Cornell in Rome is a pretty well-rounded program; you learn the ins and outs of your major, but equally as important are cultural skills. Namely, pasta making and wine tasting. When I heard that there’d be a wine night, my sensory receptors were tingling. ‘Don’t you remember,’ my nose throat and tongue chimed in unison, ‘that class you took at Cornell?’ I quickly scanned my memories and the Intro to Wines and Vines materialized. I still sturdily hold to the opinion, sturdier than the pantheon itself, that VIEN 1104 was the most valuable class that I took at Cornell. Not only did I get to sample some great wines, but I also learned a LOT about the science of winemaking, e.g. biology, psychology, chemistry, you name it! I could probably even grow my own vineyard…in theory. Anyhow, the wine tasting here was about a different kind of science, the science of serving!
The restaurant, which generously hosted a bunch of college students, was called Renato e Luisa (that’s for you, hungry parents and friends!) And our teacher for the evening was the owner of the restaurant, who also happens to be a sommelier! He taught us how to properly open each bottle type you might encounter in your road to connoisseurdom, as well as what foods to pair with each type of wine. Needless to say, I shamelessly and furiously scribbled 11 pages of notes into my Smythson Panama. I’ve got the rest of you covered.
And of course, we got to sample said foods with said wines. At the end of the meal we were treated to chocolate cake, and the guest appearance of a rare Moscato, courtesy of my new sommelier friend.
Speaking of food! The lovely administrative director of the Cornell in Rome program, Anna Rita, also taught us how to make our own pasta, on three separate occasions. Gnocchi, Fettucine, Lasagna, and Ravioli, tutte fatte in casa! It’s one of the few nights where we get to learn something very impressive and rare, enjoy the fruits (or paste of our labor) of our labor, and connect with everyone in the program. It all begins with a flour mountain, into which a fist is punched and several eggs get beaten in. It’s all incorporated and kneaded until supple, and then the real fun begins. I earned my stripes rolling out pasta dough by hand, watching the ribbon of flour and egg get more and more delicate with each crank of the handle. Pasta dough is very, very forgiving, and easy to turn into workable sheets. Then, ever so rustically, the strip of dough gets laid out and either is rolled and cut, impressed with filling, or layered into a dish. Not only did we learn how to make pasta FROM SCRATCH, but we also bolstered our dating profiles and/or resumes. (Who doesn’t love a man who can make pasta, ladies/potential employers?) And since we’re Cornell students, we all take it very seriously. The execution is a competitive process to see who can craft the most beautiful pasta shapes (i.e. ravioli in the form of the 50 states, pappardelle with exquisite borders) And the food is delicious, as well as being practically endless in volume and variety. In our goody bags we received extra helpings of spinach filled ravioli with brown butter sage sauce as well as a recipe book so graciously compiled. Anna Rita, you’re officially my hero.