Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pesce al Palermitana

Shortly after I married my beautiful Angel, Clare, I had to travel for work to Las Vegas.  We had only been married for a few months and I was going to have to spend a couple weeks away from her.  Although the work opportunity was an important one, I also wanted to spend some time with my wife in Las Vegas.  Fortunately, she was able to fly out and join me for the second week of my trip.

I had a special dinner planned for one evening during the week Clare was in Las Vegas.  Before I arrived, I read an article in La Cucina Italiana about a restaurant in the Wynn, called Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, which was setting itself apart with respect to Italian coastal cuisine.  The chef and owner, Paul Bartolotta, had fresh seafood shipped from Italy to Las Vegas on an almost daily basis.  Both Clare and I love seafood, and, based upon what I had read, there was no question that this would be the restaurant where we could have a special dinner.

The view from our cabana at Bartolotta
I can still remember that dinner.  After arriving, we were escorted by the host through the restaurant and outside to a small cabana.  Our table was within the covered refuge, keeping us away from the hot desert sun while providing us with a view of an amazing pool.  The pool had large, metallic globes suspended in the water as schools of koi fish swam around.   After being seated and ordering some wine, the waiter came by our table with a cart.  The cart was loaded with fresh seafood, all on ice.  The waiter explained the options, whole fish, lobsters, shrimp, and much, much more.   We ordered a whole fish, which was cooked and served perfectly.  

Ever since that night, I have wanted to go back with Clare to Bartollota.  We have not been able to do that, partly because, when we got to Las Vegas, we end up trying other restaurants.  Recently, I was reading an article in Saveur, which included a recipe from Paul Bartollota for Pesce alla Palermitana.  I decided that I would make the recipe, so that both my beautiful and I could relive some of the memories of that wonderful night.

Recipe by Paul Bartolotta and printed in
Saveur, Vol. 146, Apr. 2012
Serves 4

3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces of fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup pitted small green olives
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons of oregano, roughly chopped, plus 5 sprigs
Juice of 1 lemon
2 one pound red snapper fish, gutted, cleaned and scaled
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

1. Prepare the sauce and cook the fish.  Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a 14 inch high sided skillet over medium-high heat; add tomatoes and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring until soft, about six minutes.  Add potatoes, wine, olives, capers, oregano sprigs, juice and 3/4 cup water; boil.  Season fish with salt and pepper, add to skillet; transfer to oven, and cook, basting fish with sauce every few minutes, until fish is cooked through, about twenty minutes.

2.  Finish the sauce.  Transfer fish to serving platter, and transfer skillet to stove over medium high heat.  Cook sauce until reduced and thickened, about ten minutes   Stir in remaining oil, chopped oregano, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.   Pour sauce over fish to serve.


The best pairing for this dish is white wine.  The use of fish as an ingredient and the use of white wine in the recipe are the two principal signs that white wine would work best.  The use of green olives, lemon and capers, require a smoother white wine, like a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc, but lighter grape varietals, like Viognier and Falaghina, would also work well.  A couple of wines that I have reviewed that should go well with this dish include:

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard -- Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay
Comus, Maryland, USA
Flavors of pears with some apples, only a hint of oak.

Feudi di San Gregorio -- Falanghina
100% Falaghina
Calabria, Italy
Flavors of apples, grapefruit, with a little lemon and pineapple


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