The best Italian restaurants have Italian folk songs vibrating through their speakers as patrons sitting in noisy dining rooms rip off pieces of crusty bread to sop up the last bits of tomato sauce stuck to the sides of their spaghetti bowls. Your favorite Mexican dives loop the same six Miriachi songs that strum to the festive beat of each glass of horchata being slurped dry. So why not couple nights you cook authentic cuisine at home with music to match each dish?
For me, the epitome of pairing the art of cooking ethnic classics with the right type of music is making homemade tomato sauce, or ‘gravy’ as my Nonna would say, with any Frank Sinatra album. Before my Nonna passed away, she gifted me one of the greatest gifts of all – her entire collection of Sinatra records on vinyl. On the surface that may not sound like much, but for context I’m talking about over 50 Sinatra albums. He was the only musician my Nonna listened to and per the testimonies of my mom and her brother, the crooning of Baby Blue Eyes was the only music they knew existed as kids.
Now and at home, anytime we start the process of opening peeled plum tomatoes, imported from Italy by way of road trips to New Jersey, as freshly chopped garlic and red pepper flakes simmer in extra virgin olive oil over a warming stove, my wife or I always mosey over to the Sinatra section of our collection and decide on which album to play. It’s our tradition and it doesn’t matter what record we pick. When the needle drops and the first song begins to soar – it’s Frank and Nonna’s sauce needs Sinatra.
Recommended Album, Food and Beer Pairings
Artist & Album: Frank Sinatra, Come Dance With Me!
Recorded in December 1958 @ Capitol Studio A, Hollywood, CA
Produced by Dave Cavanaugh
Food Pairing: Penne with Nonna’s Sauce
Beer Pairing: Lamplighter Brewing Company, Strega Nona
After you get some Sinatra spinning and Nonna’s sauce boiling at a low rumble, go ahead and crack open your first Strega Nona of the night by Lamplighter Brewing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Strega Nona is an Italian pilsner dry hopped with the earthy Tettnanger. Light, gentle, and crisp, this beer has a soft, bready body, notes of fresh lemon and a lightly bitter finish. Named in honor of Tomie DePaola and his infamous children's books covering grandma witch and her magic pasta pot, has a perfect pair ever been more perfect? No it hasn’t – now that’s amore!
Expert Tip – Brewing with bread renders many unexpected benefits – check out this article from Craft Beer & Brewing to learn more.