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Restaurants in Piemonte (Part II from earlier)

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oregonjim May 9, 2012 05:38 PM

Monforte d’Alba:

Did not really eat here as we got in toward the evening and had eaten a huge lunch so we were really pretty full and about an hour or so after we got in from walking around the small town it started dumping rain. Given that our hotel was at the top of the hill going out meant at some point a steep back walk up the hill it just didn’t seem worth it. However, we did have a glass of wine at the hotel, winebar, restaurant La Saracca and that is one interesting place. Very modern setting literally crammed into a very old building. Very good wine program and they do a large “happy hour” which if you did in the States would make your place completely mobbed with people there for the free food. Our hotel (Hotel Beccaris) did not do lunch or dinner although, interestingly, they have a quite excellent wine list that runs pretty deep in Barolo. There breakfast however was probably the best one we had in Italy with large selections of fruits, breads, cheeses, meats and juices and their lattes were exceptionally good.

Barolo:

Rossobarolo: My allergy attack was really still bothering me, the medication had made me woosy and I was getting the sense that I was not well too boot. Anyway this is a terrific little osteria in downtown Barolo that I would have loved to really eaten at. As it was I could barely finish 2/3rds of my plate of risotto Barolo. Kate’s tajarin sugo was heavenly. Nearly completely orange in color was the pasta and the sugo was perfectly done and applied in a nice proportion to the pasta. Other dishes that went to other tables including gnocchi, carne crudo and rabbit all looked exquisite. We were only having lunch as well so I suppose the dinner service has other nice items as well. Service was very generous and gracious. Wine list is quite good although we went very simple and I barely had a glass as it was. We tried to go back the next day but that week they switched their day closed from Monday to Wednesday due to the Tuesday holiday. Bummer for us as we ended up settling for a much lower quality place in town although it did have outdoor seating which was nice on that day and we lowered our expectations.

La Morra:

Ristorante Bovio: Kind of sucks to a) go to a restaurant with an incredible view on a very rainy and foggy evening when b) you are a bit sick, have had an allergic reaction earlier in the day, are laboring from the effects of the medication you took to deal with the allergy yet can’t get any medication for the sickness because it is a national holiday and the pharmacias are closed. That was my lot for the evening. We had an asparagus risotto and a quail salad as starters. Both were quite good and I even nearly finished mine even though it was quite thoroughly “restaurant style risotto” (e.g. lots of butter and cheese). By the time entrees rolled around I was sort of out of it but I don’t think the stew-like thing I got was very good and I doubt I would have been happy with it had I been well (in all likelihood I would have ordered something else had I felt well) but Kate wasn’t a big fan of the veal she had. While cooked perfectly they used far too much not very high quality balsamic vinegar on the outside so every bite had a sickly sweet flavor to it that wasn’t very appealing. It seemed that this place was going for overly fancy and appealing to a mass audience (a group of what had to have been 50 arrived during our entrees). I wouldn’t say it is not worth going to as the view would be amazing, the food is not terribly expensive, the service is decent and the wine list is deep, broad and exceptionally well priced (many mid 90s Produttori cru bottlings for 50 or 55 euros for example). I would get an antipasti and a primi and a couple bottles of wine and leave it at that. Have a bigger or later lunch that day. I think this has been mentioned before.

Osteria Veglio: I guess this is technically down the hill from La Morra but probably easier to find by associating it with the bigger town. We came from our morning tasting at Renato Ratti and ate out on the terrace overlooking Barolo on a beautiful, warm day. Hard to improve on that. Excellent version of vitello tonnato. Probably the best one we had on the trip as the veal was perfectly cooked and very fresh. The carne crudo was exceptional. Perfect seasoning and temperature. Just the beef, no egg. Pastas were delicious and cooked beautifully. Your Italian needs to be better than anywhere else we went but that’s fine. Wine list has very nice local choices although we went with pink wine just because of the day. An absolutely lovely setting that could easily be run crappily and do fine given the location but this is run with passion and care. A definite do not miss if you are in the area.

Cherasco:

Osteria La Torre: I might suggest taking a photo on your phone of the menu that is hand-written in front of the restaurant. That will be the only menu you see. The menu is then recited to you and explained as best they can (knowing food Italian definitely helped out here). However, even if someone read me their menu in English I would have a hard time remembering all the primi choices by the time they got to the end so the pic on the phone would be helpful in this instance. The restaurant is very lovely, feels homey and smells great. The service, as you can tell is quite intimate. Wine list is hand-written so if you aren’t used to reading Italian writing it can be a little difficult to read each selection but it is smartly chosen and littered with excellent values. The food is fairly standard Piemonte fare but done quite well. We split roasted asparagus and a pasta course then had escargot (not the normal butter and garlic version) and rabbit. Both were excellent and we were very sated by the end. The cheese course is outstanding and I can’t even figure out if they charged us for it or not. Exceptional selections and a wealth of them on the plate. That is something not to miss here for sure. Definitely a place worth seeking out and certainly a lovely and romantic little spot.

Alba:

La Libera: We were looking for something easy after the dinner at Osteria Veglio and this worked great. Nicely appointed place a few blocks off the main piazza. Standard Piemonte fare that was very nicely done (we just had a pasta course each). Excellent wine list with plenty of stuff with 8-10 years of age to it that isn’t marked up crazily. Cheese plate was excellent to say the least. The “self-service” Grappa came as a bit of a surprise (they just give you 2 glasses and whatever Grappa you order and plunk it down on the table-they charged us 4 euros each) but we were happy to have it once we realized we just poured for ourselves.

Barbaresco:

Antica Torre: Right across the cobblestone street from Produttori del Barbaresco. Barbaresco is tiny (in case you didn’t know) and there are only a handful of places in town. We had lunch here. They are generally open Monday, Wednesday and Friday for dinner but they decided to close for dinner this particular Friday. Very typical fare done in a nicely rustic and comfortable setting. We sat in the fairly large outdoor seating section in front of the restaurant. Ate sugo, vitello tonnato and the like. All very good, filling and fairly priced. Good wine list of mostly Barbaresco wines at good prices. Other folks have gotten more excited about this place. It is very nice but if you have had sugo, etc. at other places this won’t amaze you with innovation or uber-quality. Good solid stuff and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re in that part of the world I feel like places like this (low key) tend to appeal to me more than fancier places anyway.

  1. d
    DavidT May 9, 2012 08:19 PM

    Thanks for your report. The eating in the Piemont could be the best in Italy, if not all of Europe.

    Glad to see you visited Cherasco, a really charming town. We ate at Osteria della Rosa Rossa there many years ago. Also glad you got to the Ratti winery. We visited there even longer ago. I remember they had a nice collection of antique wine making implements.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT
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      oregonjim May 10, 2012 07:52 AM

      Ratti does still have the museum but it is in their old facility across the road from their state of the art, very modern and very cool winery. I don't think they make much of an effort to push people that direction. It was mentioned only in passing to us and only because we knew it existed. I doubt it would have come up had we not said something. Cherasco is very cute. We wandered around a bit in the morning when we did a drive by just to make sure we knew how to find it that evening. Probably overlooked since it's not Barolo or Alba or La Morra, etc.

    2. e
      ekc May 10, 2012 08:57 AM

      Thanks for another great report J! Makes me want to go back!!

      1. r
        rrems May 10, 2012 09:02 PM

        Nice report. I loved La Torre and La Libera too. Next trip you must try Cascina Schiavenza and Il Centro.

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