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Restaurants & Bars

Brief Tuscany Trip – in and out at Malpensa

jen kalb | Mar 23, 201912:00 PM    

For our recently concluded brief Tuscan visit, we flew in and out of Malpensa, arriving at around noon, departing one week later in the afternoon (no time for lunch that day. Our taste is mainly for relaxed meals in regional trattorie so I focused for our first lunch primarily on Slowfood reccs within a short drive of Malpensa . Our driving route from Malpensa to Montecatini Terme could have been via the coastal route or inland but my driver wanted the shortest trip given our jet lag and his hatred for driving. What I found out was that potentially there were a number of distinct culinary areas within reach but decided that Piacenza in Emilia Romagna to the east was too far to reach (1.5 hours); Bardon (Piedmont) which I had been hoping for travelling the coastal southbound route, about the same. We thus focused on a couple of locally popular nearby places open on our Wed arrival day as possibilities both in the Lomellina (the rice growing Po plain nearby}, Trattoria Guallina, near Mortara, with its goose specialties and Osteria Cascina dei Fiori, near Vercelli serving a modernized version of the local cuisine with the former preferred due to the shorter drive time. As it turned out, it was almost 2 when we left the airport so we had to look for something closer.

We were happy to find not far south of Oleggio OSTERIA SAN GIULIO in the tiny borgo of Badia di Dulzago, Bellinzago (NO), which was still serving. This very simple friendly place overlooks a rural scene. We watched cows being herded across a distant pasture as we waited for our meal, paniscia novarese followed by goose braised with cabbage. We drank the house red with this rich and tasty meal. The paniscia is a filling form of risotto made with lard as the base fat – it includes vegetables, a local type of dried beans and duja, a local sausage preserved in lard. There also were some peas in this version, in addition to the beans. When I tried to understand what I had been eating afterwards I found that the paniscia in Novara and and similar panissa in Vercelli, near neighbors, differ. https://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/news/...

Clearly filling peasant food maybe not meant to be followed by goose but we weren’t going to miss our goose! This hospitable place in its attractive small village clearly did not see many americans or other English speakers but we had a nice chat with the host and a couple of gentlemen who were hanging about. This was a great baptism into Italy to begin our trip.

On the return, our travel arrangements required us to stay at a hotel in Cardano al Campo, near the airport. This was on a Monday night so dinner pickings were slim. We weren’t up for Michelin star dining either. After striking out at what seemed to be the best Monday pizzeria, we headed for Ristorante Il Ghiottone nearby, which has rooms as well as an informal restaurant. What appeared to be a husband and wife team served good value meals in a friendly setting; some venetian specialties but we decided to have the risotto alla Milanese and osso bucco, served together on a plate, 15 euros and some spinach. This, followed by a quite good semifreddo with poppyseeds in to made for a satisfying and tasty final dinner. We would return. The town also has a good market – near the centro, and the nearby regional parks along the Ticino river are pleasant for walking if you have a car and time to kill before travelling.

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