How to Master Italian Brunch
Italian brunch may be an American invention, but it’s an increasingly popular one. Just take a peek inside New York City’s packed trattorias on a Sunday afternoon for proof.
“We don’t really have brunch in Italy,” says Italy-born Chef Vito Gnazzo of Manhattan’s buzzy Il Gattopardo, which serves an Italian brunch menu on weekends. “A cappuccino and a pastry is how we might eat at midday on a weekend in Italy. But being in New York City, the brunch capital of the world—and because our restaurant has such a beautiful brunch space—we absolutely had to create a brunch menu that reflected our Italian personality.”
Since Italian-inspired wining and dining is always in style, Wine Enthusiast asked Gnazzo for tips on how to incorporate a drop of la dolce vita into your weekend brunch routine at home.
Offer plenty of food, and serve it family style.
For those throwing an Italian-style brunch party at home, create a menu that can feed a crowd. “Serve a mix of sweet and savory dishes family style, with plenty of tastes to choose from,” says Gnazzo. “And include the major Italian food groups: pasta, fish, meat, eggs and wine.”
Incorporate Italian ingredients into typical brunch dishes.
“Implement ingredients from Italy to give your brunch menu Italian character,” says Gnazzo. For example, use San Daniele prosciutto in an eggs Benedict recipe, or ricotta cheese to dress up pancakes.
“Our ricotta pancakes are one of our guests’ favorite dishes, and using the ricotta really makes them fluffy and full,” says Gnazzo.
One smart pairing for your frittata: Italian sausage or specialty cured meats (like capicola or soppressata) with broccoli rabe. “This is a typical Italian combination,” says Gnazzo.
Emphasize a bevy of beverages.
Il Gattopardo’s wine list includes some 250 selections, but Italian brunch at home can focus on just a few carefully curated pours.
“Full-bodied reds, rosés and white wines best complement an Italian-inspired brunch,” says Gnazzo. Bonus points if your Italian brunch includes a Bellini cocktail and Italian-style coffee.
“It wouldn’t really be a true brunch Italiano without delicious espressos and cappuccinos,” says Gnazzo.
For specific wine pours, Il Gattopardo Owner Gianfranco Sorrentino recommends...
Michele Alois 2014 Caiati Pallagrello Bianco (Terre del Volturno)
“Fermented in stainless steel, this wine retains a beautiful straw color, with aromas of fresh apple, pear, pineapple and melon,” says Sorrentino of this Campania white. “It’s one of my favorites, and is ideal with our ricotta pancakes. It’s also a perfect pairing with seafood and grilled fish.”
Gulfi 2010 Nerojbleo Nero d’Avola (Sicilia)
“Produced from the renowned Nero d’Avola, the Sicilian grape that has been cultivated for centuries on Mount Iblea in Ragusa, this is a smooth and plucky wine that pairs especially well with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe,” says Sorrentino.
Struzziero 2007 Campoceraso Riserva (Taurasi)
“This full-bodied wine is refined and distinctive,” says Sorrentino. “I suggest it with our Uova all’Amatriciana dish [see recipe below], as well as with meats and cheeses.”
Create Mediterranean ambience.
“To replicate the Italian brunch feeling at home, think light and airy,” says Gnazzo. “Opt for white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers and beautiful silverware.”
The right music, like “Brazilian trip hop or acoustic music from Europe or South America,” suggests Gnazzo, will help set the mood. “Don’t play anything too loud or heavy—just soulful, sexy and relaxing music.”
But don’t forget the most important aspect of hosting brunch: friendly Italian hospitality. “It’s equally as important as the cuisine itself,” says Gnazzo “The vibe is relaxed, and every guest should be made to feel like family.”
Courtesy Chef Vito Gnazzo, Il Gattopardo, New York City
Use small skillets to cook and serve this spicy poached eggs dish, smothered in a cherry tomato sauce accented with pancetta and red onions.
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4 ounces pancetta, cubed
1 ounce dry white wine
1 16-ounce can cherry tomatoes
Pinch of salt
½ tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
8 medium eggs
1 loaf country bread, sliced
Preheat oven to 360°F.
Place 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions to pan and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add pancetta to the pan, and cook for 3–4 minutes until brown and crispy. Add wine, stirring occasionally until evaporated. Add tomatoes, salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Add garlic and rosemary, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Divide the sauce into 4 small skillets over medium heat. In each skillet, add two eggs on top of the sauce, and cook for one minute. Place skillets in the oven and cook for another 2 minutes at 360°F. Toast slices of bread. Remove skillets from oven, and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top. Top skillets with slices of toasted country bread and serve immediately. Serves 4.