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Local Italian festival to offer food, wine and fun

Local Italian festival to offer food, wine and fun

Arkansas is home to a number of food and wine festivals. And later this month, a new festival will be added to the lineup. The first Arkansas Italian Food and Culture Festival, will be held in Riverfront Park, North Little Rock, April 20-21.

The festival will kick off with an Italian Film Spotlight and VIP Reception, 5:30-10 p.m. April 19 at The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The event will include Italian cuisine and specialty drinks over a double feature of Moonstruck and I Sopravvissuti. Seats are $25 each and must be reserved by April 18.

VIP Dinners, 5:30 p.m. April 20 and April 21 will feature perfectly matched pairings of Italian cuisine prepared by Ristorante Capeo and wines by Banfi. Each night’s menu will differ slightly. Tickets are $100 per person.

The festival will have an array of wine tasting opportunities for attendees — sparkling, sweet, refreshing and of course those robust Italian reds we always enjoy. During the daytime events you will be able to sample Chianti, Lambrusco and Prosecco and offerings from local winery from our own Little Italy community in eastern Perry County.

Other festival activities include an Italian car show, youth and adult soccer tournaments, bocce in the park, entertainment, celebrity and kids grape stomping competition, cooking lessons and workshops, kids zone and a best sauce cooking competition. And for the drink and food lovers, yes, there will be a plethora of everything Italian!

General admission to the festival is $5. All proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas.

For complete schedule of events and ticket information for the VIP events, visit aritalianfestival.com

Barbera wines earn their place at the table

Barbera wines earn their place at the table

The grape variety barbera (bar-BEAR-uh) plays second fiddle to the more famous Barolo Italian grape. But over the last 20 years we’ve seen this grape receiving attention and Babera wines earn their place at the table. Once regarded as an ordinary everyday drinking wine, barbera grows around the world, but it is the vineyards of Italy’s Piedmont region that for centuries have produced the most concentrated and complex examples of this grape.

Here’s some trivia about this grape that makes for an interesting dinner conversation (at least for wine geeks). Barbera is thought to be nearly 1,000 years older than cabernet sauvignon. Researchers have found the grape can be traced as far back as the 7th century.

As with many a great dinner conversation, there is also a tale of scandal. A 1986 Time magazine article reported on a wine scare across Europe precipitated by the illegal use of wine additives. Eight Italians were found dead and more than 30 hospitalized after drinking Odore barbera. The wines were found to contain 5.7 percent methyl alcohol; the legal limit was 0.3 percent. Methyl alcohol is generally used in industrial applications including antifreeze, solvent and fuel. The scandal resulted in regulations that require all exported Italian wine to be carry a government certificate of purity.

Barbera can be refreshing in its youth with cherry and raspberry flavors or aged into a serious full-bodied style with a plummy spice taste. When made with care it can even deliver the undeniable “truffle” aromas and flavors reminiscent of the great wines of Piedmont.

This grape is often overlooked in food and wine pairing. As with most Italian grapes, its high acid content and soft tannins make it an almost perfect match with most foods.


  • 2014 Paolo Marcarino Piemonte Barbera, Italy (about $14 retail)


  • 2011 Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti, Italy (about $21 retail)