted beef tongue with Valdaso peaches
This dish was perhaps the most revelatory of the evening, as it featured a crisp exterior and a creamy, almost pudding-like center. Those offended by offal might’ve been skeeved, but anyone paying attention was surely captivated.

Paired with: Fattoria Le Terrazze Sassi Neri Riserva Conero DOCG. Big and bold without being oaky or manipulated, and while retaining great acidity.

Photo by Ristorante Andreina

Partridge and Giardiniera (marinated vegetables)
Though described simply, this plate was the most complex flavor-wise, with deep smoke penetrating the fowl and a creamy, otherworldly, chickpea-like sauce of which I never did discover the ingredients.

Paired with: Marchetti Villa Bonomi Riserva Conero DOCG 2014. Another restrained riserva that’s deep and rich but balanced enough for hearty fare.

Goat milk, Salted Peanuts and Vino Cotto
The salted, roasted peanuts came in gelato form. I ate mine AND my neighbors… before I realized there were several more dessert courses to come.

Paired with: Umani Ronchi Maximo Marche IGT 2014. A sweet wine with boytris made from Sauvignon Blanc, of all grapes. Nice balance of sweetness and acidity.

Photo by Icy Liu
Photo by Icy Liu

Even More Dessert – Chocolates, Pastries, oh my!
Paired with: water