Under deconstruction: CasaToscana

Wine list: 101. Graphic: Sam Riepe

There aren’t many restaurant wine lists like Casa Toscana’s. For many reasons. But the first reason is that, in fact, there isn’t one. Yes, they serve wine, and they have a pretty good selection, but there is no printed list. There are wine bottles arranged along one wall of this homey-yet-sophisticated spot, and you can meander over to them and pick your own. Or simply ask Chef Sandra Stefani, who hand picks all her wines, to pick one for you. To make some suggestions, she’ll ask you what you’re eating and what you would like to spend. On my last visit, I mentioned I was willing to spend $40. The very good bottle I was sent was $38. According to the chef, “In many Trattorias in Italy, the wine list is visual, so rather than having to choose from a printed list, we display and individually price our wines on the walls for our guests to browse and ask questions, making the ordering experience personable and not so intimidating.” This also has the added bonus, says Chef Sandra, that “people are never put on the spot in front of their guests about their wine knowledge or how much they want to spend for wine.” Thank you!

A great starter white is the Di Meo di Tufo from Campania, made from 100% greco grapes produced in the Tufo area. It’s light yellow color and hints of almond and peach make it a great accompaniment to the corvina fillet baked in parchment or the crispy Tuscan chicken. It’s also a great value at just $35. The Tenuta Farneta Bentivoglio from Tuscany, which is 100% sangiovese, is hand-picked into baskets. Does that affect the final product with aromas of cherry and vanilla? Try it with the homemade creamy meat lasagna and see for yourself. At just $36, you can experiment all you like. For a splurge, go for the Poggio di Bortolone Pigi from Sicily. This 80/20 Syrah/Cabernet blend may be described as velvety, with a long finish that pairs well with the veal shank ossobuco with saffron risotto, a classic that the chef has perfected. I don’t know if you’ll find a better shank or a creamier risotto, especially at these bargain prices, anywhere in Miami. And with the $55 you’ll spend on the wine, which is a mere $10 or so above retail, it’ll seem like an even better bargain.

Of course, some of the names of Italian wines, or even the New World wines from Argentina that Casa Toscana carries, may be hard to pronounce. But as Chef Sandra Stefani cheerfully suggests, just ask.

Casa Toscana, 7001 Biscayne Blvd; Miami; 305-758-3353

Published: 8/08