It’s Sunday at Diliberto Winery in Jamesport and owner Sal Diliberto is demonstrating how to make pasta the Old World way for an audience of about 35 people.
Those in attendance probably don’t know it yet, but Mr. Diliberto, who in addition to his Italian cooking skills is a practicing attorney, a vintner and the immediate past-president of the Long Island Wine Council, is about to demonstrate yet another hidden talent for his guests who have braved the nearly zero degree temperatures on one of the coldest Valentine’s Day in recent memory.
The 70-year-old Mr. Diliberto invites employee Skylar Wowak, a junior at Riverhead High School, to accompany him in front of the crowd. Mr. Diliberto takes a deep breath and in a baritone voice let’s out the intro to Dean Martin’s famous Italian anthem, “That’s Amore.”
“In Napoli where love is king, when boy meets girl here’s what they say,” he begins before belting out the words “When the moon …”
By the time he gets to “pizza pie,” nearly every one in the room has joined in.
Such is the scene at Sundays with Grandma, a weekly dinner and wine pairing series celebrating the food and culture of the boot-shaped nation of Mr. Diliberto’s ancestors.
The three-course meal features an appetizer of homemade mozzarella and tomato followed by Mr. Diliberto’s homemade pasta and sauce. The meal, served in the winery’s Tuscan-style dining room, is capped with an outstanding serving of pizza dolce, made in house of course, and a cannoli.
All courses are accompanied by Diliberto wines, including prosecco upon arrival and Sal’s Mellow Limoncello — made with the winery’s chardonnay — with dessert. Guests dine family style, which allows for spontaneous conversation among strangers and creates a convivial atmosphere.
The event, which started about five years ago, began out of a desire for the Dilibertos to recreate the feeling of making Sunday dinners when their children were younger, Mr. Diliberto told the crowd.
“I said [to my wife] Maryann, ‘I miss Sundays making fresh pasta with the kids,’” Mr. Diliberto told the audience. “So we started bringing in strangers.”
That isn’t to say the event is not a family affair.
His daughter, Dena Tishim, a chorus teacher at Riverhead High School, accompanies his vocals on the piano. Maryann Diliberto is also a fixture at the event.
Although all four of Mr. Diliberto’s grandparents had died by the time he was four years old, his family spent many a Sunday with his mother’s aunt and uncle. He bases the concept on the nostalgia many first- and second-generation Italians feel for those weekly dinners starring nonna’s gravy.
“My wife Maryann spent almost every Sunday at her grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx where her 12 aunts and uncles would come with all of her cousins for dinner,” he said. “Her memories and mine are what we share with our guests.”
While the food and wine is certainly the draw for many of the patrons, who on this particular day hail from everywhere between the North Fork and Westchester County, it’s also the music and to listen to Mr. Diliberto hold court, so to speak.
“The fact that he started singing, it put me over the edge. It made me a young girl again,” said Regina Kratt of Garden City. “And the food helps.”
Her friend Genney Yeomans of Jamesport, however, thinks it might be the wine that makes the afternoon so special.
“It got me nice and mellow,” she said. “And it was Valentine’s Day so that made it special.”
As he demonstrates how to make homemade pasta, a skill Mr. Diliberto makes look easy, he advises to wait until the dough reaches the same leathery texture “as a Coach bag” before boiling.
The Rosedale, Queens native, who spent three years training with an opera professional to learn how to serenade a room, thanks the packed house for showing up on this particularly frigid Sunday.
“I’m thinking ‘it’s two degrees out.’These people they believe in enjoying themselves every day, no matter the weather,” he said. “But then I said, these are the people who prepaid.”
Sundays with Grandma runs through April 3 at Diliberto Winery. Tickets are $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. To reserve your spot, visit Dilibertowinery.com.