Italy need to really focus to defeat at least one of the two big threats in their pool – Ireland and France.  As I write, their inspirational Captain, Sergio Parisse is facing concern about if he will recover in time from his injury in match against Wales to open against France.  One of the top players in the world, he has sometimes struggled to carry the rest of his team.  There are some very good players in the Italian side, but Parisse is a talisman to gli Azzurri and so I hope he recovers in time for that first crucial match. But never dismiss the Italian side – they have proved more than once that they take delight in upsetting the expected result!

Captain: Sergio Parisse

Player to Watch: Giovanibattista Venditti who likes giving hassle to his opponents and does not give up. He is heading to play at Newcastle after the RWC.

Dates of Pool Matches:

Saturday 19th September vs France – Kick off 20.00 – Twickenham

Saturday 26th September vs Canada – Elland Road, Leeds

Sunday 4th October vs Ireland – Kick off 16.45 – Olympic Park

Sunday 11th October vs Romania – Kick off 14.30 – Sandy Park, Exeter

 

For more information about Italian Rugby – http://www.federugby.it

For full details follow: http://www.rugbyworldcup.com

 

What to Eat & Drink whilst watching the Azzurri 

Food: Italy is still blessed with a great regional difference in its food and so there is quite simply nothing that can be defined as “Italian”.  (The regions will be described in detail when the main Love Wine Food website launches later this autumn). So below is a suggestion of various match day friendly foods from various parts of Italy, that won’t distract too much from the play!

Antipasto platter – the simplest of all to create as its assemblage not cooking! Any good deli should stock a range of quality products that can be simply arranged artistically but worth looking on line for some great produce as well:  green queen olives, a selection of  cured meats – but make sure they are the real McCoy by checking they are DOP or IGP marked. Culatello is the queen of Parma

ham and worth searching out – especially made by the lovely Spiegaroli family,  http://www.anticacortepallavicinarelais.com. But you need also some salami – maybe fennel salami, plus some coppa (cut from the neck), speck from the Alto Adige region and maybe even some lardo, but that is perhaps an acquired taste. A mixed antipasti would not be complete without some griddled artichokes and also some pickled vegetables – giardniera – which are easy enough to make (see Jamie Oliver for a recipe) and maybe some baby onions pickled in balsamic vinegar.   For something from the sea, white anchovies (not the tinned ones) would be a good addition (Waitrose). Then add a variety of crostini – which is all about the bread, so do get Pane Pugliese from http://www.crostamollica.com (avail Waitrose) . Once toasted, add either fresh chopped tomato & basil – chicken liver pate – pesto of whichever variety takes your fancy , topped with chopped mozzarella – fig & ham – the combinations are endless……..

To source some authentic products you could try the ever brilliant http://www.valvonacrolla.co.uk but also have a look at http://www.parmashop.com or  http://www.mediterraneandirect.co.uk

You could join this with an Italian cheese platter – to include some gorgonzola for the blue, regal Parmigiano Reggiano (with some chestnut honey to drizzle over it) , La Tur (an exquisitely creamy cheese from Piemonte) Pecorino from sheep milk and of course some Burrata, which if you have not tried yet – then go buy some immediately – imagine Mozzarella with attitude – sheer heaven! http://www.finecheese.co.uk and http://www.delicatezza.co.uk

Before you pop out to buy this bounty – then put the dough for Paul Hollywood’s  (http://paulhollywood.com)  Green Olive breadsticks to prove – it’s a super easy recipe and guaranteed to impress  (I tend to use half the number of olives that are in his book).

Finally there is one easy match day food that will be a crowd pleaser – Pizza!  Leaving aside your own preferences for toppings there are three ways  1) Pick one up from the chilled section at the supermarket  – 2) – Make your own dough from scratch – HFW has a great basic dough  recipe – https://www.rivercottage.net or 3 ) cheat only a little by buying frozen pizza dough – http://www.northerndoughco.com – toppings as you like – but do make sure the base is as thin as you can get, invest in a piazza stone if you have not built your own pizza oven in the garden(!)  and   drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top just before serving. Do try making pizza Bianca without tomato base – works well with soft cheese like strachino.

Drink: The image of Italian beer is chilled, easy drinking lager to enjoy on a sunny terrace and whilst Peroni and Nastro Azzurro tick that box, there is a broader range of beers to look out for from Italy. Widely available is Morretti, from Udine in the North East of Italy, both the original and the Rosso versions. There is an increase in the highly experimental Birra Artigianale from Italy – so do look out for ReAle and the great named Spaghetti Western. beergonzo.co.uk and beerhawk.co.uk.

Wine: Italian wine is the most diverse in the world, with every region of Italy producing wine – and often from truly local grape varieties that are not seen anywhere else. Having lived in Italy for 5 years and spent 18 years visiting her vineyards from North to South, I could wax lyrical for hours about the many wines to tempt you – but for now that will have to wait for the launch of the full Love Wine Food  website later this autumn.  Below are a few suggestions for your match day party:

Pinot Grigio still abounds these days in the UK market – and a vast majority of it is pale, bland and boring. Not so this fabulous version from North East Italy.  Slightly copper in colour from the grapes skins, it has amazing mouth feel – this is a seriously good PG from Visintini to convince the most avid PG hater, £11.95  http://www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

Pinot Bianco is a very overlooked variety, but taste this one from leading estate of Terlano in Alto Adige and you will be instantly converted.  Wonderfully elegant with good  fruit and purity with great minerality from the stunning Dolomite mountains that surround their vineyards.  £15.50 http://www.bbr.com but look out for any wine from this outstanding producer.

If you like big powerful reds, then Puglia has them by the cartload – and none better than this one made by the talented Gregory Perucci from Accademia dei Racemi  whose Primitivo di Manduria has lots of deep black fruit and smooth oak management, Good value at £8.95 http://www.thewinesociety.com

Barbaresco lies in the top wine region of Piemonte, close to the better known Barolo. Made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, prices can be stratospheric for these wines. This is a great value version from Araldica showing smoky, plum like notes with some leather and truffle notes. £11.99 – http://www.waitrose.com

Staying in Piemonte, try the lovely Dolcetto Coste e Fossati from one of the nicest wine making families in the world at GD Vajra. Dolcetto is often overlooked but this is a beguiling red with cherries, mulberries, some violet notes as well.  £20.95 http://www.slurp.co.uk – if you fancy pushing the boat out a little more, they also stock his excellent Barolo and quite fascinating Riesling, that won Best White Wine in Italy a few years ago.

The volcano Mount Etna in Sicily is home to an exciting range of wines.  Made from 80 years old vines of Nerellos Mascelese & Cappuccio from the wonderful Benanti family, Rovittello is an elegant wine with inviting red fruits that finish with structure and spice. Contact their importers for stockists http://www.astrumwinecellars.com

 Cocktail: Given that Treviso is one of the leading Italian Rugby teams, and they are based in the Veneto region – it would be appropriate on match day to serve THE Venetian cocktail – very simple to make and Aperol is available at Waitrose – http://www.aperol.com

National Drink: Grappa!   I chose Grappa as it is made in every region of Italy – and appreciate that it is not to everyone’s taste – mainly based on a bad experience with some dire rocket fuel given as a freebie in some Italian restaurant at the end of a meal. But there are some really rather good Grappa out there – so do give it a go by searching out leading producer Poli, whose range of grappa really reflect the flavour of the distillation.  http://www.poligrappa.com

Wine Estate websites

http://www.gdvajra.it

http://www.racemi.it

http://vinicolabenanti.it

http://www.cantina-terlano.com

ttp://www.araldicavini.com

http://www.vinivisintini.com