In this undiscovered nook of Italy where the number of sheep outnumber the people who speak English, it’s the people that make everything seemingly shine a little brighter, the food taste just that much better, and the wines I sip that much more delicious.
At the wineries, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, and even the little bars where I get my coffee, there are artisans of all types behind what you see. They are what make each day here so special. Here, you’re greeted with warm embraces, gentle scoldings for having been away for so long, and an infectious energy that comes with slowing down to do things the right way. The way they’ve been done for generations.
It’s something you can’t really replicate or fake your way through. It has to be authentic. And that, in a nutshell, is what I love about Irpinia.
Here are some of my favorite spots where the food and wine are exceptional and the families always welcome me into their homes.
The Romano Family, Il Cancelliere: Il Cancelliere is located in the heart of Montemarano, in an area particularly well suited for the production of Taurasi wines. The family winery was founded by Soccorso Romano, whose nickname is Il Cancelliere, hence the name of the winery, and is now run by his children and their families. Their Aglianico vines surround the family cottage, which now serves as their cellar and their natural winemaking process is based on traditional Irpinia wine making techniques that Soccorso learned from his father and grandfather. Il Cancelliere produces an Irpinia Aglianico, a Campania Aglianico, Taurasi, and Taurasi Riserva, each from its own cru of Aglianico grapes. And if you know who to ask when you visit, try their Passito that is out of this world.
Angela & Raffaele, Azienda Agricola Boccella: Between the communities of Castelfranci, Montemarano and Paternopoli, you’ll find a triangle of land many consider perfect for growing the Aglianico grape. The Boccella Aglianico and Fiano vines are some of the highest in Irpinia mountains between 700-800 meters and the Boccella family work together to tend to and harvest the grapes that come from their vines that average about 50 years in age. This personal approach can be tasted in the final product and you’ll note the flavors of their gardens, olive trees, and forests that surround their lands. With warm summer days, and cool nights, the growing season for these grapes lasts well into the early days of November. The result is grapes that have an exceptional balance of sugar and acidity, which allows them to be made into wines naturally, and by hand, without filtration or clarification before going into the bottles you will drink today.
Antica Trattoria Di Pietro, Melito Irpino: Opened in 1934, this family run restaurant is an Irpinia institution specializing in bringing traditional regional recipes to life using hand-selected local ingredients and techniques passed down through generations. Led by father and mother, Enzo & Teresa, with daughter and son, Anita and Pasquale, this family represents some of the best Italian food you will find anywhere.
La Pignata, Ariano Irpino: Ezio Venetre and his family have two absolutely delicious, award winning restaurants in Ariano Irpino. Ezio and his mom run the family's flagship restaurant, La Pignata, in the historic center of the town. The dishes represent the best of Irpinia with an elevated twist and the wine selection cannot be beat.
Luigi Sarno, Cantina del Barone: Luigi Sarno produces incredible Fiano wines on the land his father purchased from an actual Baron in Naples in the 1970s, hence the winery’s name. Located in a unique microclimate with rich volcanic soils, Luigi’s natural wines are handcrafted bringing out unique flavors and structures in his white wines. Luigi has been recognized as a top new winemaker in Campania and his utmost respect to the land and the grapes can be tasted in the award winning wines he’s producing. With peacocks roaming the property, fruit, nut, and olive trees surrounding the vineyards and a beautiful B&B on property, Luigi’s winery represents the best of Irpinia. Luigi also works with Angelo at Cantina dell’Angelo.
Vineria La Posta, Grottaminarda: One of the coolest little spots in the area, this is the first natural wine bar in Irpinia thanks to Chef and Founder Roberto Buglione. The Vineria is on the top floor of a building that dates back to the 1600s and had been home to one of the first post offices in the area, hence “la posta.” It’s a mix of the centuries old structure and modern design where you can eat terrific food, drink wines from the kind of winemakers I want to meet, all set to a playlist ranging from 70s punk to low-key modern jazz. Come for a drink, stay for the night.
Send me a note to find out how you can come and experience all Irpinia has to offer for yourself. We'll be waiting with open arms and paws.