Porsena in East Village, Manilla Clams and a Superb Verdicchio

Not many occasions that I get excited about Verdicchio simply because such a small selection is available to me, but at Chef Sara Jenkins’ Porsena in New York’s East Village I found Fattoria Il Coroncino’s Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2009 and loved it with a simple spaghetti with steamed Manilla clams, garlic, parsley and a tad of crushed red pepper. We did have a tip that Porsena would be a fine place for dinner but had no idea this little neighborhood restaurant at 21 E. 7th Street was not only excellent, but iconic as well.

Porseena in East Village, Cornocino Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009

Porsena in East Village, Coroncino Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009 (Fattoria Caroncino)

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009 (Fattoria Caroncino)

About the wine: Verdicchio is the name of a white wine grape grown in Italy in two DOC provinces, Jesi and Matelica, in Le Marché region. The word Verdicchio means “little green one,” and the ‘little green one’ that you are certain to find on most store shelves is that of Fazi Battaglia (which I have also enjoyed, but it’s been awhile). The wine is light yellow/gold in color and in the right light may have a slightly green tinge to it.

This Coroncino Verdicchio is crisp and the acids are balanced to perfection – all in fine harmony with the fruit. Slightly herbaceous with some beautiful citrus and slightly ripe apricot, or maybe peach, fresh pear and green apple. I would serve this wine with appetizers and with most fish or seafood, many salads, pork tenderloin, and chicken in most forms including fried and with a cold meat board which includes beef.

The Verdicchios from Castelli di Jesi, located on hillside vineyards closer to the sea, are generally softer than those from the higher altitudes of Matelica. I personally prefer those from Jesi, although the Matelicas are considered more complex. The area in the Ancona province consists of medieval villages built on clay and limestone rich soils.

About Fattoria Coroncino: The winery is owned by Lucio Canestrari and his wife Fiorela De Nardo since 1981. They produce 50,000 bottles of wine per year, 20,000 bottles of the wine I was served at Porsena. ‘Superiore guarantees that the vineyard produces less than 11 tons of grapes per hectare (per 2.47 acres).

Some snippets about Chef Sara Jenkins, Porsena and Porchetta, her first restaurant (January 25, 2011):

Sara Jenkins

Sara Jenkins

“Sara Jenkins has a real gift for cooking pasta. Her noodle dishes are full of big, direct flavors, and imaginative ingredient combinations. The menu at Porsena, her year-old East Village restaurant, features simple things like pasta pomodoro, and more unusual creations like pennette with roasted cauliflower, olives, capers, and breadcrumbs. We recently chatted with Jenkins about how Porsena came together, and what she’d love to work on next.

Sara Jenkins, Chef and Owner: I’ve always wanted my own restaurant, since the first time I became a chef. It’s maybe not for everybody, but you want to control it, you have so many ideas — it’s an expression of yourself. You know, when I was doing Pizzeria Veloce, Frederick Twomey kind of wanted to open a fish place, and I said we should do a pasta place. We kind of loved the idea of doing a fish and pasta place, but then I think that fish is just crazy. In terms of economically, it’s just up there in price, and if you’re not Marea, you’re not going to come out ahead. That’s not what I wanted to be, but I really loved the idea of doing a pasta place.

Porchetta got a lot of attention because of its size, the low price point, and the originality of the concept. Were you at all afraid to jump into something bigger? I’m not a three star chef. I’m not a fancy restaurant kind of person, I never really liked…I mean, it’s always nice once in a while, but it’s not my kind of thing. I grew up in Rome, and I really love these places that become like your dining room table in a weird way. That’s sort of what my whole motivation and goal was, you know?

How did you put the menu together? I’ve been doing this a long time, and you start to get to know what your strengths are, and stuff like that. And I thought that in a way, what I’m good at is comfortable, solid food — not the food that blows you away, and you can’t wait to go back and it makes you think in a whole new way. But like the food that makes you come back three times a week because you just want to eat without thinking too much about it. And honestly, the guys at Lavagna are old friends of mine, and over the years I’ve done a lot of consulting for them here and there, and Lavagna is so off-the-radar. You never hear about it, no one’s ever talking about it, I don’t know if it’s ever gotten a review in New York magazine, but they are busy. And every year, their business is always growing. I was talking with a friend about it, and he was saying, “The food is solid, simple, and kind of non-confrontational.” And it was like, “Yeah, you know, and that’s kind of brilliant.” Source: Eater.com”

We were looking for a place that locals frequented, a place to kick back and enjoy, a place to make some memories and we did that at Porsena. See my review of another New York restaurant and a beautiful Australian red here.

Porsena in East Village

Porsena in East Village

Pronunciation Tips (say it as you see it – no accent marks):

Le Marche: Lay Mar-kay
Jesi: Yay-zee
Matelica: Meh-tahl-eh-keh
Verdicchio: Vehr Deek Kyoh (Vehr rhymes with Fare) (kyoh has the sound of kyo in Kyoto)

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8 comments for “Porsena in East Village, Manilla Clams and a Superb Verdicchio

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  3. Ana
    March 1, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    The upgrade for the Matelica from DOC to DOCG was part of the early-summer rush to crtaee DOCGs before CMO reforms went into effect.The Jesi Classico is a “sub-designation” within the Jesi appellation (and so does not count as an independent DOCG). The recent Prosecco DOCG? well, I leave that hot button to the Zaia watchers… ;-)To our Protestant need for precision, the Italian would surely and rightly respond, “precision is so overrated…”

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