To say that Vic Rallo is passionate about Italian cuisine would be an understatement. This is a man whose love of Italian food and wine runs so deep that, after finishing law school, he abandoned what could have been a lucrative legal career and opened an Italian restaurant instead.
Two decades later, Rallo's life still revolves around Italy. He travels there about eight times per year just to sample regional fare, and tastes about 1,000 Italian wines annually. On top of all of that, he owns two award-winning Italian restaurants in New Jersey (Basil T’s Brewery & Italian Grill in Red Bank, and Undici Taverna Rustica in Rumson), and has authored two books about Italy's wine culture (Napoleon Wasn't Exiled and 21 Wines).
His most recent Italian-themed gig: hosting "Eat! Drink! Italy!,” a new TV series on PBS affiliate WNET.
The show is basically a tasty tour of Italy, with Rallo serving as the knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. He jumps from one region to the next, introducing viewers to authentic recipes and locally-produced artisanal ingredients along the way.
In the series premiere, Vic takes us to one of Mussolini’s old bunkers — where gourmet cheese is aged and flavored — before whisking us off to Gattinara to demonstrate how organic honey is made. He then shows his audience how to use that honey to make a mouthwatering glaze for pan-roasted branzino. Even if you’re not much of a cook, you’ll still be glued to the screen as your stomach lusts after these fine Italian ingredients.
Not satisfied with just watching Vic do his thing on PBS, Recipe Corner reached out to the successful wine critic for an exclusive interview. And of course, he was more than happy to share his expertise on all things Italian.
On switching from law to food:
“I was in the restaurant business while going to law school — my mother and father made me do it! But the only thing I really love is the food and wine of Italy. Plus my wife and kids… and our cat and three dogs. Plus, what was I going to do as a lawyer? Handle pizza-related injuries?!”
On his book 21 Wines:
“I taste about 1,000 Italian wines per year, so these are the 21 wines that really inspired me in 2012. These wines inspired me because of the company, the food, the occasion or all of the above. Did you ever drink the exact same wines on two different occasions and get two different outcomes?”
On giving advice to wine tasting novices:
“I would tell anyone who is new to wine: Taste as many as you can, take notes, have fun. Fun is the most important element.”
On his favorite Italian dish to make at home:
“I love cooking on the grill at home, because it’s easy to clean up. I take prime aged steaks, rub them with olive oil, pepper, and lots — I mean lots — of sea salt, and let them sit for 3-4 hours. Then I slap the steaks on a hot grill, cook them until they’re rare, and then finish them off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. It’s just perfect.”
"There are many things you can do with fresh bruschetta. Typically people put it on toasted Italian bread, or serve it with mozzarella or on a piece of fish. But you can also toss it with pasta—and it doesn't have to be hot. It's the ideal, fresh, easy and exciting meal for summer! Just make sure all of your products are fresh—they must look and smell good! And I always advise to cook by taste."
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 5 ripe Roma tomatoes
- 2 ripe red onions
- 1 handful of fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup Fava beans
- 1 ear of corn, (cooked and kernels cut from the cob)
- 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil ("Don't be shy with the olive oil!")
- Black pepper, sea salt and Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)
- Cook pasta according to directions. Put pasta aside (can be room temperature)
- Chop the tomatoes, onions, basil and garlic. Toss into bowl.
- Toss in the corn and Fava beans. Top with olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. Mix together.
- Add pasta to the bowl. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve!