We began our trip with 3 nights in ER and 9 in Piemonte.. Thanks Allende for all your recommendations. It was so worth doing the research for the inside scoop. We go to Italy every year - Piemonte may be the beginning of a new tradition for us. Long trip report to follow..
Full disclosure - we lasted about 7 days having sit down lunches AND dinners but by day 8 we downsized to one meal. Pretty good for being in both ER and Piemonte. Note that we took full advantage of truffle season. We learned it’s actually best to go towards the end of the season after all the rain and moisture so that they have time to grow. Prepare to read a lot about crudo and tajarin.
Bologna (* notes a favorite)
Trattoria Serghei – We chose Serghei for our first lunch pretty much straight from the airport. We enjoyed the Bolognese classics at this cozy trattoria. I had the tortelli di zucca which was filled with a nice healthy portion of pumpkin and my husband enjoyed the Tortellini in Brodo - hit the spot on a cold rainy day.
*All’Osteria Bottega – Loved this place for lunch. It was packed when we arrived (the only place I didn’t call ahead to reserve). We waited about 15 minutes for a table. Off the beaten path in Bologna, located on a small street that you could easily miss called Via Santa Caterina. This and da Amerigo (will get to shortly) were the best meals in Bologna. No tourists, just locals enjoying a cozy lunch (dining room has only about 15 tables max). Long list of different meats ranging from culatello to prosciutto - we had a mix of everything. For pastas we chose a bowtie pasta al sugo and tortellini in brodo, both classics, were done perfectly. Husband was curious to compare this brodo with the one from Serghei and preferred Bottega.
*Da Amerigo in Savigno – Wine – Cabernet Sauvignon from Emilia, don’t recall the vintage. The appetizer of carne crudo (Battuta al Coltello) cut into small bite sized pieces with black truffles, salt and olive oil was out of this world. The tagliatelle bolognese and lasagna with game meat and mushrooms were definitely something special. Lastly, we ordered the “Uovo Amerigo” with white truffles for which there are no words. Two eggs, each presented in different styles: one with a tart underneath the poached egg and the other had the poached egg tucked into the egg white froth over potatoes and parmigiano. We were so glad we drove the 45 minutes outside the city to get a taste of authentic small town Bolognese cooking.
Pappagallo – We enjoyed but can’t compare to quality at Da Amerigo. Certainly not a bad option for eating in the center of Bologna. We ordered the mortadella appetizer (wanted to get our fill of mortadella while in the land of it), lasagna verdi, tagliatelle al ragu and fried lambs brain. Wine – a local Sangiovese.
*La Buca in Zibello – first, a bit about the locanda. The rooms were well appointed, tastefully decorated and quite large. If you decide to go, I recommend 1 night. It’s a very quiet town so you may want to rent bikes up the road for 5 euro to explore the area. Lucca and the whole staff were super friendly and ensured we had a great stay. Adorable golden retriever to boot.
Lunch 1 @ La Buca - Lambrusco (needed it to cut the fat that followed)… culatello served with the butter (of course) and bread – by the way that Ferrarese bread is so unique and goes perfectly with the rich cuisine. For primi, we tried the anolini pasticciati “La Buca” (a sauce with sausage ragu) and the Anolini in brodo, for secondi, braised veal with potatoes and tongue carpaccio. Very satisfied with everything.
Lunch 2 @ La Buca – tried their Salame and a tortelli di zucca and ricotta mix. Couldn't decide zucca or ricotta and she kindly made a mix of both. My husband had the tagliatelle ai funghi and we shared the chicken cacciatiore. Hard to not like something that’s made with TLC from this kitchen.
**Hostaria da Ivan – glad we ventured out here for dinner and great that it was so easy to get to from La Buca. We shared the mixed salumi antipasti – culatello and prosciutto. We shared the risotto (sausage, cheese) which was fantastic. The meals of Emilia Romagna were starting to catch up with me so I opted for a simple chicken with balsamic and pearl onions, husband went the other direction and had tripe. Finished with a delicious zabaglione dessert. Wine – opted for local, Luretta Pantera Rosso dell Emilia, 2010.
Piemonte Restaurants (* notes a favorite)
Guido at Fontanafredda*
In Piazza - montelupo
Perbacco – excellent if in the mood for Neapolitan pizza, very family friendly
Now for the highlights –
La Torre in Cherasco – great atmosphere, packed on a Thursday evening. Since it was our first meal in Piemonte, we heavy up’ed on the tartufo. I had the uovo in cocotte with white truffles, husband had carne battuta al coltello with white truffles. We had tajarin al burro fuso with truffles, and plin (plain, no sauce). Finally for secondi, veal in crosta and veal with black truffles. Though Cherasco is small compared to the other communes of Langhe it’s worth visiting for an amazing meal at La Torre. Will return for sure.
La Speranza in Farigliano – here we picked out our truffle and quantity for each dish which wasn’t the case at the other restaurants. The crudo di vitello with tartufo was one of the best of the whole trip. The quality of the cut of meat was extraordinary. It was topped with white truffles, salt, pepper and a bit of lemon. We loved the tajarin al burro, uovo con tartufo and fonduta. It's definitely a little further out but we were so happy we went there. Maurizio the chef and his wife were delightful and welcoming as soon as we walked in the door. We felt comfortable, not rushed, a very local place. They were curious as to how we found the restaurant so I gave credit to Chowhound and even pulled it up for them on my phone. They loved it.
In Piazza, Montelupo – nice local place, casual, and the [one and only] woman who works there is wonderful.
Ristorante Guido at Fontanafredda – We skipped a tasting and just reserved a table for lunch. Quality of the food is extraordinary; presentation excellent as was the level of service. Beautiful dining room with frescoed ceilings. We had the crudo di vitello, vitello tonnato, tagliatelle con tartufo and baccala.. For wine, we chose Fontanafredda Nebbiolo D’alba 2012.
Osteria Veglio in Annunziata – Another great local osteria. When we dined there, every table was full, very kid friendly. We had a “snack” 3 hours earlier at Perbacco (dont judge.. split a Margharita pizza per the recommendation of Rizieri, the agriturismo we stayed at. The owner is from Naples (husband from Milan) and she vouched for it. A family friendly place, great for a reliable Neopolitan style pizza. Back to Veglio… I ordered the vitello tonnato to start which, after having it probably 5 other times on the trip if not more, rate Veglio's as one of the best. For secondo, I chose a delicious vegetable soup, very light, fresh and flavorful.. My husband had the vitello crudo, tajarin al sugo and for wine we ordered a Mauro Veglio Barbera d'alba. For dessert, I had one of the best panna cotta of the whole trip.
La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe – Another favorite. We went on a Sunday and it was filled with families enjoying a hearty Sunday lunch. There was an emphasis of fish on the menu, which was a nice change. I had the antipasti misti –smoked trout over ricotta with autumn vegetables, afterwards came veal terrine with an onion marmalade, followed by a porcini mushroom tort with fondudta, and lastly, the “cipolla al sale” stuffed with pork. Sensational. Both beautiful and tasty. For primi, we shared the tajarin with a veal ragu. We finished with fried veal scamone. Definitely enjoyed La Coccinella and recommend for lunch.
Bovio in La Morra – Wasn’t on the list originally but decided to try it for a quick lunch since we were in the area. There were comments about a lack of warmth in the service before, but we found it very welcoming, the gentleman who waited on our table was attentive and had a good sense of humor. Food was ok, hard to have a “bad” meal in Piemonte but the wine choice was great. We opted for a Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2010
da Renzo (Antica Corona Reale) in Cervere – much more formal than any other restaurant, 2 michelin stars. A russian salad amuse bouche, insalata d’autunno for antipasti, plin and vitello in crosta (sublime). Husband went for ofal and had veal tripe and finanziera. A great experience, different vibe from any other restaurant we had been to on this trip. For wine - Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2009.
Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola D’Asti - Loved this place. Pretty much had the place to ourselves with one other couple. Very intimate, great service, not rushed, and the man who worked there was friendly, a character. I switched it up and tried a chestnut soup with sausage and black truffle, tajarin al burro con tartufo (again) and the baccala. I almost want to say I liked the food here better than da Renzo the previous night.
il Centro in Priocca – Another top choice. Started with carne crudo con tartufo (yes, again), tajarin al sugo (we pretty much rotated between al sugo and al tartufo bianco), vitello for secondo. At this point, my appetite was definitely starting to decline so didn’t go as crazy with the ordering. Wine - Barolo 2000 – Rocche dei Manzone.
Da Bardon in San Marzono – A serious contender for our favorite meal. Saved it for our last dinner. We didn’t find it hard to get to but then again after 10 days in Piemonte we got used to the driving and finicky navigation directions. Once you got close to San Marzano there were tons of signs for Ristorante Da Bardon which came in handy. I started with the Antipasti misti – vitello crudo, vitello tonnato, frittata con fonduta and what I recall was chicken with polenta. For primi, I had the plin, very simple could thoroughly taste the meat which was exceptional. My husband went for the tajarin al burro con tartufo. After seeing the trolleys of the bollito/meats going around we wanted to try it but opted for the cheese course instead. For wine – Gaya 2006 Barolo. If we had another day we would for sure go back for that meat course. Service was excellent, place was bustling and everyone was friendly and having a great time.
Rizieri – (very small - produces only 15,000 bottles a year. Tried because we stayed at their agriturismo and would highly recommend it in Diano D’Alba. It’s not in the town center but in the hills and the view is breathtaking. Barbara and Arturo are wonderful hosts, lovely rooms with modern conveniences, tasteful décor, delicious breakfast spread)