Celebrate Carnevale like Venetians with fine food and wine

Carnevale, a colorful, over-the-top “carnival” traditionally held in Venice, Italy, that ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, is known for its showy costumes, elaborate masks and decadent Italian food to let loose before the 40 days of Lent.

Jersey City may not have a lot in common with the “Floating City” besides its own canal-like neighbor of the Hudson River, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t celebrate the age-old tradition.

Pasta Dal Cuore, a fresh pasta factory and modern Italian eatery in Jersey City, will be hosting a five-course Venetian dinner alongside Cool Vines, a Jersey City unfussy wine shop, to celebrate Carnevale with festive masks, live classical music, fine Veneto wines and, of course, authentic Venetian food.

The dinner, which costs $95 per person and includes wine, the dinner, tax and tip, will take place on Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. and will seat about 40 people. Plenty of spots are still available and interested guests can reserve their spot by emailing events@coolvines.com or by calling 201-448-8657.

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“Pasta Dal Cuore Chef Elena Cartagena is devoted to Italian food and we are devoted to great wine,” said Steve Roth, general manager. “To bring the two together is a great way to celebrate Carnevale and to give people something different.”

The dishes guests can expect to see on the menu are whipped codfish cooked in milk and placed over grilled Italian bread for the first course, handmade chicory and Swiss chard half-moon ravioli in cauliflower sauce with octopus confit for the second course, handmade calf liver ravioli with pine nuts, walnuts and raisins in an onion and mascarpone sauce for the third course, duck breast with pancetta-wrapped asparagus and grilled radicchio drizzled with balsamic vinegar for the fourth course and sweet Venetian potato gnocchi with prune in the middle in a cinnamon-mascapone sauce for the final course.

Cartagena said that in developing the menu, she chose items that were well-known in the Venetian region and then gave them a more modern, palatable spin.

Pasta made at Pasta Dal Cuore for their Autumn in Northern Italy dinner.  ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

Pasta made at Pasta Dal Cuore for their Autumn in Northern Italy dinner. ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

“I did a lot of research into Venetian cuisine, and it’s actually one of the regions that I’m less familiar with,” said Cartagena. “My chef and I couldn’t put this dish, which is classically just calf liver with sautéed onions, out of our minds. We thought it could use a little ‘update’ for American tastes, but we wanted to stay true to the spirit of the dish.”

In developing the wine pairings, Roth said that Cool Vines selected wines from the Veneto region because Italians believe that “if it grows with it, it goes with it.” Guests will be introduced to wines such as Casa Belfi Bianco IGT delle Venezia, Monte Carbonare Suavia and Amarone Torre d’Orti through their meal pairings made by Cartagena.

“The Veneto is a geographically-diverse area that encompasses the cool foothills of the Alps as well as warm river valleys and Adriatic coastal plains, which make for a rich variety of wines produced there,” said Pam Brewer, market leader at Cool Vines. “Some of the most well-known and celebrated whites are Prosecco and Soave, with voluptuous reds like Valpolicella and Amarone gaining increasing popularity and renown.”

Inside Pasta Dal Cuore.  ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

Inside Pasta Dal Cuore. ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

This is the second wine-pairing dinner that Cool Vines has hosted alongside Pasta Dal Cuore, following an “Autumn in Northern Italy” dinner that they jointly held in October, which Cartagena said very simply showed off northern Italian food with items such as handmade pastas that also offered guests a new perspective on dishes they wouldn’t normally eat. Throughout the years, Roth said that Cool Vines has held various wine-pairing dinners with other local restaurants, as well.

Since the dinner will be celebrating Carnevale, guests are invited to dress in a spirited way if they choose and Pasta Dal Cuore will also be giving out festive masks.

“This is a way for us to work on a new menu and work with items we don’t normally work with,” said Cartagena. “My favorite part of being a pasta maker and working closely with my chef is coming up with new ways of presenting classical dishes together. Even though it sounds corny, it’s similar to the way musicians ‘jam,’ and it really is the most fun part of this job.”

Pasta Dal Cuore in Jersey City.  ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

Pasta Dal Cuore in Jersey City. ~Courtesy of Pasta Dal Cuore

Venetian Carnevale in Jersey City

Where: Pasta Dal Cuore, 527 Jersey Ave., Jersey City

When: Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $95 per person, which includes five-course meal, wine pairings, tax and tip. Credit card information will be collected upon reservation and guests will be charged on the day of the dinner. 

Contact: To make your reservation, call 201-448-8657 or email events@coolvines.com

Attire: Upscale casual, but feel free to dress in a Carnevale-theme

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