Piemonte dining report
My partner and I drove from Trento to Alba on Thursday, stopping in Masio, just east of Asti, for lunch at Trattoria Losanna. The original plan was I Bologna in Rochetta Tanaro, which we have been to before, but I needed to trim the budget so I chose this because it has a bib gourmand in Michelin. Though it was a bit hard to find, it obviously has a strong local following. The short menu is recited by the waiter, who spoke some English. We chose a mixed antipasto, a tajarin with porcini, tripe stew with potatoes, carrots and beans, and roast veal with potatoes and carrots. Good regional cooking, generous portions. With a 15 euro bottle of Barbera d’Asti 2009, water and coffee, the total was 55 euros. We enjoyed this very much.
That night we ate at at La Torre in Cherasco (thanks to allende for this rec). We started with an antipasto in three parts (smoked mackerel on a bed of potato, veal meatballs and stuffed zucchini blossom) and vitello tonnato. We then shared a tajarin with chopped chicken livers. For mains we had sweetbreads with porcini and potatoes and guinea fowl breast with baby zucchini. We shared a dessert of a chocolate almond fudge with zabaglione. Everything was very very tasty. With a 15 euro bottle of Barbera d’Alba and water the bill was 75 euros. I would highly recommend this place.
On Friday we took the scenic drive from Alba via Savona to Genoa. After a pleasant walking tour we headed to lunch at Antica Osteria di Vico Palla, which has been mentioned on this board but with little specific information. It has a bib gourmand in Michelin and the prices looked very reasonable. The clientele appeared to be virtually all local and it was very busy. We had a mixed antipasto of various vegetables in filo pastry and squid ink taglierini with stewed octopus, then ricciola (amberjack or yellowtail in English) and cappon magro alla Genovese, a seafood and vegetable salad with a shrimp, mussels and greens. We enjoyed all of it. With a bottle of Ormeasco at 18 euros, water and coffee, total was 78 euros. After lunch we strolled through the new branch of Eataly. It is very spiffy and rather pricey, and seems to be more oriented to dining than shopping, as the meat and fish were all packaged, I did not spot a butcher or fishmonger’s counter. Big windows with nice views of the harbor though.
Dinner was at Trattoria Cascina Schiavenza in Serralunga d’Alba. This is a real find, and reservations are a must. It is very popular, and all the tables (8 of them) were filled by 8:30. Walk-ins were turned away. This was the first place where we heard anything other than Italian spoken since Venice. There were Italians, Germans and Americans among the clientele. The food is incredible, the sort of stuff we dream of. Started with an assortment of antipasti, raw veal, vitello tonnato, roasted yellow peppers with bagna cauda and crespelle stuffed with béchamel and porcini and topped with parmigiano. Next we shared veal ravioli with butter and sage, and then had beef braised in Barolo and roasted guinea fowl, both served with polenta and carrots. For dessert, chocolate and almond bunet (pudding) and poached peach filled with chocolate. Though this may seem like a huge amount of food, it was all done with a light touch and the pacing was perfect. And the wine. Schiavenza is a winery, and the selection includes both their own products and those of other producers. We chose their Barolo Bricco Cerretta 2003 for 29 euros. It was absolutely incredible. Barolos are normally way above our price range, but this was a bargain and too good a deal to pass up. Water was included and there was no cover charge. Did I mention the excellent bread and breadsticks? Total was 90 euros.
Saturday we drove through the Langhe, passing through La Morra, Barolo and Dogliani, then headed to Cuneo. I was unsure what to expect there as it is generally ignored by tourist guides but being the capital of the region, I figured it should have something going for it, and indeed it did. There is a grand piazza in the center, and a charming old quarter with an arcaded main street and narrow streets and alleys running off it. Not having gotten any restaurant info, I relied on Michelin and we checked out the menus at three places as we strolled. We ended up choosing Osteria della Chiocciola, and had a fabulous lunch in a beautiful upstairs dining room with a high ceiling and huge wooden beams. We shared a starter of tongue salad with red onion, pignoli and balsamic, and then potato gnocchetti with castelmagno cheese sauce. For main courses we chose veal with olive tapenade and loin of pork with a mustard gravy. Both were served with zucchini and carrots. All were exceptional. The wine list is very impressive (there is also a wine shop and wine bar on premises). I picked a Roero Braja Riserva 2007 from Deltetto (17 euros). This was a superb wine, less heavy than Barolo but still full-bodied, very easy drinking. With water and coffee, total was 61 euros. We skipped dessert because there is a branch of Grom on the main piazza and we were very happy to have some gelato there.
Saturday night we went to Il Centro in Priocca d’Alba. This is fine dining at a bargain price, though I can’t say the food was any better than the previous night’s at Schiavenza, just a bit more creative. The big difference was in the formality. While Schiavenza is casual, with the two servers in t-shirts, Il Centro has waiters in dark suits and ties. The customers were more formally dressed too. The owner and staff were exceedingly gracious. After an amuse-bouche of enoki mushrooms in a white bean puree, we were served three antipasti in separate courses, roasted peppers stuffed with tuna, with anchovy puree, pastry basket with vegetables, tomato and bits of rabbit sausage, and thin-sliced pork filet with red cabbage slaw and basil sauce. Then came pastas, agnolotti with porcini and ricotta, and tajarin al sugo. Next we had beef cheeks with figs and mashed potatoes, and roasted chicken breast (a local breed only available at this time of the year) with tomato and onion, and potatoes. Some people were having a cheese course in place of the meats, though cheese can be ordered after as well. We skipped the cheese, but for dessert we shared a cassata piemontese, which was a semifreddo with candied fruits and a nut sauce. Last were some delicious petit fours. We had the same wine as at lunch in Cuneo, but this time a 2006 (a bit more intense) for 25 euros. Water was included in the price, and the total came to 125 euros. The clientele was mainly Italian and most seemed to be regulars.
This is my last report from Italy as tomorrow we are off to France.
via Garibaldi,13, Cherasco CN, Piedmont 12062, IT
Sestiere Cannaregio,3844, Venice, Veneto 30121, IT
Via Umberto I,8, Priocca, Piemonte 12040, IT
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Antica Osteria di Vico Palla
Vico Palla, 15-r, Genoa, Liguria 16128, IT
Via Mazzini,14, Serralunga d'Alba, Piemonte 12050, IT
Osteria della Chiocciola
Via Fossano,1, Cuneo, Piemonte 12100, IT
Via San Rocco,36, Cerro Tanaro, Piemonte 14030, IT
We ate at Cascina Schiavenza which is located just outside of Serralunga d'Alba. There is a spectacular view facing east from the terrace and from the side of the restaurant one has a gorgeous view of many of the various barolo vineyards to the west.
The restaurant itself is a physical gem. A simply appointed spacious dining room with 16 tables. A staff which couldn't be more friendly in its welcome or more competent in its service. It could be the envy of many trattorie. This was indeed a trattoria that had all the makings of a place that becomes a destination for multiple meals over many years. There is only one problem... the food is mediocre, both in its execution and quality of the ingredients.
The menu is limited (and recited). Four antipasti, two primi, four secondi and perhaps five desserts. The wine list contains only the Cascina's wines (the wine we drank, a 2010 Barbera, was good, if a bit thin and a bit too acidic). My wife had the crespelle con asparigi which was good. The vitello tonnato, however, was not. There were three thick slices of cold grey veal not a rosy color to be seen in any of the slices. It was old; it was tasteless; did I say it was cold. It was on a plate, with a huge lump of maionese, devoid of any tuna flavor, plunked down between the slices. No garnish... nothing. The tajarin with ragu was a jumble of poorly made pasta with an absolutely tasteless sauce, as were the ravioli with sage and butter. The bunet was hard and also tasteless and the tiramisu was not much better.
With all due respect to the poster above, it pains me to give this review to a restaurant so highly thought of ; it really does. However, with so many good osterie and trattorie in this area, south of Alba, this is not a destination to be sought out, at least for us.