We were up in Piemonte again for the long Easter weekend. Over the past 35 years, we've spent an inordinate amount of time there, but only started writing about it six or seven years ago. For the four days, we were joined by two very close friends from London, both buongustai, who lived in Italy for a number of years and have eaten in Piemonte a lot and have a lot of knowledge of Italian food.
I've written about some of our latest trips here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/768883, among other places. Chowhound, for whatever reason, deleted a lot of posts between Feb 2011 and May 2012. At the very end of this post is something similar to the original Bardon post and a subsequent one.
Our friends had been to Osteria Veglio in Annunziata (just below La Morra), but not to the three others.
All four meals were outstanding, but the most outstanding was Del Belbo da Bardon, outside of San Marzano Oliveto. To Peter Rodgers: this post is especially for you; hope it holds you until you're back in Piemonte later this year.
It was Saturday at lunch. In the past, we had only been there during the week when there had been many tables of businessmen. Saturday lunch, couples, a few families, young, old... all in love with food. This place is simply spectacular as a trattoria. Nothing that we've ever experienced in a trattoria in more than 35 years comes close... in all the areas of Italy that we've been to beginning with my trip in 1975 to Peppino Cantarelli's great trattoria in Samboseto. It's not only the pages and pages and pages of Barolos, Barbarescos and Barberas (and everything else from Piemonte). It's not only the owners way of serving their patrons. It's not only the food (there are other places that have better food, but this food is very good trattoria food). It's not only the ambiance. It's the overall feeling of being in a very special place, but with no fuss made by the people who run it. I would say it is a place of simple pleasures. If you want to go to only one place in Piemonte, not far from Alba and Asti, for us, this is the place we'd recommend.
We drank well. Two bottles of one of our favorite Barberas, Giacomo Conterno's Cascina Francia, this time in the 2010 vintage (later that afternoon we bought a lot more in La Morra). When we finished the two bottles and needed some more wine for the cheese, there were the two brothers, opening up a wonderful Barbera, a 2006 Correggia, and charging us for only the two glasses we drank from that bottle.
No full bollito misto on Saturdays, but you could have many "bollito" meats from the secondi. Among the more memorable dishes we had were: involtini di pepperoni; raviioli del plin (one of the standard Piemontese pasta dishes, but here made fantastically well); pasta e fagioli with the most flavorful Piemontese beans; vitello arrosto; coniglio al forno served with carrots and spinach; asparagus with fondue; and an incredible finanziera (all those wonderful organ meats) as rich as could be. And a wonderful cheese trolley. Among the other dishes we could have had: tajarin ai porri; agnolotti quadrati ai tre arrosti; stracotto al Barbera; stinco di vitello and stinco di maiale.
We can't resist this place and expect to be back next month.
LA TORRE IN CHERASCO. Good Friday dinner. As we've written before, La Torre is in a new location, not far from the old place. Three very open dining rooms, light and airy, seating about forty. It was totally full, with a lot of younger couples and groups of friends. It was a lively evening with everyone seeming to be animated and having a great time. One of the owner brothers, and one other of the staff handle the dining rooms with friendliness and an easy professionalism.
We had two bottles of 2007 Barbaesco from the extensive and fairly priced wine list; Cigliuti "Serraboella"; Produttori Barbaresco "Ovello". Both were very good, but, of course, too young. We wanted to try them before we bought some. Our meal was excellent in all ways. Marco, the brother in the kitchen, uses first rate ingredients and cooks them well i.e. very simply. His dishes are extremely flavorful, both because of the ingredients and his care in the cooking. The menu, which is recited by his brother, changes pretty much every day; it is all seasonal (e.g. no late season truffles). His plating is attractive without being fussy. 6-8 or so each of antipasti, primi and secondi. Lumache are a staple because of Cherasco. Some of the dishes we had were: a fabulous risotto al Barolo for two... rich beyond belief, just fantastic; pigs feet (offal is big here; the first time we went I had a great finanziera); gnocchi di patate al Castelmagno; my wife had an excellent cheese plate for her main course... eight Piemontese selections; an excellent fish dish (the fish was lama which we had never heard of before) with a crust of parsley and breadcrumbs. Some of the other dishes offered were trippa Piemontese; del plin; tajarin al sugo di fegatini; coniglio ai pepperoni. We had very good desserts: a blackberry sorbetto and a really excellent panna cotta.
This place is a gem. Do not be put off by the recited menu. They know enough English to make it easy for you. Close to Alba, La Morra and Bra.
OSTERIA VEGLIO IN ANNUNZIATA, about 2 km. down the hill from La Morra. One of our favorite trattorie and it's so easy to go to because we stay in La Morra.
A normal lunch crowd with perhaps five other tables taken. Too chilly to sit outside on the splendid terrace overlooking the vineyards. The owners are warm amd caring; no attitude here (or for that matter, very rarely in Piemonte). Full disclosure: one of the owners is a close friend of our closest friend in La Morra, so we're partial. However, we'd be partial to this place even if that were not the case. There is a lot to be partial about. We've been there many many times and have always had very good meals whether at lunch or dinner, whether the restaurant was full or we were the only ones there. Very good ingredients and simple trattoria cooking, but with attention. The menu changes seasonally, not more often. As I've mentioned previously, there are always a number of vegetable dishes, often a soup, and many times greens (sometimes you have to ask if there are any greens as a contorno). We drank two 2010 Barberas, one a Sandrone and the other Mauro Veglio's Cascina Nuova, both excellent (later, we bought a lot of each in La Morra to take back here). Among the dishes we had: Vitello tonnato; del plin nel tavagliolo; a very good verdure al cartoccio... really special. They were out of the maiolino, so two of us had the baby Spring lamb (as one of my friends said, "the lamb was incredibly flavorful") along with a dish of that wonderful green that you rarely see in restaurants "barbabuc." A few Barolo Chinatos and before we knew it almost three hours had a gone by. A wonderful leisurely lunch on an overcast day in the Barolo vineyards.
IL CENTRO IN PRIOCCA. Easter lunch in Priocca. The weather for Easter was spectacular. From the piazza in La Morra it was blue sky and crystal clear. The snow covered French Alps rose majestically in the west and you could see the Italian Alps stretching from Monte Rosa east. Who would have thunk. The perfect place to go to in general and for Easter lunch in particular. Enrico had told us it was going to be a set menu in contrast to a la carte which is the norm at Il Centro. What a set menu.
The restaurant was, of course, totally full, some large family gatherings, but a number of tables of couples and two couples. Everyone seemed to be in a festive mood and the two dining rooms were lively. Enrico recited the set menu, so that if anyone did not want a particular dish Barbara would try her best to change it.
We started with two Barberas, both 2010; Alfieri's "La Tota" and the Barbera d'Alba, Ca Viola; It was not enough for the long meal and so we finished with another bottle, the superb Giacomo Bologna 2007 'Ai Suma" Barbera. Wonderful wines all. For the meal, among other dishes, we had: A piece of ombrina, lightly cooked with a sauce that included mussels; asparagus with a light sauce with a base of robiola; slices of capriolo with spring vegetables; an excellent risotto alle erbe; tortelli stuffed with rabbit and a red cabbage sauce; lamb, of course, served with an etherial polenta dolce... a fantastic dish; and for dessert, cassata Piemontese, again... just fantastic.
It really doesn't get much better than that. Informal, but flawless service. A chef who really knows what she is doing with her first rate ingredients (hint: she lets the ingredients shine), and a happy group of people enjoying themselves.
From earlier posts on Bardon.
Da Bardon" is set in the countryside and is family run. Brothers, sisters, parents, daughters, cousins. These people are the real deal. No other trattoria (and very few restaurants, if any) with great food comes close to this place in terms of a wine list reasonably priced…for what it contained. Page after page of barolo, barbaresco and barbera. We’re talking here about trattoria food, all traditional, but simply cooked with exquisite care. We’ve had great ravioli dal plin in the well over a hundred meals we’ve eaten in Piemonte over the years. Good ravioli in some trattorie, but the best have been in ristorante (Cascinalenuovo has been the standard for us). This version just blew us away. The pasta was very soft, very well trimmed and the filling was extremely intense. We’ve rarely had pasta this good and certainly not in a trattoria. That was just one dish. Whether it was the stinco di vitello arrosto, tagliatelle with asparagus, the mellanzzane flan, the vitello tonnato, coniglio al forno, financiera, bolito misto, or in the fall, eggs with a liberal shaving of white truffles, the care and intensity of flavors was wonderful, reflecting the very high quality of ingredients. There were about eight each of antipasti, primi and secondi and desserts. There was an excellent cheese selection.
The service is casual and friendly, but professional. The staff (family) is very knowledgeable about the wine list and food. It is a lovely and comfortable dining room seating perhaps 35. In good weather tables are set outside. On a Friday for lunch, the room totally filled up with a combination of couples, businessmen and a number of people dining by themselves.
Outside of the hamlet of San Marzano Oliveta, a few kilometers equidistant from Nizza Monferrato and Canelli, in the middle of nowhere. But what a nowhere.
Tuesday at lunch. All Italian clientele except for us. Mostly business people enjoying a leisurely lunch with lots of food and wine. Totally full (no recession here... actually a depression in Italy) in the outer room and two large tables in the inner room. The menu is recited and it changes all the time (was completely different from the spring).
What a wine list. 200 barolos; 150 barbarescos; 200 barberas and a ton of others at good prices. No other trattoria (and only two restaurants) that we're aware of in Italy come anywhere close to that wine list.
We had an '04 Giacosa Barbaresco (Rabaja). To start, the season's first truffles, a very large shaving with sunny-side up eggs... fantastic; a melanzane flan. Then rabbit al forno (excellent); the best plin that my wife said she has tasted in 30 plus years of coming to Piemonte; and an incredible cheese course from the trolley. Many other things offered: financiera; what looked like a wonderful bolito misto; guanciale; tripe; both a stinco di vitello and a stinco di maiale; several pastas and on and on.
Everything a trattoria should be. Just spectacular.