looking for north Italy agriturismo with great food/wine
My boyfriend and I will be driving down from Zurich for a week of r and r in August, and we're looking for recommendations for someplace gastronomic to stay. We're open to any region within striking distance--Alto Adige, Piemonte, Emilia Romagna; we'd like to find a restful, picturesque base in the countryside or mountains from which to explore. Our tastes tend toward the simple and rustic; needn't be "fancy," but the rooms should be nice enough to hang out in. Many thanks in advance for any ideas--we're a bit late in the planning.
A report, with many thanks again to everyone who responded with such useful, specific suggestions to my vague query. At the last moment, we found out that Corteforte's restaurant was closed, and we ended up changing our plans and heading for Piemonte, despite the longer drive. We stayed at Castello di Razzano in the Monferrato/Asti area—great suggestion, swiss chef! It was the perfect base-–a working winery and agriturismo, quiet and relaxed, ideal for exploring the surrounding hills, which are dotted with un-touristy, slightly grubby little towns full of vineyards and culinary surprises. We were impressed by the friendliness and graciousness to be found most everywhere we went in the area, despite our poor Italian—and, of course, we were impressed by the food. We barely scratched the surface, but here follows our brief introduction to the area.
Upon our arrival, we went to the simple but very charming Osteria L'Ermite in nearby Castell'Alfero. As with most of the places we went, the antipasti stole the show, all Piemontese classics, carefully executed: peppers stuffed with tuna, vitello tonnato, anchovies in a red pesto, carne crudo (I gave this a pass), etc. Our primi: tagliatelle with a sausage ragu and another pasta with gamberi. We skipped secondi and went straight for the fig gelato to finish. We drank a delicate Ruche from a vineyard literally around the corner: it tasted faintly of rose petals, in a nice way. A small, family place patronized only by locals, and totally unpretentious—our server wore a superman t-shirt, her mother was doing the cooking, and her young daughter helped bus the tables. Recommended.
Also in Castell’Alfero on Serra Perno is the more ambitious but homey Ristorante Casot—here you will find a printed menu. We had a very rich aubergine and tomato tart, more vitello tonnato, and a too-sturdy agnolotti del plin, served in a parmesan bowl that reminded me of American dinner parties of the late 90s. The highlight of this evening was some very delicious lamb roasted with lavender and other herbs. We finished, 4 hours after we began, with a nectarine crostata. They have a large selection of Barberas here—not our favorite grape. The one we chose, at our waiter’s urging, was a barrique bomb. Not terrible overall. . . and yet I might skip this one next time.
Informal lunch on the balcony without reservations at More e Macine in La Morra, following a morning of Barolo-tasting—wines by the glass, very good vitello tonnato, excellent grissini, and a huge hunk of burrata served with tomatoes so luridly, juicily red they resembled organs. Less happily: a seemingly bottomless bowl of inedibly salty anchovies in pesto.
Reservations a must at Osteria La Torre in Cherasco, a town that looks like a film set. La Torre has gotten plenty of Chowhound attention, well deserved. In a lovely back garden, we enjoyed a trio of standout antipasti, a welcome deviation from the usual suspects: a smoked trout salad with rasperries, a tomato and tuna terrine, and a carrot soufflé in a parmesan béchamel—all perfect. The mushroom risotto for two that followed seemed pallid in comparison, but the Barolo—an inexpensive but excellent 2007 Revello—made up for that. All in all, a special place that feels contemporary without being pretentious or formal. Beforehand, I’d suggest a stop by Neive, a tiny gem of a nearby town, for a stroll and an aperitivo.
One lucky discovery was the more old-school Ristorante La Muscandia in Pino d’Asti. We dropped by without a reservation for lunch one very warm afternoon after visiting the Abbey at Vezzaluna. We spent the afternoon on the restaurant’s veranda overlooking the hills, along with a few tables of super-friendly locals. No menu. We were presented with a vast spread of fabulous antipasti, including some very welcome vegetables, but also cold rabbit, along with the other classics (vitello tonnato, anchovies, etc). The pasta was exceptionally fresh: Tajarin ai tartufi and a superior agnolotti del plin. It was 95 degrees + that day, so we opted for an Arneis, but we were the only ones drinking white wine. Lots of back and forth with the truffle shaver with our neighboring table. At the end, we were presented with a truffle for the road.
Again, huge respect to this region. We’ll definitely return and explore further. . . but maybe in the late fall next time.
Ristorante del Casot
More e Macine
12064 La Morra
Osteria La Torre
Ristorante La Muscandia
14020 Pino d’Asti
We stayed here in Emilia Romagna recently and it definitely fulfills all of your criteria. Relatively easy to do day trips to Modena and Bologna but also a great place to relax. We had intentions to eat dinners elsewhere but the food and atmosphere were too lovely to venture out. To put it in context we also ate at La Buca, Da Amerigo, Hosteria Giusti and Osteria Bottega while in the region and our host's cooking was comparable and sometimes even better! The only issue in the area was the regional wine, some surprisingly good, some ghastly.
re: jen kalb
We haven't gone yet--after much highly enjoyable deliberation--we considered every single one of the recommendations above, all hugely appreciated--we booked Corteforte, simply because of logistics, and wanting a shorter drive after a long flight. It was a very tough choice, but maybe we'll still be able to make some day trips into ER. . . Next time we're in Italy, it'll be Langhe, for the Nebbiolo. Thanks to all of you! I'll report back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I'll be drinking plenty of Amarone and taking notes.
enjoy Corteforte, we definitely did. Some of our favorite vineyards to visit besides Corteforte were Allegrini and Quintarelli. Here is a good website, with great restaurant listings. We were recommended Alla Ruota, Da Bepi, Groto de Corgnan, and Al Covolo (which is the only one we made it to).
All these areas you mention have wonderful gastronomical treats, but will add our vote to the stay in Piedmont group. (We will admit to being biased as we have lived here for over 10 years and have an agriturismo B&B in the heart of Piedmont’s wine country). Both Piedmont and Emiglia Romagna have the reputation of being the best food regions in a country that taught the rest of Western Europe how to cook. We are as so familiar with ER but in our few visits we think that overall Piedmont is better for the large numbers of small mom and pop osterie and trattorie and overall cuisine. Of course ER has given the food universe such delights as grana cheese and ham from Parma, balsamic vinegar and many others not least Culatello from the Bassa Parmense (only an hour from where we live in Asti) not to mention many fine restaurants, but in our opinion the Monferrato, Roero and Langhe hills centred around Asti, Alba and Acqui Terme are tops – the “zone” as another poster once put it. And then compare the wine , Lambrusco against the great reds of Piedmont and I rest my case.
Search through this forum for old posts by ourselves, Allende and Erika for suggestions.
Emilia Romagna is definitely a good bet. The bassa area north of Parma has plenty of places that meet your criteria i.e. wonderful food and a room to crash afterwards. Be aware though: in August it will be HOT. These three are all excellent:
Trattoria la Buca (Zibello)
Antica Corte Pallavicina (Polesine Parmense)
Osteria Ardenga (Soragna). No rooms
If you don't mind a slightly longer drive I would suggest that you head for the Langhe area of Piedmont. It is stunningly beautiful and has the best wine and food on the planet. I'm not exaggerating; it's a fact. There are some well regarded agriturismi around Monforte d'Alba, which is a good base for exploring the area.
To stay: La Torricella
Trattoria della Posta
Osteria dei Catari
Stay at: http://www.castellodirazzano.it/ The owners are friends of mine so tell them Eduardo in Zanco sent you and ask for a nice price.
Via Liprandi 50
Tel.: +39 0141907857
Fax: +39 0141907914
Ristorante CASCINA MARTINI
1515030 Murisengo Fraz.Corteranzo (AL
MARCO CASALINI - OSTERIA LE CORTE
Via Odalengo Grande, 2
15020 ODALENGO GRANDE (AL) Fraz. Vallestura
Telephone: 0142 949044
We have been in Monferrato (the area north of Asti) for the last 6 years and I promise you that you won't be disappointed. The scenery is fantastic and there are no tourists. Food and wine here is second to none!
We stayed at Corteforte in Fumane. The region is famous for valpolicella, ripasso, recioto and amarone. The dinner at Corteforte was very memorable, the breakfasts were one of the best European style that we had, with fresh fruit tarts and great coffee.
Here is my full review of the area here:
I found the region absolutely beautiful, easy to travel around, you could hit Venice and Verona if you wanted to or the south shores of Lake Garda. Not well travelled outside of the major areas, which is a real bonus. The wineries were delightful to visit.
Costa D'oro that we visited in Bardolino has an agriturismo too. I suspect it would be very nice as well.
Look no further!
Google Albergo Rosati. Its a ten or so room agriturismo a few km south of Orvieto in Umbria. We stayed there several years ago. Rooms are large and well furnished. But dinner is the event. Usually ten or fifteen at the groaning tables. The owner presides and everyone enjoys, including, some evenings, his neighbors. The wine and grappa are served until gone.
When we were there two of our tablemates told us that they spend three weeks there every year!
Its that much fun.