Cafe di Scala - A fine Des Moines area restaurant, Calabrese-Style, in the heart of Historic Sherman Hill. 644 18th Street, Des Moines, IA • Reservations by phone only: 515-244-1353


Updated By The Glass Wine List

October 15th, 2012

Hey Friends–

We haven’t told you about our by the glass wine list here in a while. We thought we’d let you know about some of the selections we’ve added to our wine list. We’re very proud to say that we still have the only 100% Italian wine list in Iowa.

Here are a couple of the wines that we’ve added to our list:

Vermentino Maremma IGT – Aia Vecchia – 2011 — 100 % Vermentino from Tuscany- a clean & medium bodied whitehints of freshly cut grass and grapefruit.

Barbera D’ Alba DOC – Podere Ruggeri Corsini – 2010 – 100% Barbera aged in oak barriques with mediumrich, ripe fruit with hints of plum underlined by spice

Langhe Rosso DOC – Stefano Farina – 2007 — 40% barbera, 40% nebbiolo & 20% merlot grapes from Piedmontfirm, yet elegant body with dark fruit that’s aged in oak casks

Ciro Rosso Reserva DOC – “Duca San Felice” – Librandi – 2009 100% Gaglioppo (think merlot) grown by Calabria’s most celebrated winery — aromas of figs, tobacco and fresh cherries followed by an earthy finish… This has been on our list for a while, but we like it so much we thought we’d remind you that we have it.

Rosso IGT Venezia Giulia – Le Vigne di Zamo – 2010 — cabernet, merlot & refosco make up this sexy red from Friuli ( northeastern italy) — gorgeous notes of vibrant berries-sturdy finish as this gem is aged six months in oak… We added this in March, but it’s worth showcasing again. This is agreeable with most people and we’re lucky to be able to pour it by the glass.

Below is the rest of our list. Please take a look at our reserve list as well and as always, don’t be afraid to ask your server questions if you need help or if you need to be pointed in a general direction. We’re happy to help!

Cafe di Scala Newsletter: Learn How to Make Pasta With Tony

February 23rd, 2012

Dear Scala Friends, Family and Sherman Hill Neighbors,

Spring is so close. You can feel it, right?

As I type this, I’m looking at a mama cardinal scavenge the ground for food here in Sherman Hill. As they build their nests and prepare to breed, a fresh late winter rain treats them with a shower of new life. We’re only a few weeks away from trees blooming, and next week, we’ll start some heirloom peppers and tomatoes from seed for the Cafe di Scala garden. Renewal feels awesome, doesn’t it?

Here are a few things coming up for you to keep on your calendar…

PASTA MAKING CLASS: Join me at Williams-Sonoma at Jordan Creek Town Center on Sunday, February 26 at 4:00 to begin their Guest Chef Technique Class Series with “Fast, Fresh, and Easy Pasta.” I will be teaching how to make basic pasta in addition to ravioli and combining with some great Williams-Sonoma recipes, which include Pasta with Eggplant. The class is free of charge but reservations are required. Call Williams-Sonoma at 515-225-6613 to save your place today. You also will receive 10% on your purchase that day if you attend the class (some restrictions apply). Hope to see you there!

BEATLES BRUNCH: Once again, we’re having our monthly Beatles Brunch on Sunday, March 4th from 10am-2pm. You can always find our Beatles Brunch menu up on our website. Call us at 515-244-1353 so we can save you a spot. Also, keep in mind that we are moving our April Beatles Brunch to April 9th to accommodate for some staff travel.

PRIVATE EVENTS: Everyone reading this knows someone having a baby shower, business lunch or a wedding rehearsal dinner this year. Please do us a huge favor and let your friends and co-workers know about us? We offer the entire Cafe exclusively for a private event Sunday through Wednesday for both Lunch and Dinner Events. Upon consulting with one of our staff, booking an event on a night we are open to the public (Th-Sat) may be an option depending upon the number of guests and budget. Learn morehere.

NEW WINES: At the café, we like to find as many unique Italian wines as we possibly can so that you can have an experience like nowhere else in Iowa. We offer almost 100 wines on our reserve list and pour 14 by the glass. Every couple months or so, we like to add a few fresh bottles to our reserve list. We recently added a few gems to this list and wrote a blog post about them. Read about the new wines here.

DINNER AND A SHOW: Hoyt Sherman Place, our neighbors just to the east of us on Woodland Avenue, have a great lineup this month and into early Spring. I hope you all take advantage of this spectacular venue as often as you can! Take a look at their website:, and plan an evening with friends for a date night at Cafe di Scala and a show at Hoyt Sherman Place. We wrote about the lineup they wanted to share with you on our blog. Cheers!

NO CORKAGE FEE TONIGHT: Our Thursday no corkage fee deal is coming to a close tonight. Take advantage of this by bringing a friend in for a few laughs and good company.

Much love to you all!
Tony and Staff

P.S. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the most up-to-date information and special offers.

No Corkage Fee Thursdays in February

February 9th, 2012

You probably already knew this, but we’re not charging corkage fees on Thursdays in February if you bring your own bottle of wine. So call your friends and join us for a relaxing way to begin your weekend.

See you tonight!

Cafe di Scala Isn't Charging a Corkage Fee on Thursdays in February.

New Reserve Wines at Cafe di Scala!

February 8th, 2012

Cafe di Scala is proud to offer three new Barolo's from Italy's Piedmonte region.

At the café, we like to find as many unique Italian wines as we possibly can so that you can have an experience like nowhere else in Iowa. We offer almost 100 wines on our reserve list and pour 14 by the glass. Every couple months or so, we like to add a few fresh bottles to our reserve list.

We know our Italian wines. We’re immensely proud of our by the glass selections, but our wine list won awards of distinction from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines for a reason.  Take the time to ask your server for a good recommendation from our reserve list, and they’ll find something that can appeal to your palate or pair with your food. There are over 20,000 grape varietals in Italy… We’ve only just begun!!

Below is a look at some of the bottles that we added in February with some tasting notes. We hope to see you soon!

We have one new addition to the white wine reserve list and the rest are reds.

CHARDONNAY Umbria IGT – “Cervaro“ Castello della Sala 2009

Yellow gold color with medium forming legs and aromas of grapefruit and apple. It’s balanced and has flavours of grapefruit, pineapple, melon and lemon with a light/medium body. Bright texture with a long finish – I am not a great fan of whites but for every rule…..excellent, full flavored but subtle and bright. the Grechetto adds much diminution to the Chardonnay. Wonderful blend!

RIBOLLA GIALLA  Colli Orientali DOC -  “Rosazzo” – Le Vigne di Zamo – 2009

Zamò’s Ribolla Gialla (yellow ribolla) gives a definite textural impression, probably due to the skin contact involved in the wine’s vinification. Very complex notes of lemongrass and fennel with bracing acidity. Ribolla’s fame goes back to written documents in 1289, when even then the wine was celebrated for its quality. Now Ribolla Gialla accounts for only about 1% of vineyard area in Friuli and neighboring Slovenia. About 16,000 bottles produced.

AGLIANICO Taurasi DOCG “Terre del Vulcano” – Lava – 2003

From Aglianico grape variety. Really dark yet youthful color for a 6 year old wine. Blackberry, minerals, this wine tastes like a volcano with hints of cedar, smoke, leather, dust. In the mouth perfectly balanced with great depth and complexity. Very long, rich, subtle, textural finish.

GAGLIOPPO Ciro Rosso DOC – “Liber Pater” –Ippolito 1845  – 2009

The power and elegance of Gaglioppo, a native grape of Calabria, have found concrete expression in this wine. Characteristics: ruby red with purple hues, the nose is intense and persistent with hints of berry fruits supported by hints of spice. With very fine tannins, the palate is full bodied, velvety, well-structured. Tips: red body, it goes well with red meats, cheeses and pasta dishes well seasoned cheeses.


Vietti's Barollo Castiglione

Found this interesting piece of Piedmont wine history on

The wines of Piemonte are noted as far back as Pliny’s Natural History. Due to geographic and political isolation, Piemonte was without a natural port for most of its history, which made exportation treacherous and expensive. This left the Piemontese with little incentive to expand production. Sixteenth-century records show a mere 14% of the Bassa Langa under vine — most of that low-lying and farmed polyculturally. In the nineteenth century the Marchesa Falletti, a frenchwoman by birth, brought eonologist Louis Oudart from Champagne to create the first dry wines in Piemonte. Along with work in experimental vineyards at Castello Grinzane conducted by Camilo Cavour — later Conte di Cavour, leader of the Risorgimento and first Prime Minister of Italy — this was the birth of modern wine in the Piemonte. At the heart of the region and her reputation are Alba and the Langhe Hills. This series of weathered outcroppings south of the Tanaro River is of maritime origin and composed mainly of limestone, sand and clay, known as terra bianca. In these soils -located mainly around the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco — the ancient allobrogica, now Nebbiolo, achieves its renowned fineness and power.

BAROLO DOCG – “Castiglione”  – Vietti – 2007

The 2007 Barolo Castiglione deftly balances the open, radiant personality of the vintage with considerable underlying structure. Warm, dense and full-bodied, the 2007 Barolo Castiglione flows effortlessly across the palate with generous fruit and fabulous overall balance. It is another overachieving wine from Vietti and a bottle that is exceedingly fairly priced.

BAROLO DOCG “Cannubbio” – Francesco Rinaldi & Figli  – 2005 and 2007

Nebbiolo Prima shows liquory red fruits, sweet but nor fruity, a bit floral some herbal notes, broad with a nice mineral freshness, acids are integrated but really help freshen the palate, nice wild amarena cherry fruit, rosehips, sandalwood, nicely fresh and aromatic in the mouth, nice ripe tannins, good length, nice fruit on finale.

BAROLO DOCG –“Brunate” -  Andrea Oberto – 2007

Full garnet in color with delicate orange highlights. Wide, clean but complex aroma with scents of dried flowers and red berries. Well-integrated oak with toasty notes of coffee and leather linger in a perfect balance between elegant body and concentration.


From the foothills of Mt. Etna in Sicily, Graci's Etna Rosso

NERO D’AVOLA Sicilia IGT  ”Rossojbleo” -  Gulfi – 2010

Grapes: 100% Nero d’Avola. Young red, minor structure, which intends to propose a particularly approachable Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s south-east, while retaining the full expression of varietal and territorial identity. It also lends itself to the combination with appetizers and meats and fish dishes with a slightly aromatic seasoning. Finally, the intriguing pairing “Autumn” with chestnuts roasted on the grill. Recommended serving temperature between 14 and 16 degrees.

NERO D’AVOLA/FRAPPATO BLEND Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG – Gulfi – 2010

Tony’s Favorite!! Cerasuolo di Vittoria is an Italian wine DOCG of Sicily, covering the intensely colored red wines from the eastern end of the island’s south coast. Introduced in September 2005, it was the very first DOCG in Sicily, having also been one of the first DOCs on the island when it was granted that status back in 1973. The quality of Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine showed marked improvement during the 1980s and 1990s, hence the promotion in 2005, and it is now the most consistent showcase of modern Sicilian wine. 60% Nero D’Avola and 40% Frappato.

NERO D’AVOLA Etna Rosso DOC- Graci- 2009

From the heels of Mt. Etna, Graci’s Etna Rosso is a wine that is incredibly aromatic with scents of wild herbs and barley and an abundance of dried cranberries. The palate is as unique and expressive as the aroma. First you will find smoke with a flinty mineral quality followed immediately by layers of pomegranate, overripe cherry, and cranberry blended with subtle arid spices of paprika and white pepper. This is a gorgeous red with a split personality: on the one hand it’s very expressive, but it’s also refined and almost elegant at the same time. It may sound like such a simple thing for a wine to be enjoyable, but it’s much harder to accomplish than you might think.

NERO D’AVOLA AND FRAPPATO BLEND Sicilia IGT – Daino Azienda Agricola

100% organic/biodynamic Nero D’Avola. Herbal on the nose. The palate is flush, full and very rich. Balanced though. Sweet raisin on the nose. Named after cork oak, Nero d’Avola with a clone called Frappato, and a touch of something else that resembles Grenache. This could technically be DOCG but right now, with 800 cases being the total production, its not there…yet.

BRUNELLO: Sangiovese Grosso  (Brunello)  Brunello di Montalcino DOCG   – Conti Costani – 2006

This pure Sangiovese is fermented in stainless steel with 3 weeks’ skin maceration, then aged 18 months in tonneaux of French oak and another 18 months in 30-hl. Slavonian oak barrels, previous to a year’s bottle age (totaling 3 years in wood, 1 in bottle). Brilliant ruby in color, intense, ripe aromas of berry fruit prelude a lush, full-bodied palate.

Updated Wine List!

May 12th, 2011

We've updated the wine cellar at Cafe di Scala. We'd love to help you choose a wine that's right for you.

We have a few new wines on our wine list and we’ve updated our descriptions of each.  Take a minute to browse through our list and let us know if you have any suggestions or questions. We’d be happy to help you navigate our world of Italian wine.

We’ve added a few spectacular wines on our by the glass lists: A gorgeous white (Pecorino) from Abruzzo, a silky, spicy red (Aglianco) from Campania, a petite red  treasure (Valpolicella DOC) from the Veneto region and a new Grappa (Barbera) from the northern stretches of Piedmont. On our reserve list you will find a few more unique whites (just in time for the warm patio weather) from the North East and some new expressions of the native Sicilian Nero D’Avola grape.
Reserve wine list:

Scala RESERVE Spring 2011

By the glass list:

Spring 2011 Scala BTG


Paolo Scavino: Produttore di Vino

October 26th, 2010

This is the first in our series of blog posts highlighting some of the wine producers who grace the pages of ourAward Winning wine list. With each, we will tell a brief history of each producer, showcase the wines that we offer on our list from that producer and offer a pairing that would fit well with our menu.  Today, we visit Paolo Scavino, a producer in the Piedemonte region of Northern Italy.


Although he is known more of a “genie” for his work with Barolo, Enrico Scavino has been known to make some superior wines that lesser skilled producers would walk away from.  His Barolos are what he and his grandfather Paolo Scavino are known for, like any good chef, give him some lesser ingredients, and he’ll create a masterpiece.  This is what we’ve taken from Piedmonte Wine Producer Paolo Scavino. We’ve chosen two wines from their 2008 vintages: The Lange Bianco and the Dolcetto d’Alba DOC “Paitin,” for this reason. These are remarkable wines that tell the true character of Paolo Scavino.

I imagine Enriqe’s grandfather Paolo envisioned his winery to one day take on the characteristics of the Barolo townships of Piedmonte. There’s romance in the dense, wet fog that tickles the vines and floats over the villages near The Scavino estate, which is is located in the “terroir” crossroads of the Barolo DOCG, in Catiglione Falleto – some of the most fabled territory in all of Italian Wine.

Although Scavino is rich with history, they’re not afraid to innovate.  They’re known throughout the region for their attention to innovation – often noted as one of the most technologically advanced wine producers. The secret, they say, is in the old vines.  Older vines, although producing fewer bunches of fruit, produce smaller grapes of higher quality. Attention to the vines coupled with modern techniques bring us the superiority that we enjoy today.

Here are the two Paolo Scavino Wines that we reserve at Cafe di Scala:

Lange Bianco IGT- Paolo Scavino – 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Viogner and Chardonnay

Impressions:  The wine has the structure of Chardonnay, fermented in steel tanks and then the finishing takes place in oak barrels.  Also had striking acidity / grapefruit characteristics of a very fresh Sauvignon Blanc with the sharpness and ripe fruit of a Viogner.  Showing fine, elegant, complex, ripe fruits, wild flowers and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. The palate is dry, fresh, quite soft, full-bodied and very intense and persistent, with pleasant apricot flavors on the finish. Pairing: Try a bottle of this wine with our Mitili con Crema, our steamed blue mussels with white wine and shallot cream sauce.

Dolcetto d’Alba DOC “Paitin” –Paolo Scavino – 2008

Impressions: Dolcetto is one of the most common grapes from Italy’s Piedmont region. Its name “Dolcetto” or “little sweet one” refers to the sweetness of the grape, and while the wine can be fruity, it is not sweet. Dolcetto has moderate acidity and tannins and is generally made in an approachable style that highlights the grape’s natural fruitiness which recalls blackberry and plum. Pairing: Try a bottle of this wine pared with the Mailae, or Iowa Farm Families pork chop.


For a complete list of wines on our Award Winning wine list, visit the Cafe di Scala wine page.

Wine Should Tell a Story

October 18th, 2010

Wine is a love story — a process of a people who breathe through the land — true land stewards who call vines their children; their grapes, grandchildren.  To be truly great wine, it needs to have more than just great stuff.  That stuff needs to share a story of care, passion and love.

Let’s tell that love story, shall we?

Once a month, this blog will explore the inner workings of one winemaker or Produttore di Vino that makes up the story of the Cafe di Scala wine menu.  As many of you know, our wine list is comprised of 100% Italian varietals — from the sun drenched clay and mineral velocity of Sicilian Nero d’Avola to the cooler temps, moist soil and lower Alps that make up the poetry of Piedmonte’s legendary Barolo townships.

We hope to educate you not only about the brilliance of a wine producer and their relationship to their wine, but also the wine itself.  We’ll share tips about when and how to enjoy each wine with the skills to help you make the most of every bottle. Occasionally, we’ll share some videos on how to decant, present and preserve good wine. You don’t have to be an expert, but we hope to at least share some information that we believe you’ll use with your next sip.

Later this week, we’ll share with you the multi-generational producer Paolo Scavino.  Stop back to hear their love story.

Cafe di Scala - A fine Des Moines area restaurant, Calabrese-Style, in the heart of Historic Sherman Hill. 644 18th Street, Des Moines, IA • Reservations by phone only: 515-244-1353