Asti's most famous restaurant
Another old review this time from 2007:
What strange weather we are having this year, first no rain at all, a real drought, and now in late August it’s pouring with rain. Last night we were in the middle of a two-hour electrical storm and it was still raining this morning. Tim is worried about what will happen to our vines, almost ripe, in this unseasonable weather, so in order to avoid rainy-day-too-close-to-harvest-vintners-blues we treated ourselves to lunch at Gener Neuv, Asti’s most famous restaurant according to all the guide books, which somehow we have never been to in our 6 years here.
Getting there at midday, we were asked to wait for 10 minutes, so we walked along the bank of the Tanaro River, where about 60-70 years ago the town’s laundry-women used to do there work. Today would not have been a good day as the river was muddy and swollen, and since the flooding in the 80’s a containing wall has been built, which provides a nice wetlands walk.
The restaurant itself is an old villa facing the river, with nice gardens; it would be very pleasant to eat outside in summer. The interior is quite small, only about 10 tables in the main dining room, with another room for banquets or private parties. The décor is very cozy and traditional, elegant and relaxed. We were served by Piero Fassi, the owner and after leafing through the well-appointed menu, we decided on the menu tradizionale, the tasting menu, and also opted for the version which included 3 wines recommended by the sommelier (in this case Piero). Although the set was for a minimum of 2 people, Piero didn’t mind that we ordered different primo and secondi piattis, and was OK with changing some of the anti-pasti dishes as Tim doesn’t eat red meat.
We started with a pre-starter, scoops of goose pate, Russian salad and lardo, served with fresh made bread (the pate was exquisite) and a glass of Erbaluce Spumante. Then onto the anti-pasti proper a selection of 4 dishes tastefully presented on a special plate with small bowls (see pictures).
· Hot porcini mushroom – stupendous taste of mushrooms, stands out as it is. Loved this one.
· Pesce Crudo – chopped sashimi style salmon-trout and fresh anchovies marinated, delicious and not fishy at all.
· Carne Crudo (steak tartare) - v. good, but have had better.
· Pepperone stuffed with Tuna - have eaten this so many times before but the difference was carrot mixed in the stuffing, very unusual. Slightly overcooked.
· Vitello Tonato – an old standby, but this veal was cooked to perfection, very pink and tasty, the first time I did not want to eat the tuna sauce.
· Torta with Cheese (don’t remember the name) – in a light puff pastry, sorry can’t remember the type of cheeses, but eating it with the carne crudo was an incredible taste bite. Slight mistake should have eaten it first when it was hot, not last!
Now we were into the second wine Mej Chardonnay 2003 from Langhe. Normally we don’t care for Piedmont Chardonnays, but this was very good, unoaked and with the real Chardonnay fruit taste, not as buttery as the old California style, but equivalent of a good Meursalt.
For the primi piatti
· Gnocchi al pesto – v. good, not doughy in texture and just about perfect (although the gnocchi at the old Barolo and Co. was still the all time best).
· Agnolotti with 3 fillings – small size agnolottis, paper thin pasta and infectious from the first bite! One of the best examples I have had of this classic Piemontese dish.
Somewhere in between we had switched to a Barbera d’Asti, Cascina La Barbietelle 2001, which although had oak in the nose, was in fact a perfectly balanced classic Barbera, not oakey at all as the new trend in Barbera’s. Piero tells us that they use a botte (large oak barrel typically 1000 litres or more) to age the wine and not a barrique, which explains all. Highly recommended.
And now for the secondi piatti’s (OMG, the food keeps coming)
· Faraone (pheasant) – succulent and moist, cooked to perfection, , not gamey at all, in a light sauce, served with sweet semolina torte, wonderful.
· Finanziata – banker’s mixed grill – can’t describe what the meat (s) were (Tim says innards, hence finanziata for a rich dish!), but the composition of the dish was very good with fresh mushrooms (not porcini) – a complete dish.
Just when we decided we couldn’t eat anymore Piero arrived with the mixed dolce plate, and served with a glass of Moscato d’Asti.
· Panna Cotta – old Piedmontese desert, caramelly and refreshing
· Zabiglione – delicious if a bit yolky, which is typical of this dish.
· Bunet- excellent , the best example we have yet had in Piedmont.
· Semifreddo – again the best we have had in Piedmont, sent by heaven.
· Sorbet with mixed berries and Barolo Chinato – wonderful tartness to counteract the richness of the Zabiglione.
And to top it all a glass of Moscato Passito with the plate of sweet nibbles, now the 5th wine out of a course of 3.
After lunch we chatted with Piero and met the cook, his wife Pina. The restaurant was started on Jan 3rd 1971, now 36 years old. It was not cheap, the 2 tasting menus plus wine added up to 196 euro (Tim’s birthday treat) but we could have selected a la carte items from the menu without having to pay the fixed cost. Not a place to eat everyday, but if you want to treat yourself, its up there with Piedmont’s best restaurants. I believe it has a Michelin Star too but can't find this information on-line.
Lungo Tanaro dei Pescatori 4, Borgo Tanaro (Asti), Piemonte 14100, IT