A Taste of Tuscany in Sussex County

Anthony Riccio, owner of Cava Winery, knows Tuscan food. He'll feature it at his winery with a performance by operatic tenor Aaron Caruso.

If you dream of dining in the Tuscan hills of central Italy, consider a shorter trip to the hills of Sussex County for Evening in Tuscany at Cava Winery and Vineyard on Saturday, November 14th.

A highlight of the five-course dinner and wine tasting ($80 per person, including tastings of Cava wines) will be entertainment by professional tenor Aaron Caruso, featuring classic opera, Italian-American favorites and old-school show tunes.

“He usually plays for very large crowds, so we are fortunate to have him in our little tiny tasting room,” says vineyard owner Anthony Riccio. “We will have an intimate evening with him.”

Riccio, 53, an organizational psychologist, opened the vineyard in 2007 after retiring from the military. He named it Cava, or cave, in a nod to the area’s mining history. He fell in love with Tuscany when he traveled there with his future wife, Deneah–so much so that they decided to marry there in 2005 in the village of Castel di Fiori. There they bought a second home, where he learned to make wine from his neighbors.

“It all started as a little hobby to bring friends and family together,” he says.

Now that hobby has grown to include five acres of grapes, as well as a beautiful tasting room and adjoining patio in Hamburg, across the road (Route 94) from the Crystal Springs Resort. The vineyard sells five different lines of wine, ranging in price from $12 to $25 a bottle, including fruit-infused varieties and a special fall favorite made from cider apples. Mail-order delivery is available within New Jersey.

The special Italian dinner and wine suggestions were chosen by Riccio and will be prepared by resident wine maker/chef, Jeff Blake.

First Course

Ribollito vegetable and bread soup simmered with white beans and sweet and spicy Tuscan sausage.  (Available as vegetarian)


Arugula, fresh pears, candied walnuts, and Gorgonzola with a fresh herb vinaigrette.


Porcini pici with grilled white asparagus in basil cream sauce.


Parmesan and herb-crusted local pork loin on a tomato, mushroom, yellow squash and zucchini ragout. (Available as vegetarian)


Handmade biscotti with vanilla gelato and Cava chocolate port.


Riccio’s dishes were chosen to reflect the seasonal cuisine he enjoys in Italy. The pasta, a thick spaghetti originating in Siena, will be served with mushrooms that are a fall favorite in the cool damp mountains. “In our neighborhood, people have dogs, and they go mushroom-hunting when they are in season,” Riccio says of Siena.

“The food in Tuscany is not what you think it is. When we have it here, it has been Americanized,” he says. “There are multiple courses, but there they are always correctly sized.”

“This experience is different,” Riccio says. “It’s going to be a great evening. It’s a dinner show and we are delighted to have Aaron come to our little hamlet.”



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