Where to eat/drink in and around Asti
My boyfriend and I are traveling to Italy in early November. We intend to spend a couple days in Asti. We are looking for suggestions of good places to eat dinner in or around Asti (we prefer places that are filled with locals). We are also looking for suggestions of vineyards in the area (we haven't decided if we are renting a car). Thanks in advance.
Asti is not as overrun by foreign tourists as is Alba and the Langhe Barolo and Barbaresco areas so you will always find more locals in the restaurants.
In Asti try the new Osterie Tre Asu on Piazza Roma, very good, we are planning to write a review when we get the time. Pompa Magna has been outstanding this year as is L'Angolo del Beato. Tacabanda has slipped this year in quality, ambience still good, but two bad reviews by our guests in a row, means they are on our suspect list (sorry Pedalforte, you haven't been here for a few years). Osterie Diavolo has new owners and is very good. And the newest and hippest wine bar in Asti is Il Cichetto, run by Franco Cavolotti of Cascina Sant'Agata (the best Ruche producer).
Just outside Asti Madama Vigna in Baldichieri to the West of Asti still shines, and Antico Casale on the same road is excellent. On the East side there is of course I Bologna which has been written about a lot recently on this forum, all of our guests still like it - without a car a taxi can take you. .
If you rent a car further south there are many restaurants posted on this board, just search for Piedmont listings, but IMO if you go into any small town and try the local osterie you will be in for a treat. Likewise the Northern Monferrato is calm and tranquil area of rolling hills, vineyards and hill top towns, with many great little osterie, Il Merlone in Castagnole M. and Da Maria in Zanco come to mind as well as Cascina Rosengana in Cocconato - you will be the only foreigners.
I disagree with David T. about wineries, most wineries in Piedmont are happy to take visitors (except during harvest and crush) although many will need a booking and a lot of them don't have English speakers. There are several "show" wineries, mainly in Barolo and Barbaresco too. The Enoteca's of course are a good way to sample several wines, and I can highly recommend La Signora in Rosso, the regional enoteca for Barbera in Nizza Monferrato, also has good restaurant .But without a car you won't be able to visit wineries, they are none located in either Asti or Alba. - You can get to Nizza by train from Asti.
And lastly it just started raining yesterday after a very dry summer and early autumn, so this augers well for white truffles in November, although my trifalau tells me the growth cycle is still a mystery!
With regard to visiting wineries in Italy, what I meant to say was that many wineries there do not have dedicated tasting rooms, with fixed hours and staffed with a host (or hostess). Unlike the vast majority of wineries in California, you cannot drive around, drop in on any winery you see and expect to find someone there to welcome you and offer you a wine tasting. You really do need to contact the majority of wineries in advance to make an appointment for a visit.
In contrast, the various regional enotecas do have fixed hours, are staffed with someone who can pour & explain the wines on offer and are usually available to visit on a "drop in" basis.
Nizza's enoteca is definitely a good option if you don't have a car.
I've also had some very enjoyable and inexpensive meals in Nizza at Osteria Eneo, Osteria Bun Ben Bon and Le Due Lanterne.
Bun Ben Bon
Strada Vecchia d'Asti, 66, Nizza Monferrato (Asti), Piedmont 14049, IT
Le Due Lanterne
Piazza Garibaldi,52, Nizza Monferrato (Asti), Piedmont 14049, IT
Villasampaguita, I want to thank you for your awesome suggestions. My boyfriend and I went to Pompa Magna and Osterie di Trei Asu. The food at both places was divine!! We loved Osterie di Trei Asu so much we went twice. During our first visit I had their Rabbit in Olive Oil antipasti, and had to go back for another taste. My boyfriend ordered the donkey dish -something neither of us ever thought of eating. And it was amazing!!!
Be sure to go to the upper right-hand corner of this page and do a search for Asti. You will find there are a number of prior posts already here with comments and recommendations.
Il Cascianalenuvo, on the road between Asti & Alba is very, very good if you are looking for high-end dining: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/810642
Many of the wineries in the Piemonte region do not welcome visitors. Instead, there are regional tasting rooms ("enotecas") that feature the wines of nearby wineries. There is an excellent and scenic enoteca in the castle just outside the village of Grinzane Cavour.