Mediterranean-Style Feasting

A local entrepreneurial couple celebrates ancient bread and wine—sharing flavorful recipes that honor the region’s rich history and ongoing traditions.

Sarah Shaffer and Daniele Brenci share a mutual love of Mediterranean cuisine and wine, and they want to spread that joy. Daniele, a chef and baker who grew up in Rome, is the author of Advanced Bread Baking at Home: Recipes & Techniques to Perfect Your Sourdough and More. Dedicated to everyone who’s recently found a positive outlet in baking, the book includes recipes he grew up with.

Two photos side by side. On the left, a man in white sitting at a table with several loaves of bread, smiling. On the right a moment with long hair dressed in white with several glasses of different wine varietals.

Daniele Brenci and Sarah Shaffer

Bringing Together Bread and Wine

Sarah is the owner, operator and beverage director of Tina’s Bar & Bottle Shop, an inviting Bloomfield outpost that, since 2017, has offered a refuge to anyone seeking a place to feel welcome. The venue, inspired by her mom Tina’s life, features a 1960s theme and Southwest Pennsylvania design elements. “The non-pretentious and open-hearted environment and service are in honor of [my mom’s] spirit,” Sarah says.

Daniele and Sarah take a keen interest in ancient breads and wines. The Mediterranean can be considered the foundation of modern-day food-and-beverage culture, they explain—and it continues to influence how many of us enjoy food and wine today. The couple says, “We believe that it is by understanding history that we get to appreciate the dynamics that ultimately have shaped the way we eat, drink and interact with other cultures today.” Through their offerings, they want to impart the rich stories behind what we eat, and to pay respect to traditions that have kept this style of food and wine alive.

Pairings For All Flavors

Great intention went into creating these recipe pairings. “We wanted to highlight how the different regions around the Mediterranean have inspired one another for centuries,” Sarah says, “and we hope to encourage other lovers of Mediterranean cuisine to reflect further on its origins.” Most of the bread recipes mentioned below come from Daniele’s book, available online and through your favorite bookseller. All wines mentioned are available at Tina’s Bottle Shop. tinaspgh.com

Chicken Liver Paté | Figs | Fermented Honey

A tempting culinary composition: Millet Porridge Bread topped with luscious Chicken Liver Mousse and rehydrated figs, paired with a rich Amarone wine from Italy's countryside.

Bread: Millet Porridge, from Advanced Bread Baking at Home
Wine: Monte Dall’Ora Stropa Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto Italy

This pairing pays homage to offal, a fundamental part of ancient diets, plus honey and wax, which were important commodities for trade during—and long before—the Middle Ages. A visit to a biodynamic farm in the Italian countryside a few years ago, where the couple enjoyed a tasting of local cheeses, fresh figs, and this wonderful liver paté, inspired the recipe. It’s paired with a jammy Amarone, whose process features the appassimento method (partial dehydration of the grapes). The resulting additional element of sugar balances well with the figs and honey included in the dish.

Skordalia | Salted Cod | Fermented Beets

Whole-Grain Pita, accompanied by a bottle of Garalis Terra Ambera Muscat of Alexandria from Lemnos, Greece. A Mediterranean delight featuring fermented beets and a delectable skordalia, embodying the rich flavors of Greek cuisine.

Bread: Whole-Grain Pita
Wine: Garalis, Terra Ambera, Muscat of Alexandria, Lemnos Greece

Matching this seafood-focused dish of Greek origin with a Muscat of Alexandria from the island of Lemnos seemed a natural fit. This is the oldest vine genetically unmodified still in existence and was spread throughout the Mediterranean by early Roman trade. The muted acidity of this slight skin-contact white wine allows it to play nicely with the brine of the pickled beets. The fruit and white flower aromatics complement the natural, earthy, sea tones and scents of the cod. This pairing also works well with meat or roasted vegetables, if you’d prefer a vegetarian-forward snack.

Sarde in Saor

A tantalizing Sarde in Saor dish, featuring tinned sardines marinated in a sweet-and-sour blend of raisins, onions, and white wine vinegar

Bread: Barley Sourdough
Wine: Inama Vin Soave Classico, Garganega, Veneto Italy

This simple, classic Venetian dish quickly becomes a favorite. The abundance of seafood and the historic trades in the Gulf of Venice gave birth to some of the most delicious recipes we enjoy today. This one features tinned sardines, since many modern-day Mediterranean companies harvest amazing-quality fish that can be shipped worldwide. Garganega is the most notable white grape varietal of the Veneto region; Soave Classico refers to wine produced with Garganega, grown near the medieval village of Soave, Italy. The crisp mouthfeel and fresh acidity of this northern Italian white grape cut right through the fat and salt of the sardines.

Batarsh | Tomato Ragout

Mediterranean-Style Feasting is a culinary journey celebrating ancient bread and wine traditions.

Bread: Rye Crisps, from Advanced Bread Baking at Home
Wine: Château Musar Juene Red, Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon; or Château Musar, Laventine, Cinsault, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

This complex dish combines some of the most traditional flavors of the Middle East, with the spiced and smoked eggplant, and a flavorful Italian vegetable ragout. Sarah and Daniele deem Château Musar the epitome of historically important Middle Eastern wine production. During the war between Syria and Israel in the 1980s, this vineyard’s survival was protected by second-generation winemaker Serge Hochar, as the two powers set their frontlines amid his vineyard in the Bekaa Valley. Hochar’s creations achieve a complex longevity, attributed to a “no touch” policy during viticulture, and the wines are often bottled 20 to 30 years prior to the prime moment for drinking.

Panelle | Hand-Dipped Ricotta | Anchovies

Panelle, Hand-Dipped Ricotta, and Anchovies. Accompanied by the Indigenous Red Varietal, Caruso e Minini Terre Siciliane Perricone Naturalmente Bio from Tina’s Bottle Shop.

Wine: Caruso e Minini Terre Siciliane Perricone Naturalmente Bio. The red ripe fruit and spice notes of this ancient and indigenous red grape stand out against the delicate flavors of the ricotta and anchovies.

Sicily has been of great interest to intrepid Muslims since the mid-7th century, a fact which has deeply influenced the island’s food culture. Panelle, an Italian staple whose preparation was born out of scarcity, proves an exceptional example of how the simplest things sometimes gift the best results. This recipe includes a step-by-step guide to making ricotta, since cheese was a vital part of the Sicilian diet. This pairing is inspired by a lesser-known indigenous grape from Sicily, Perricone (Pignatello). The red grape has origins dating back to Greek colonization of the island during the 8th century BC. Perricone possesses complex aromas of red ripe fruit and spices, with flavors of blackberry and black fruits, which provide a beautiful contrast with the delicate flavors of ricotta and anchovies.

Lobio

Lobio is a fusion of history and flavor, showcasing the culinary richness of the Republic of Georgia.

Bread: Whole-Wheat from Advanced Bread Baking at Home
Wine: Qvevri Aged Georgian White Wine, Our Wine, Rkatsiteli Tsarapi, Kakheti, Republic of Georgia

Legumes are an ancient and fundamental source of affordable protein. In times of famine, this versatile ingredient was turned into meal and used in breadmaking to supplement the lack of grain. During the medieval period, it was predominantly broad (fava) beans that were consumed.

Story by Corinne Whiting / Photography by Chrissie Knudsen / Styling by Anna Franklin

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