I know sometimes it’s easy to dismiss social media as too impersonal, too detached, too sanitized even, to add up to any meaningful human connection. In my experience, especially where the world of wine and food is concerned, this has simply not been the truth. I was thinking about this the other day while editing some photos from my last trip to Rome, where I finally met a couple of ladies I had known exclusively through the interweb, in person. Gina Tringali and Sarah May Grunwald are both ex-patriot Americans living in ITaly. Both have created lives for themselves by founding businesses founded on their passion for Italy, and their love of sharing the secrets of this amazing country with the rest of the world.
Gina Tringali is the owner and operator of a tourism company called GT Food & Travel. She can organize a trip for you, walk you through an Italian wine tasting (she’s certified by the AIS), and, having learned to cook from her Italian grandmothers, I am sure she could walk you through how to whip up an amazing meal on demand.
Stealing some cuddles from Sarah May’s pup, the Fonz, at Litro.
Sarah May Grunwald is another of my favorite entrepreneurs- founder of a tourism company called Antiquatours, which she operates with her husband Ettore Bellardini: . Walking tours of the ancient city? Local Lazio wine tasting, or a “Slow Food” tour of Orvieto? She can do that, and more.
We met at a gorgeous little spot called Vineria Litro. It was obvious to me why they had picked this spot- the focus is clearly local, seasonal menu items and cutting-edge natural wines. I was swooning over the wine shelves, lined with some old favorites, and lots of new (to me) friends. We quickly settled on a bottle of Quarticello Despina, the perfect choice for our celebratory meeting.
The Despina is a truly lively sparkling wine from Emilia Romagna. 100% Malvasia Aromatica di Candia, refermented in the bottle. Nothing filtered, nothing added. Just grapes. It is absolutely delightful- black tea and saltwater on the nose and bursting with white flowers and that crunchy acidity int he mouth that for me usually signifies some pretty “hands-off” winemaking. There’s just something about Italian white wines which are left to ferment with their own ambient yeasts- they are at once richer in texture and also brighter with acidity in that really wild way. Like Kombucha or Kefir, but more refined.
The food at Litro is just gorgeous. Even in the dead of winter they managed to put a few bright, refreshing salads on the menu- not only a welcome reprieve for my Californian digestive system, but an injection of color and texture that went perfectly with this beautiful bottle of bubbly.
Orange, Fennel, Kalamata Olives
Apples, Walnuts, Celery Root
It’s inspiring for me to meet these Americans who have managed to carve out a piece of this beautiful country for themselves, especially since it’s all in the name of providing a high-quality, authentic experience for tourists, which in the end helps everyone understand Italy better.It’s clear to me they both have a passion for Italy- and even more important, they’re excited about sharing it with anyone who’s interested in listening. It’s not easy to own a company in Italy (as a straniero, or otherwise), but these women have done it. That kind of self-realization is hard not to admire. Bravissime!
And to think I wouldn’t know either of them if it weren’t for Facebook. So thanks, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re a peach.