An Italian Feast at Nokomis, Starring Eric Dregni

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

This article sponsored by Nokomis Restaurant.

Ask author Eric Dregni what he recalls about living in Italy, and it’s not necessarily the big events that stand out in his memory.

“It was the little experiences we’d have living day-to-day there,” says Dregni, dean of the Italian Concordia Language Village and author of Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy‚Äôs Culinary Capital (read the Heavy Table’s review here). “[My now-wife and I] were living next to the covered food market there, so we could go down and get fresh fish, or tortellini, or anything, right there.”

Dregni’s stay in the northern Italian city of Modena (known as the birthplace of balsamic vinegar) was a fruitful one from a professional perspective — his collected columns, published in Italian in one of the local papers, became Never Trust a Thin Cook. Gastronomically, too, it left a permanent mark on the author’s imagination.

“This grandmother, this nonna, took us under her wing and taught us how to make fresh pasta,” he recalls. “She taught us for 8 hours straight. She had this special board that she used and this rolling pin that was this long,” he says, putting his hands a few feet apart.

“And at the end she gave us one of those little metal pasta rollers, and she says: ‘I’m going to give this to you. It was given to me in 1973, and I’ve never used it — and I never want you to use it either.’ And I say: ‘Well, why are you giving it to us?’ And she says: ‘To keep you honest.’ So we had to lug this very heavy thing home with us,” he laughs.

Dregni is making a special appearance at a dinner at Nokomis Restaurant in Duluth later this month, where he’ll tell stories, answer questions, and sign books. The event is the restaurant’s Italian Festival, which takes place on April 23 at 6pm. It features a multi-course dinner of regional Italian specialties from north to south, each course teamed with a wine from the same region.

Italian Festival Menu | Restaurant Nokomis

Amuse Bouche: White anchovy, roasted potato, salsa verde. Wine: Gavi from Salvano

Tuscan Bean Soup with spelt and crispy flatbread. Wine: Roero Arneis (also from Salvano)

Golden Scallop Salad with arugula, olive oil cured tomato, and sweet onion. Wine: Roero Arneis

Pesto Gnocchi with goat cheese foam and crescenza cheese. Wine: Dolcetto from Tenuta Rocca

Dover Sole with fava beans, porcini mushrooms, and cippolini onions. Wine: Pecorino from Ciavalich

Warm Berry Soup with Gelato. Wine: Marsala

Fine Italian wines paired by Chris Wojtowicz of Wandering Epicurean.

Join Eric Dregni at Nokomis in Duluth on April 23. $49 per person for food and wine, $39 per person for food only. Wines also available for retail purchase at a 20 percent discount. Reservations required by Sunday, April 18 to allow proper ordering of ingredients; reserve using OpenTable or by calling 218.525.2286.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table