Report on PIemonte, Sept. 2013
We had a great 4 days based in Alba, just before the Truffle Festival. Happily, the white truffles were already available, and we got in and out before the crowds descended.
We chose Alba as our base because it's pretty much ringed by the country and small-town trattorie and ristoranti so frequently recommended here, and also has at least a few alternatives for lighter evening meals. We thought the centro storico had a nice ambiance, not to mention a very nice hotel just a block from the Duomo (Palazzo Finati, strongly recommended). We even were treated to the first installment of the ornately costumed weekly medieval celebrations, complete with flag throwing teams, that begin the Saturday before theTruffle Festival and culminate in the Palio of the Asses four weeks later. (Look it up.)
We had four outstanding lunches, at Da Bardon in San Marzano Oliveto, at Antica Corona Reale da Renzo in Cervere, at Il Centro in Priocca d'Alba, and at Osteria Veglio in Annunziata near La Morra. Collectively and individually, they were "worth a journey." For these experiences we're deeply grateful to Sgr. Allende of this board, as well as Barberinibee and others who reinforced his recommendations based on their own experience. I won't try to echo their detailed descriptions, but readers should count this as one more enthusiastic endorsement of the lot.
On a less exalted note, in Alba we were satisfied one evening with a nice salume plate and cheese assortment at La Piola, the sister restaurant on the ground floor of the famous (or infamous) Ristorante Piazza Duomo. Other evenings in Alba we were too sated to attempt anything worth mentioning.
Which leads me to a word of caution if not warning to future readers who may, like some past posters, be contemplating more than one of these full-dress Piemonte meals per day. Believe me, unless you have Gilded Age capacity, it is not possible. And it would be a shame to make the trip to one of these relatively remote establishments only to have a dish of soup, or perhaps a pasta or other primo, and nothing else. Because there's a good chance you'd find that that's all you could handle for dinner if you'd had the full treatment somewhere else at lunch.