My wife and I just returned from 2.5 weeks in Piemonte and I thought I would share our dining experiences on this board. We stayed 2 weeks in the town of Barolo and then moved 2 miles to the vineyard of Cerequio just outside of La Morra at Palas Cerequio for our final 3 nights. First, our perspective: (i) we have been to Italy many times, but this was our first trip to Piemonte; and (ii) we prefer to dine in less formal and traditional settings with local cuisine than in more formal settings with white-table cloths serving international cuisine. So, for those with more experience in the area or different tastes, your mileage may vary. Finally, I want to recognize the generous advice of Allende and his wife—without their encouragement, we would have stayed close to Barolo and eaten serviceable meals, but missed out on some fantastic dining experiences.
For our first night in Barolo (Saturday), despite two trains to get to Milan Malpensa from Varenna, and then a rental car drive to Barolo, we ignored our weariness and set out on the SP3 toward the hitherto unknown town of Cherasco, about 9 miles away for dinner: destination La Torre. We had made reservations and arrived promptly at 8. The weather was ideal and we decided to eat outside in the garden, where soon all of the tables were occupied and then even more inside. It was going to be a busy night. Due to the winding roads and many warnings about traffic checkpoints, I decided to forego ordering a bottle of wine, and instead ordered a half liter of their house Barbera D'Alba (which was quite good, for what it is, and also quite cheap). We later had a glass each of the "house" Barolo which turned about to be a 2010 Brezza. Great vintage, unknown producer to me, but again quite good (and cheap). First lesson learned: order the wine you want; this is Italy, if you don’t finish your wine, you can take it with you.
The meal began with 3 stuzzichini: creme of carrot soup with ginger, fried veal cheek, and salsicce di Bra cruda. Wonderful! You will note that my poor Italian skills inhibit my descriptions. We tried our best to elicit descriptions from the waitstaff. Our young waitress identified the fried veal cheek as "testina" which my wife thought meant testicles; only with more effort did we sort it out!
It then came time to order: La Torre has a blackboard with the day’s specials, which I learned is really what Marco Falco, the co-owner/chef, wanted to cook that day. But this was my first day in Piemonte and I had preconceived notions of what I needed to try. Second lesson: follow the board. Marco is very, very talented.
For our antipasti, my wife had the seared foie gras with a cipollini marmalade, fig and what was either corn bread or a fried crouton (this was a special on the board). This was a very rich dish. I had to have the carne cruda, which was fantastic. It was served on a bed of arugula, with sliced boiled eggs, shaved parmesan and a sprinkling of black cipro salt. I have never tasted a boiled egg like that.
For our primi, my wife ordered a glowing orange agnolotti, and I had the tajarin with coniglio ragu. We both agreed that the tajarin was the highlight of the meal-a take a knee moment for me, and, in retrospect, one of my two favorite dishes on the trip.
For our dolci, my wife had a creme caramel (?) with berries and a sprinkling of cipro. For this southern boy, I could not turn down the peach pie with sorbet (sprig of thyme was a nice touch) and berries. The raspberries here are the best we have ever had.
As if that was not enough, we were then served 3 complimentary desserts. I couldn't begin to identify these, but I will try: hazelnut cookies, fruit jellies and these fantastic meringue wafers held together by fresh ricotta. Bravo! We ordered a lot of dolci on our trip, but nothing topped those meringue wafers.
Overall, the meal was fantastic, particularly the tajarin and the meringue wafer. The ingredients were first rate, but they do not try to force the meal, trying to do too much. Rather, they let the ingredients speak for themselves. Plating was solid, and the servings were ample. We will be back!
Follow the board!
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