By John Burton
RED BANK – Vic Rallo’s latest endeavor is more than about food and wine.
“It’s really Vic discovering my passions for Italy and the people who really care about food and wine,” said the local restaurateur about the new PBS television series he developed and will host, starting next month.
Rallo, who owns and operates Basil T’s Brewery and Italian Grill, 183 Riverside Ave., and Undici Taverna Rutica, an Italian restaurant at 11 West River Road, Rumson, is the creator and host of a new PBS series entitled Eat! Drink! Italy! With Vic Rallo. The first of the inaugural season’s 13 episodes is scheduled to premiere at 5 p.m. July 6 on NJTV and at 6:30 p.m. on WNET-TV.
The series grew out of Rallo’s regular trips to Italy that he began taking eight years ago to explore his heritage. The shows also display the joy many Italians take in the preparation of good food and wine, food history and how they share that joy with those they love.
“When someone invites you to their table in Italy, they really want you to come,” Rallo said.
While on those initial trips, Rallo began videotaping interesting people, locations and their connections to the culinary culture. He posted the videos on YouTube. “We started getting a good following,” he said.
From that, a mutual friend introduced Rallo to an independent producer. The two have been traveling to Italy, recording interviews and taking in locations that display various aspects of cooking, winemaking, farming and various ancillary industries of interest. They shot and then edited a pilot episode.
They shopped the pilot around “and we had more than a casual interest from some of the cable networks,” Rallo said. They decided on Public Broadcasting because “Public Broadcasting food segments are some of the best on TV,” he said.
PBS will be airing the 13 episodes, 30 minutes each. The initial offering will feature segments about cheese artistry, Rallo trying organic beekeeping, and recipes and preparation for summer salads and Mediterranean sea bass.
Rallo will be returning to Italy next month to begin work on the show’s second season.
The show is aimed at highlighting “La Materia Prima,” an Italian expression for the prime ingredients. “I really search out the people who use the prime ingredients, in whatever they do,” he said, believing these details are what most tourists visiting Italy never get to see and experience.
Rallo, who lives in Fair Haven, grew up in a restaurant family, graduated Seton Hall Law School, but decided to follow his love of food and continue in the family tradition. He has published two books on wine.
For the July premiere, the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth St., will stream the show with Rallo offering an interactive cooking demonstration and a set by the band Burlap for Cashmere; the show is billed as “Rock & Rallo.” Tickets are $15 with proceeds going to benefit the Count Basie Performing Arts Academy.