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Melanzane a Scarpone + Cantine Astroni Gragnano Penisola Sorrentina 2018 #ItalianFWT

Susannah of Avvinare asked the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers to focus on the wines of Campania for the month of May.  You can read her invitation: here. This is what the group will be sharing this month. All of the posts will be live between Friday, May 1st and Saturday, May 2nd.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join in on the live Twitter chat on Saturday, May 2nd at 8am Pacific. Follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT; and if you chime in, be sure to include the hashtag so that we can see it. Cin cin.

Me and Rikke, Amalfi Coast, July 2001
I have previously shared about my memories of Campania, but I'll recap the highlights for you here. I've been to Campania twice - once when I lived in Rome after college and once when I led a family trip to Italy for a three-week vacation. With the au pairs, we took a train from Rome to Naples and spent the day in Pompeii. 

Positano, July 2001

With my family, we stopped for a couple of nights along the Amalfi Coast and visited Pompeii, too. Both of those visits were pre-digital; I was shooting slide film back then. And I had great intentions of scanning some slides to post with this, but time got away from me. One of these days I'll be able to share all of my photos. Till then, I'm taking photos of prints or slides themselves. Silly, I know.

One of these days, I'll get this binder full of slides digitized. And I really wish I hadn't written the photo captions in Italian when I labeled them. My Italian is getting very, very rusty. Oye.

My memories of Campania are similarly rusty. But I remember wandering through the ruins at Pompeii with two other au pairs who had also studied Latin. We laughed that in California (me), Denmark (Rikke), and the United Kingdom (Catherine), teachers were using the exact same Latin book. Caecillius est pater. Matella est mater. Quintus est filius. Grumio est coquus. Cerberus est canis. But, with almost 15 years of Latin between the three of us, we wandered the ruins and were able to translate most of the text we encountered. That was so much fun.

I remember being chased through the streets all the way to the train station. I guess the three of us were quite a sight. The young men chased us with cat-calls and lots of inappropriate gestures. When Rikke, Catherine, and I finally collapsed on the benches at the station, we were in tears and passed the bottle of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio between us to soothe our rattled nerves. In the thirteen months I lived in Italy, I never felt harassed like that. That was not so much fun.

When I returned to Campania with my husband, two friends, aunt, uncle, and three cousins, we stayed at a pensione on the Amalfi coast for a few nights while we explored the area. The dramatic coastline, the craggy rocks along the coast, and hairpin turns on the roads, and the flocks of tourists reminded me of where we live in California. Like here, we tried to avoid those touristy spots as much as possible and enjoy the sheer beauty of area. But sometimes, those touristy spots were just right for catching our breath and having gelati.

In the Glass

During this time of being sheltered in place to flatten the curve of coronavirus pandemic, I have been getting of my wines online. Thankfully I was able to locate a bottle of Cantine Astroni Gragnano Penisola Sorrentina 2018.

Astroni was born in Campi Flegrei, or the Phlegrean Fields, which is an expansive caldera located under the western outskirts of Naples and under the Gulf of Pozzuoli. Though dormant, there are still signs of an active magma chamber below as evidenced by hot springs, gas emissions, and more. The winery itself is located on the outer slopes of the Astroni crater and focuses mainly on ungrafted pre-phylloxera native varietals, including Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei and Piedirosso.

The wine I found was completely new-to-me. Gragnano is blend of red wine grapes that was mentioned as far back as Pliny. In this case, according to Astroni's website, the grapes are: Piedirosso, Aglianico, Sciascinoso "e altre varietà minori" (and other minor varieties).

I would call this wine frizzante which indicates a gently sparkling wine versus spumante which would mean a more effervescent, fully sparkling wine. It poured a bright ruby red and had a distinct aromas of violets. Though it was slightly sweet, it ended with an almost smoky finish. What a fun sipper!

On the Plate

To go along with the Campania theme, I decided to make a traditional dish from Naples: Melanzane a Scarpone, rough translation of 'boot eggplant' named because its shape resembles a shoe. This Neapolitan dish is basically eggplant stuffed with olives, capers, and cheese.

Ingredients serves 4

  • olive oil
  • 2 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • freshly ground salt 
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
  • ¼ C olives, rinsed, drained, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 T capers
  • ¼ C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1 C shredded cheese (I used a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place halved eggplants on a baking sheet, skin side down. Drizzle each with about a tablespoon of oil each, spreading it over the cut surface. Season with salt and pepper and place in the preheated oven. Roast until soft and creamy, approximately 20 to 25 minutes depending on the firmness of the eggplants to begin.

Remove from oven and let eggplants to cool slightly. Scoop the flesh into a large bowl using a knife or melon baller, leaving about ¼ inch of flesh on the skin.

Heat a splash of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onions. Season with salt and cook, stirring, until onions are softened and translucent, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in olives and capers, then pour in the tomato sauce.

Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the eggplant flesh and cook for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld nicely.

Using a spoon, divide the mixture evenly between the eggplant shells. Scatter the cheese over the tops and place the sheet back in the oven. Roast until the eggplant shells begin to lose their shape, approximately another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served these eggplant boots along with steamed artichokes and a green salad. It was great Spring dinner.

And that's a wrap for this month's #ItalianFWT event. We'll be back next month as Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm leads our exploration of Sangiovese Around Italy. Stay tuned...


  1. Enjoyed your stories of two very different visits to Campania. This gently red sparkling wine sounds like a fun find - and with that eggplant, oh, my!

  2. Always enjoy reading travel stories. Ahhh those memories, even ones that are taxing. When I saw the fizz in your glass Lambrusci came to mind. Had to dig a bit to remember Penisola Sorrentina, a great choice!

  3. What a great trip!! And the wine looks amazing with the eggplant, one of my favorite dishes!

  4. I love when you share your memories with us. Always happy for a new eggplant dish. Thanks.

  5. I really hope you'll post the images once you've digitized the slides. So many stories! And you've encouraged me to track down this wine online - sounds perfect for Miami.

  6. Camilla - It was great ready about your time in Italy although the catcalls weren't so fun I imagine and thinking about your memories of those days. I also love your recipe and am going to try it too. Gragnano is one of my favorite frizzante wines. Not enough people know about it. Glad you can spread the word. Susannah

  7. Your wine sounds so similar to Lambrusco, would you agree?

    1. Yes, I would say it was similar though less sweet than some of the Lambrusco wines I've had.

  8. Don't you just love looking back on some of these memories when we visit these regions?! I love eggplant!

  9. Pompeii e Costa Amalfitana are great places :-)


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