Restaurants & Bars 3

a Piemonte find (longish report)

foodfirst | Jan 8, 200409:04 PM

Not one meal disappointed during a recent trip to Piemonte but Osteria Verderame in Castiglione Tinella stands out.

I can't claim to have "discovered" Verderame, it's in the Slow Food Osteria guide, from which we dined exclusively (and oh so happily) for the 3rd yr in a row in Piemonte. Two small dining rooms (4 tables each) and a little bar area on the first floor of a lovingly restored rustico -- the decor mixes traditional and modern elements. Very cozy on a winter afternoon. One young woman covers the dining room and bar while another works alone in the kitchen turning out dishes both traditionally Piemontese and also with some Tuscan touches. Two lunches, both started with a plate of complementary salumi, mortadella one time, salumi cruda the second. The grissini and (I'm guessing) homemade bread are excellent, not something that can be said for many restaurants in Piemonte.

assaggio di antipasti (a procession of three).
On one visit, thinly sliced chicken breast over mache and halved, perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes, all dribbled with fruity olive oil; sformata of parmesan regg, surrounded by a light parmesan regg sauce and freshly grated bits of the cheese (intense flavor but very light); and the most perfectly poached egg I've ever encountered, nestled in a bed of seasoned lentils, a hint of red wine vinegar in the mix. This last dish exemplifies for me the ability of Italian chefs to make something so memorably delicious out of humble ingredients.

On the next visit, the mache salad topped this time with rabbit; vitello tonnato, the tuna sauce uncharacteristically chunky and creamy; and an intense artichoke torta that nearly floated off the plate.

Zuppa di fagioli, lightly creamy with a few whole, tender beans, served with a peppery Tuscan EVOO.

Tagliatelle with a meaty salsa di salsiccia and gratinata di semolina gnocchi (five half-dollar size, half-inch thick disks, in a slightly curdled, richly milky gratin with a hint of very aged parmesan).

A comforting, very homey chicken cacciatori with grilled polenta wedges.

On both visits we asked for mixed plates of dolci from the offerings on the menu: milk and herb semifreddo (what herbs I don't know, but the overall effect was very slightly menthol-y, very memorable match with the rich creaminess); classic torta di nocciole -- I think a bit of polenta in there too; a tender pear cooked in red wine; a chocoholic's dream of a chocolate torte; a crisp little round of tortino topped with fresh blood orange slices and rich vanilla ice cream; semifreddo flavored with rum and chesnuts.

a bottle of '98 Roero (Malvira') for the first lunch and a '99 Barbera d'Asti (Panta Rei) plus glasses of Moscato d'Asti for the second. Both lunches (antipasti, zuppa, and dolci the first and the full 4 courses the second) around euro 70.

I can't wait to go back to this place.

Osteria Verderame, Castiglione Tinella (at the endo of a tiny alley right off the piazza of this miniscule town)
tel. 0141 855806
closed Tu, We for lunch and a month in summer

**Verderame offers B&B accomodation as well

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