Gourmet Italia hosted our latest lunch meet-up and it was molto buono. Over 50 people were warmly greeted by restaurant owner, Alex Prestifilippo, overlooking the fact that he was brandishing a large carving knife. The entire lounge area of Gourmet Italia had been transformed into a sumptuous buffet just for Taste of Temecula and Alex was busily carving thin slices of prosciutto off of a 24-month aged Prosciutto de Parma. Chef Fabrizio, who followed Alex to the restaurant from Sicily, was moving like a machine preparing and delivering platters of traditional gourmet fare to the buffet.
The ToT crowd was gathering and by 12:15 they were sampling skewers of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, 2 kinds of home-grown olives, calamari, frittata, marinated mushrooms, crostini, and more. The all-you-care-to-eat buffet was priced at $10.00. For an extra $3.00 Gourmet Italia offered glasses of their own wine and tastings of their own olive oil.
This was a first-time visit for some of the attendees, who all wanted to learn more about Alex and his amazing restaurant. He is originally from Sicily where he worked in the restaurant business with several people on his current staff. Gourmet Italia began in Temecula 11 years ago. Alex and his wife Charity opened Spuntino Pizzeria on Rancho California at Meadows Parkway 4 years ago. He is very proud that Spuntino offers only a wood-fired pizza oven and also boasts an Italian deli counter and imported delicacies as well.
Alex and Charity reside on 7 acres in De Luz, which they found in 2002. They chose the location because it reminded them of where Alex grew up in Sicily. Although the land was bare with a vacant house they saw the potential and proceeded to turn the property into a lush, thriving vineyard-farm. They have planted over 300 olive trees, 3 varieties of grapes, and a 2-acre garden. For several months out of the year, fresh/home-grown/never-sprayed vegetables are found in every dish at Gourmet Italia and Spuntino. They also raise chickens that lay 20+ eggs a day. He describes them as “happy hens.”
I joined in the wine tasting from an unknown winery named Poggio Leano, only to discover that this is the Prestifilippo’s own. “Poggio” means hillside and “Leano” is the area in Sicily where Alex has a country house. They have planted 3 varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Nero D’Avola. In 2007 he bottled his first harvest of Cabernet and Sangiovese. We tasted 2008 release of both wines. The 2009 vintages are now in barrels.
Alex then came around with bites of bread and his first release of two olive oils harvested in 2010. The olive trees he planted are of 2 varieties – Arbequina from Spain and Frantoio-Leccino from Italy. He sells the unfiltered extra virgin oils for $14.99 per (250ml) bottle.
David Donner from Nothing Bundt Cakes was on hand to provide delicious dessert with his “bundtinis” – bite-size little cakes with cream cheese frosting. We left the meet-up satiated but eager to try menu items at Gourmet Italia and Spuntino as well. As for the bundtinis, it was all I could do to avoid crossing the street to Nothing Bundt Cakes and pick up all 10 flavors.
Un bye dolce buona (a sweet good-bye) from Taste of Temecula.