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Apr 8, 2009 12:16 PM

the "best" of Northern Italy?

My son wants to "eat his way through northen italy" for his graduation present... What are the places we shouldn't miss? While we would love a couple of major event restaurants, we actually prefer less dressy, less fancy places with simply amazing food. We are literally going to build a two-week itinerary around eating....

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  1. I believe the Piemonte (in the very northwest of Italy) has the best food and wine of all the regions in the country. Torino, the capital city of the region, is underrated and under-visited by most American tourists. The food/wine in and around Alba is especially good.

    Do "Search this board" searches for Piemonte, Torino, Turin, Alba, Asti, etc. and you should be able to turn up a good number of recommendations.

    I would also recommend 2 books - The Slow Food Guide to the Osterias of Italy and Faith H. Willinger's "Eating in Italy - A Travelers Guide to Northern Italy."

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT

      i agree about piedmonte. i didn't realize how good the food would be--overall better than rome, florence, emilia-romagna and venice. stylistically, it's almost like a frenchified italian--but in a fantastically good way. piazza duomo in alba serves high end modern food while trattoria della posta was amazing classic piedmontese food. both were outstanding.

      della posta is a particularly good value for a michelin starred restaurant. when i order white truffle on my taglioni it was literally a blizzard of shavings. my reaction went from: 'that's a nice serving' to 'wow, that's a lot' then to 'holy crap how much is this going to cost!' thankfully, they're just very generous with their truffle portions! to put this in perspective, i'm 100% sure that a similar amount of white truffle in the us would have cost at least $250 and be shared over 5-7 courses compared to what i got for a $40E plate of pasta!

      the other must go place is osteria francescana in modena. hands down, best italian restaurant i've ever been too. perfect combination of classic modenese cookery with molecular gastronomy. cutting edge technique without ANY compromise in flavor. i love batali and all, but babbo is a candle compared to the bonfire of flavor at francescana!

      this is a great article summarizing the debate between the two great regions. fyi, bruni knows his italian. he used to be the rome bureau chief for the times before moving back to the US!

    2. I don't think you can go wrong following DavidT's advice but we spent a very enjoyable and Chowish two weeks in an apartment in Verona, doing day trips and eating ourselves practically senseless and felt we had only scratched the surface. In particular, our lunch at Giusti in Modena is something we remember fondly and talk about often. There have been 2 or 3 other posts about Giusti in the past couple of years which you should search for as well.

      My post about Verona, Mantua, Bergamo, etc:
      My post about Giusti in Modena:

      1 Reply
      1. re: GretchenS

        I was certainly not suggesting spending two weeks entirely in the Piemonte region of Italy. It is just that the Piemonte tends to be off the beaten track for many tourists visiting Italy.

        The other culinary highlight of northern Italy clearly is the Emila-Romagna region (Bologna. Modena, Parma, Ferrara, etc.). Nearby cities such as Mantua and Verona are certainly worth a chowish visit as well.

      2. there are a number of major food regions and types of food in northen italy -
        Im not even sure how you are defining it. I was initially thinking of north of Tuscany for example. What geography are to including.

        you definitely should look at books like Fred Plotkin and Willingers guides, tho hers is fairly dated at this point to get the lay of the land. consider too when you will be travelling - you may not find the hot emilian plain, or Venice or florence, that inviting in midsummer, for example..

        1. My wife and I rent a car and wander all over Northern Italy every year (well, twice last year). We’ve enjoyed truly memorable meals in the Piemonte, Lombardia (Milano and the Lakes), in both Trentino and the Alto Adige, the Veneto (not Venice), Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna, Le Marche, Lazio, Umbria, Toscana, and Liguria. Our memorable meal in Aosta wasn’t for the food, although it was good, but for a new rush of customers coming in about 2:00 p.m. after the lunch crowd left. It was mostly old geezers (like me) when I noticed the attractive, young, scantily-dressed waitresses had done a shift change and there were fresh faces. The English version of the Slow Food Guide, “Osterie & Locande D’Italia” is our bible.

          We tend to hang out mostly in the Piemonte for the food, the wines and the beautiful countryside. The Piemonte has very little traffic and tons of places to stay and eat in all price ranges. Here’s a picture looking west towards La Morra and Barolo from Monforte d’Alba on 12-9-08.