The summer season is underway at Vino e Vivo, with expanded seating on the patio by the river, summer wines and an ever-evolving menu featuring seasonal ingredients.
The patio, which now has 26 seats and two gazebos for shade, and restaurant are both open Tuesday through Saturday and the outdoor spot is perfect for those seeking an alternative to indoor dining as well as a one-of-a-kind view in downtown Exeter.
“When you’re looking at the tidal portion of the river, you can see the historic mill building, the string bridge and you get treated to a wild bird show with the blue herons, osprey and resident eagles,” Vino e Vivo Owner and Wine Director Tony Callendrello says. “It’s a great option to enjoy refined dining with a great view and the safety of outdoor dining.”
With the change in seasons, Tony has thoughtfully selected some lighter wines for summer. While many people default to rose as their summer wine, Tony has added some reds and whites. “We go to lighter reds, especially reds that can take a little chill, so it’s little more refreshing in the summer,” Tony says.
The first new red available this summer is the Madrarossa Frappato Costadune from Sicily. The Frappato is an indigenous red grape grown in Sicily. This wine is lower in tannins, which makes it quite refreshing when served chilled. It pairs well with pork, lighter seafood.
“First of all, it’s got a really beautiful, ripe, bright fruit flavors, red fruit flavors, raspberry, a little bit of spice flavor as well, but it’s got enough acidity to stand up to something like a cheese or something that has some fat,” Tony explains.
Another new red on the summer menu is the Rogue de Valle La Kiuva, a wine from Northern Italy, at the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy. This is a very cool growing region but gets a lot of sun, which allows the grapes can ripen.
“This wine is very light in color, but it’s got all of the characteristics of the Nebbiolo grape, the rose flower on the nose, it’s got bright cherry on the palate,” Tony explains. “The subdued tannins in this red make it pair well with steak or salmon, and with a bit of chill, it’s absolutely delicious.”
New whites on the summer menu include the Villa Matilde Rocca dei Leoni Falanghina delle Campania.
“This grape is only grown in Campania, a region in southwestern Italy known for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline,” Tony says.
The Falanghina grape vines thrive in the porous volcanic soils around Mount Vesuvius and the warm Mediterranean climate.
“They eat a lot of seafood in the region where this is grown, and this wine has the acidity to go with seafood but with some really nice fruit flavors. It has citrus, tropical fruits, a little bit of peach flavor, and that makes it interesting,” he says, adding, “It pairs well with fish that has a bit of citrus and is a perfect wine to go with the scallop dish currently on our menu.”
A second summer white available by the glass is the Old Vine Alvarinho from Foral de Melgaço, which comes from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal. This wine just got a fantastic review from The Wine Advocate. While most people think of Vinho Verde as a type of wine, it is actually a region in Portugal that produces a variety of wines, including the ones people are most familiar with as the lower alcohol, slightly effervescent, whites. There are two villages that make some more interesting wines and this Alvarinho is from one of those villages.
“It’s very versatile and interesting, medium bodied, and even though it goes well with so many foods, it goes best with pork, chicken or seafood,” Tony says.
All of these wines are available for purchase through Vino e Vino’s retail shop and can be paired with your summer grilling at home. A grilled portobello mushroom would go with all of the summer wines, while the Nebbiolo grape influence in the Rogue de Valle La Kiuva offers a lighter alternative to a big cabernet with your grilled steak.
Back in the kitchen, Chef Paul Callahan and Sous Chef Jon Parsons have been tapping into their creative sides to incorporate seasonal vegetables and fruits into the menu. The newly introduced chef’s table, which includes five courses, is a perfect spot to witness that creativity on display, as Chef Paul creates a new menu every evening. Recent summer entrees have incorporated melon, peaches, scallops, as well as fennel and green crab.
“A lot of people might not be familiar with green crab. It’s an invasive species that is increasingly available in our area,” Chef Paul. “We’re currently using it to make stock that will be used in chowder or risotto.”
The kitchen crew is embracing the seasonality of local seafood with lobster from Captain Jeff on the What’s Next out of Hampton Harbor. On the menu this weekend is squid ink spaghetti with lobster, in a brown butter broth, finished with fennel tops and Calabrian chilies.
Summer encourages chefs to cook the food they have, not the food they want, but that can lead to some fantastic, and delicious, surprises, like a recent tart made with local strawberries. “They were so small that they were the perfect size for the tart. We macerated them in sugar for two days, added white pepper, anise hyssop, a plant with a floral and mint flavor,” Chef Paul said. “All of that with the peppery notes with the berries and the chocolate was such a refreshing and light combination.”