May 2012: Two Piemontese Lunches (Cevere and Alba)
I was proceeding from Monaco back up to Milan on my motorcycle after a few days at the Grand Prix F1 in Monaco (amazing, btw) and opted for a roundabout trip up via Turin and along some of the magnificent roads that travel up from the coast of the Mediterranean and to the foothills of the Piemonte mountain ranges.
For those of you thinking about that route, I wanted to highlight two special lunches, one at Antica Corona Reale in Cevere and the other at Il Duomo in Alba. These were different sorts of experiences: Antica Corona Reale was a very pleasant, extremely delicious and relaxing afternoon lunch. Il Duomo was – as its 92 points in Gambero Rosso might have suggested to me – something transcendently different. But no matter how high my expectations might have been for Il Duomo, they were exceeded. It was one of the very best meals I have had in the nearly 15 years I have been spending long stretches of time motorcycling around Italy.
First, Antica Corona Reale:
Cevere is not a town of great historical interest. On the way there I made a quick stop in Mondovi, which I recommend for the breathtaking frescos by Andrea Pozzo in the Chiesa di S. Francesco Saverio. (There’s a pretty good – B+ -- restaurant across from the church in the incredible square there.) Then it was a quick 20 minute hop or so over to Cevere. The restaurant itself looks a bit anonymous from the outside, but inside opens to a charming courtyard with a dozen tables. On the day I went it was mostly filled with locals, all starting lunch around 130 or so. There is a peaceful bubbling fountain and, if you wander around back between courses, an herb and vegetable garden. (Which reminds me to make a general point: When eating, get up between courses and walk around! It lets you appreciate what you have just eaten and prepare yourself a bit for what is next…)
Anyhow, below are some snapshots of the food. (The first four are Antica Corona Reale, then the rest of Il Duomo....)
Next was an meal in Alba at Il Duomo, which was just stunning: the late May market fresh produce was very alive with flavor and the cooking mixed cutting-edge technique with good old Italian style and taste. The dining room was empty when I arrived for a 130 lunch – and stayed that way – but the service was terrifically well balanced, not too intense and just the right amount of enthusiasm and explanation of the food. There is a lovely view out over the Cathedral in the center of town. I went for the Prix Fixe lunch menu at 150 Euro and it includes some remarkable dishes, not the least of which was a salad compose of 40 different types of vegetables, dressed with a delicate olive-oil based dressing that was a wonderful canvas for the flavors of each individual bite. Each dish was terrific -- unusual for a prix fixe to not have at least one clunker. You can see the influence that the years of training at Michel Bras had on the chef and the clever use of extremely fresh vegetables and herbs, often left to stand by themselves with only the barest adjustment to taste -- gave the meal a real lightness and energy.
I'd say Il Duomo is one of the best meals I've had in Italy and I'd certainly recommend a detour. I'll likely try to go back in the fall to see what he does with seasonal ingredients then.
Anyhow, hope this is of help! Happy travels.