Piemonte 2014 and some links to previous years
We were up in Piemonte for nine days. Stayed in La Morra in a wonderful apartment, with a good kitchen and with a terrace which overlooked the beautiful Barolo vineyards below and the snow covered Alps in the distance. Ideal apartment. We ate out, but not twice a day as we usually do when we stay at our favorite B&B in La Morra. Took great advantage of the wonderful markets, particularly in Dolgliani and Bra (Friday). The Dolgliani market of the contadini is fantastic. This is a side market to the regular food market. Really special. Twice a week, Tuesday and Saturday.
The Langhe was spectacular… totally in bloom at the end of April. It is an area that is so overlooked by English speaking foreigners. With its great food (in the Gambero Rosso and The Osterie d’Italia, there are more listings for Piemonte than in any other region of Italy) and wine and cheese (IMO more great cheeses, by far, than anywhere else in the North, with Bra the epicenter; so many small great producers!) and beautiful scenery, am not sure why that continues to be so. We’ve been to Piemonte more than sixty times over close to forty years and there is always something new to discover. We’ve been there in all four seasons and it’s a lot of fun, in different ways, in each. As good as it gets in the fall because of the white truffles in October and November, it is delightful in the Spring.
Below are two links to past posts. Hopefully these links and this posting will be of help in planning a trip. We hope to be in La Morra again for two weeks in about a month. We have some new places to try and some old favorites to revisit.
1. GUIDO RISTORANTE at the Fontanafredda winery, near Serralunga d’Alba, equidistant from La Morra and Barolo, 10-15 minutes.
I’ll start this review of Guido in Serralunga d'Alba by saying that over 40 years (and more than 1500 meals eaten out), the lunch we had this past Sunday was one of the best. Everything about it was perfect as far as we’re concerned.
Here’s the story. At one point in the 70s and 80s, Guido in Costigliole d'Asti was generally thought of as “the best” restaurant in Piemonte. The cooking of Lidia Alciati was really good and the wine list was second to none. We went there a number of times and thought it was great. Then the family business split. Two of Lidia’s sons opened a separate restaurant in Polenza and another opened in Santo Stefano Belbo.
Ugo and Piero Alciati now have Guido Ristorante near Serralunga d’Alba on the old Fontanafredda winery estate. The winery is owned by Oscar Farinetti who founded Eataly. Don’t let that influence your judgment. We didn’t know what to expect before we went. We very much admire Farinetti for his business acumen and for spreading the gospel of Italian food products far beyond Italy. We don’t like his stores and so normally we’d be turned off about going to a restaurant at a place he owned. We didn’t have to worry about “Eataly” at Fontanafredda. The restaurant, Guido, is totally separate from the trattoria and the other parts of Farinetti’s project which, in all honesty, are done in very good taste. The grounds themselves are pristine and beautiful. Dazzling. Long winding trails, flora…essentially you are walking through an old well maintained estate. Farinetti has spent a great deal of money to bring the Fontanafredda estate back to its glory. And it is glorious.
When we saw the building which houses Guido we were also apprehensive. The old hunting lodge is formidable. It once belonged to Vittorio Emanuele ll. It has been restored to pristine condition. The frescos are on the high vaulted ceilings and the chandeliers are weighty and the rooms are huge, but somehow it all works very well. Of course, what also helps is that the chairs are the most comfortable we’ve ever sat on in a restaurant. The place had a warmth, and you actually felt at home with the grandeur. The dining room is headed by Piero Alciati and the feeling that he has created is delightful. The service is flawless, but informal. It is very comfortable, not one bit of hauteur, and you feel welcomed in the restaurant. The staff (who by the way are dressed very nicely, but casually), is headed by Josh Eisenhauer. They are amiable, very knowledgeable and well trained by Piero.
The kitchen is headed by Ugo Alciati. The dishes were perfect. His food is all about substance over hype. There was not one, repeat, not one dish, or part of any dish, that was not excellent. All we can say is bravo! A classic menu with a few twists. Beautiful plating, but not done to make the dishes a work of art; nothing fussy as in so many other restaurants of its type. Portion size was again excellent, not too much, not too little.There were seven tortelli on the plate, not three nor fifteen. His ingredients are first rate; incredible flavor. Ugo's skill is on par with great French chefs, those of yesterday (e.g. Alain Chapel, George Blanc) and those of today. In Italy, it is rare to find the level of his culinary skill combined with an “Italian soul.” Often, it is one or the other. He’s got both.
What did we have that makes his cooking so exciting. I started with the antipasto of Gallina Bianca e Uovo Vapore; you haven’t seen a yolk like this, nor a gallina that tasted like this. And here is where someone like Piero shines. My wife didn’t order an antipasto. Piero didn’t want her to sit there with an empty plate. He brought her an incredibly delicious portion of vitello tonnato. The taste of the veal was etherial. A small gesture, but that’s the way to run a dining room.
For a primi, I had agnolotti di Lidia al Sugo D’Arrosto and my wife had Plin di Patate con Asparagi. Our standard for stuffed pasta is our friend Bruna Santini. Ugo’s was every bit as good as Bruna's and even better than his mother Lidia's many years ago. And here again is Piero the consummate maestro… he wanted us to try another pasta and so out came a dish of Plin al Tovagiolo. We then had two more fabulous dishes: La Finanziera Piemontese e Alici Fresche; "Caldo e Freddo” di Faraona e Fegatini, salsa di Marsala. What more can I say. Well dessert… have Ugo’s Fiordilatte Mantecato Al Momento and it’ll be hard to ever eat ice-cream again. The rest of the menu was equally as appealing as what we had and we’re looking forward to trying all the other dishes.
The wine list is excellent. Nothing, of course, like the old Guido (nothing but Bardon can compare to the old Guido), but you’ll have a field day with the Barolos and Barbarescos at extremely good prices. We drank a 2006 Barbaresco, La Spinetta, Starderi (105 euros). We needed a partial second bottle (we took the balance home) and so had a 2007 Barbaresco Cigliuti (55 Euros). The cost for the food was 160 Euros.
It was our first time at the “new” Guido. We’re always suspect of first impressions and that might be the case here. However, Piero and Ugo have been at this for a long time, under the great tutelage of their mother and father. As long as they keep doing what they did on Sunday, this restaurant eventually will be recognized as one of the great restaurants in Italy, similar in stature to the restaurant that their parents had many years ago.
2. OSTERIA LA TORRE in Cherasco: 15 minutes from La Morra.
One of our three favorite osterie/trattorie in Piemonte (the others are Bardon and Veglio). La Torre has never failed to be anything but an excellent meal from the standpoint of dishes, quality of ingredients used, wine list and service (with one of the two brothers who own La Torre, Gabriele Falco, in charge of the dining room).
A modern space (but not minimalist) in a very, very old building, it is extremely comfortable: Tables well spaced, but not too far from one another, excellent lighting; noise level very moderate even when full (on a Wednesday night in mid April it was half full). It is a casual place with professional and very friendly service. And there has been a major change since we there last June. There is now a written menu for Marco Falco’s wonderful food. He really gets it right; an excellent cook. Seven each of antipasti, primi and secondi.
The menu changes seasonally, but a few old standards always remain. Additionally, there are piatti del giorno written on a chalkboard. Here are some of the dishes on the menu the evening we were there: trippa di vitello in umido; uova con cardi saltati e fonduta di Raschera; cipolla ripiena di se’, amaretti e fonduta; baccala con carciofi; tajarin con ragu di coniglio; gnocchi al Castelmagno; risotto al barolo; lumache ai porri di “Cervere”; and an incredible cheese trolley.
From the stuzzichini through the Barolo Chinato (Cocchi) it was an excellent meal. Trattorie don’t get much better than this. Here is what we had: stuzzichini: zucchini soup; a thin wafer with the “the sauce” from vitello tonnato thickened a bit. For antipasti: insalata russe with vegetables slightly pickled; bietola dumplings with fondue; a tortino of sardines and anchovies with lightly sauteed onions. I had roasted totani (a daily special) stuffed with a (forcemeat, sic) of fish, in a light ceci sauce, more like a soup with ceci and the totani. Then we both had perfectly roasted faraona with roasted potatoes and zucchini (al dente) and tomatoes. Such a simple dish. First you get the very flavorful faraona… For desserts a torta di ciocolato with zabaione (a killer) and a hazelnut semifreddo, served with a bit of chocolate and strawberries. Excellent desserts. We had a 2010 Barbera Roberto Voerzio Vigneti Cerreto, from just down the hill here in La Morra (28 euros). Total check, 92 euros including wine.
Not much more to say. Wonderful dinner.
3. LA COCCINELLA in Serravalle Langhe
When I make a mistake about a restaurant, it is usually a big one. A few years ago, I wrote on this board that La Coccinella in Serravale Langhe was nothing special (but not bad in any sense) and I would not go back. My wife disagreed and we went back. As is usually the case (perhaps 99% of the time) she was right. What a great lunch. We’re aleady planning to be back in June.
Serravalle Langhe sits high on a hill, and there is a 360 degree view of the Langhe. From the dining room, which seats about forty, there is a clear view of the Alps in the distance. The dining room is basic Piemontese, but very comfortable. Tables are well spaced and the noise level is moderate, as it was last Saturday at lunch when we were there. Service was excellent, with two of the three (brother) owners in the dining room. The service was well paced even though the restuarant was full, about 40 people.
The menu is pure Piemontese, but with slight twists e.g. Plin di Coniglio con Olive Nere e Sugo di Arrosto; Quenelles di Seiras con Quaglia e Pancetta. It was difficult to decide what to have. That’s one of the reasons we’ll be back in June. Outstanding were the Tonno di Coniglio con Fondente ai Peperoni; Rolata di Agnello con Patate Ripiene di Cipollotti e Lardo; Galletto Nostrano Ripieno di Verdure Primaverli con Uovo di Quaglia; Plin di Coniglio. Excellent ingredients and a chef (the third brother) who knows what he is doing. Not surprisingly, there was a very good cheese course. Wonderful desserts e.g. zabaione freddo served with the Italian equivalent of a "Lorna Doone”, two thin shortbread wafers with marmalade.
We drank a 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva (70 euros). Total bill 140 including 70 for wine.
Definitely a place to go to in The Langhe.
4. OSTERIA VEGLIO. Just below La Morra in Annunziata.
Had another wonderful meal as we always do; it is probably the place up here that we eat at the most. The osteria was full, but Fiorenza and her staff of one didn’t miss a beat in the dining room. Professional but informal service. It was a touch too cold to sit on the terrace overlooking some of the great Barolo vineyards, but she told us everyone at lunch sat there.
I’ve written a lot about the food at Veglio (which you can see in the links), so won’t go into detail. Just to say once again, that for those of you who are vegetarians, this is the trattoria to go to in the Alba area. In addition to lingua di vitello and tajaran al ragu etc, there was an insalata vegetariana, a frittata di verdure primaverli, pasta gran euro con coma di rape and an all vegetarian minestrone.
We drank a 2010 Barbera, Renato Corino, Pozzo (34 euros). Total check, 100 euros including the wine and two glasses of Barolo Chinato.
5. LA SPERANZA in Farigliano, about 20 minutes from La Morra. Two gamberi in the Gambero Rosso.
Maurizio Quaranta was the chef at a Michelin starred restaurant near Alba. He left in 2008 and he and his wife opened La Speranza.
A bright modern airy trattoria with dishes from the Piemontese tradition that do not simply repeat the standard fare available in many of the restaurants in the region. A welcome change from the required Piemontese restaurant menu. For example, the plin are stuffed with lamb and mint (rather than the classic roast meat filling). Tagliatelle are available with ragu, but also with triglie and carciofi (in season now). The secondi were served with an attractive and tasty selection of vegetables. Other dishes that seem interesting were: gnochetti di farina integral e uova al Gorgonzola e radicchio; terrine di frettaglia e pistacchi. All of the products are strictly local. The cheeses were a wonderful selection from small producers known to the owners. Really excellent desserts. We had a sorbetto di mele mantecato al calvados con caramello e noci; and a semifreddo al torrone, salsa di cioccolato.
A good wine list priced very reasonably. We had a 2010 Barbera, Vajra Superiore (32 Euros).
Food was 71 and wine was 32.
If you are in the area, highly recommended.
6. DEL MERCATO DA MAURIZIO in Cravanza, a few km from Serravalle Langhe.
We thought there were a lot of hazelnut trees around here in La Morra. There, there were kilometers of trees. Really. The trattoria had a great writeup in the Osteria d’Italia (with a snail), and a great writeup in Gambero Rosso (with two gamberi). Nice space. Classic menu, carried out no better than okay. Mediocre wine list (although we had no trouble with a 2010 Barbera Pellisero for 28 Euros). Very nice owner. There are fifty of these places around here. Nothing was bad, but would not go back and would not recommend it to anyone because there was nothnig outstanding. Hey, but you have to try them… sometimes you find a gem of a trattoria e.g. Bardon, La Torre in Cherasco, Veglio.
As a tourist who will only have a couple of days in the region next month, I greatly appreciate your detailed report. It's invaluable to have current specifics about dishes, wines and prices, particularly from some one interested and knowledgeable. It's a great service performed with excellence!
Thanks so much for this report. I always enjoy reading about your experiences.
I'm just curious why you never mention Cuneo. On our last trip to Piemonte in 2011, we really enjoyed our visit there, and the restaurant Osteria della Chiocciola, where we had a wonderful lunch.
The town seems to be completely off the tourist radar, so it's quite unspoiled, and not terribly far from Alba, so it makes a very nice day trip from Alba or La Morra. Have you been there, and do you have any comments about the town and the food options there?
We have been to Cuneo (and the surrounding area) a number of times, but not for a long time, so have no current thoughts on food options..
Absolutely agree with you that it is a wonderful place and totally off the beaten track. The cuisine is a bit different from The Langhe and the area just north; unsurprisingly, more French influences and more fish than normally found in other parts of Piemonte..
We'll probably go on our next trip in June, not to the city, but in the countryside where my wife has two osterie that she'd like to try.
So many places, so little time :)
You should get a Chow award Allende.
We are in the very initial stages of a 10 day Piemonte/ER trip in the fall for the truffle festival. I was considering staying somewhere between Alba and Asti but now that I'm marking down some restaurants perhaps south of Alba is the way to go. Most likely it will be a 3 night visit on the 3rd week of October or so, before moving on to Parma
Any further tips on location, and on what to do and eat from anyone would be greatly appreciated.
If you are going to stay in The Langhe, there are good places to eat south of Alba e.g. Da Renzo, Osteria Veglio, La Torre in Cherasco, Guido (at Fontanafredda) as well those north toward Asti e.g. Il Centro, Da Bardon. There are many others as well. These happen to be some of our favorites.
If you want to stay at a great B&B in La Morra overlooking the Barolo vineyards, you might consider this one owned by a good friend of mine (full disclosure).
Not even sure where to begin.
I'm radio talk show host in San Fran. Wife works at Millennium restaurant in city. Staying in Cerequio right now, and just found your review.
You should be paid.
Soooo... She's vegetarian, so I have the one recommend. That said, this area is overwhelming.
Obviously we love wine. Be nice to try some Barolo without breaking the bank entirely.
If you want to throw out some musts I'd appreciate it surely.
Staying at the Palas Cerequio? Seen the LeWitt chapel?
I think the best way to try great barolo without breaking the bank is by the glass. Many of the restaurants will have them and certainly the wine bars in La Morra and Barolo itself.
Also the Enoteca Regionale in Barolo has perhaps a dozen available by the glass and because of the turnover the wines are always fresh. The same thing, to a lesser extent, with the Cantina Comunale in La Morra, just off the Belvedere Plaza going toward the two churches.
A must? There are so many good ones. In Cerequio, one of the most beautiful parts of the area, you're in Ceretto country and it is one of our favorites. We like Elio Altare the best, but we seem to be in a minority.
Glad you enjoyed the reviews. If you have any other questions, just post here.
It would be great for this board to get some feedback re the places you go to. It always helps people to have different views of places.
Allende I am so exited by your post! We will be in the Langhe for three nights in early November, and then two nights in Barbaresco. Thinking of a truffle hunt at La Casa del Trifulau. Good idea? Nizza Monferrato is on our list, as is Bra, La Morra, Cherasco, Pollenzo, Barolo. An embarrassment of riches, but we have yet to choose restos. The question is, how to eat just 5 dinners in Piedmont. And which wineries to visit. You've been so generous already, but do you have any thoughts?
You're going at what is usually a perfect time.
A couple of questions for you and a few comments.
Truffle hunt. You'll go out, get wet, get very cold, might find a truffle or two (most likely planted). We did it one time many years ago. Would just rather eat the truffles, which you'll be doing. But others find it fun.
When you say "on your list" are these places to see or to eat?
If in Bra, you might go to Giolito (http://www.giolitocheese.it ), given your interest in cheese (your next post). Fabulous store. Nothing like it in Piemonte as far as we know.
Can't help you on wineries. We haven't done it in a long time.
n.b. Barbaresco is part of the Langhe.
Aw, really? Planted truffles! Don't mind the cold and wet but you got me there.
Definitely those are places to see, and likely eat. But you can only eat so many meals... Agree on Barbaresco but using it as base for Monferrato sites.
Thanks for Giolito. Will definitely be in Bra and will check it out. Everything is close enough together, and we don't mind organizing our touring around dinner destinations, so really asking for 5 great meals...
Our favorite places to go for dinner are what I've written many other times. In no special order, Bardon (cheese lover; you won't believe the cheese cart); Il Centro in Priocca; La Torre in Cherasco; Guido at Fontanafredda; Da Renzo in Cervere; Veglio in Annunziata, just below La Morra. Bardon, La Torre and Veglio are trattorie.
Barolo, Pollenzo, Nizza Monferrato. Am not aware of any really excellent places to eat in those towns. Nor in Barbaresco.
Glad you enjoyed Osteria Veglio. Were you able to try some Barolo without breaking the bank? Where else did you eat? A report here would be good so that people perhaps get a different picture from what I paint.
The grocery store, in La Morra, is pretty amazing. The amount of "stuff" they pack in is quite funny to see (including all those clothes).
On a day to day basis, their vegetables, surprisingly, are excellent. My wife asked the owner how they do it and their answer is that they do not buy wholesale very much, but use the local farmers, particularly those around Dogliani.
Cicoria, special chard (not the usual bland kind), field greens, rape'. Quite impressive.
Yes, that store is outstanding... When they're open...
Ate at OSTERIA More e Macine, which is a very simple place, but very good. Outstanding wine list for such a tiny spot, and you could stand at the cheese counter and dine simply if you choose to.
I suggest everyone do a wine tasting at Michele Chiarlo's Palas Cerequio. The sommelier and b&b Manager Roberto is just fantastic.
Living close to Napa and having so many tasting experiences provides me with a bit of insight. Roberto is phenomenal. And the food at Cerequio, where we stayed was also first rate. The menu was similar to other places, with flin ravioli, tajarin with different sauces, veal, etc but everything we ate was great. And the views overlooking cru Cerequio is very nice. You can even see snow capped mountains in distance.
We actually avoided Barolo mostly minus the one bottle from Altare. It's just too much wine without proper food.
The fresher langhe nebbiolos, as well barberas and and barbarescos were more my speed.
The allure of Barolo is strong, but again, not a wine to be had alone, or with vegetarian meals (I ate meat). However, that 1987 Altare we had was so shockingly light and fresh. Just a special glass of wine.
And now I'm in Florence...
Piemonte 2014 is now more than a possibility for us, and some Emilia Romagna to boot. Well, more than some. Here's whats booked so far...
Tota Virginia in Baudana - 4 nights
Antica Corte Pallavicina - 1 night
Bologna - 3 nights
That leaves me with 2 more nights in the Parma area. Any reccos for another culinary inn of some sort?
Glad you enjoyed the information. There should be more in a few weeks after we finish our next trip starting next week.
I haven't mentioned the town of Barolo too much because there isn't a lot there. I hadn't even realized there were hotels in Barolo itself. Are you sure you're staying in the town?
In any event, we used to go to Osteria Rosso Barolo for light lunches. It was good, but the woman owner became a pain in the neck so we stopped going. We've eaten at a number of places in town, but can't recommend anything good and that's why I haven't written about them.
Barolo is a strange town. Very small. Very touristy.
The whole area around Barolo is small and it is easy to get around relatively quickly (e.g. 10 minutes to La Morra and not much more to Alba).
Unless you absolutely don't want to drive, your best bet by far re places to eat is to get out of Barolo.
The markets. Alba has a good market, the regular one and the "farmers'" market. Bra has three markets, two regular and one "farmers'". We like Bra better than Alba (but Alba is a wonderful town to walk around) and in Bra you have the cheese store Giolito which is great (Piemonte has an incredible number of outstanding cheeses). Above, I wrote about the farmer's market in Dogliani.
Anything else, just ask.
You are very kind, but may regret that last sentence.
(1) We are renting an apartment (TorreBarolo) for 2 weeks in Barolo, and then spending a few days in Cerequio.
(2) When you refer to "farmers" market, is that Saturday in Alba, Friday in Bra and Tuesday in Dogliani?
(3) Where can I find a good macelleria and cheesemonger close to Barolo?
(4) Any experiences with the following restaurants: Felicin, Le Casa della Saracca, L'Osteria del Vignaiolo, Osteria dei Catari, Trattoria della Posta (all in Monforte), Centro Storico, La Rei (all in Serralunga), or L'Osteria del Vignaiolo, Bovio (all in La Morra)?
I won't regret that last sentence as long as you give a full report after you finish your vacation.
Torre Barolo looks like a very interesting place. If you can get the owner to introduce you to her friend Elio Altare, you'll have a good time... and drink very well. One of the real gems in the area.
I should clarify markets. What I referred to was the normal fruit and vegetable (and other food products) on the one hand, not grown by the sellers, and the farmers' markets... growers selling their own vegetables and fruits.
Tuesday in Dogliani, both a regular and a small farmers' market. My wife tells me there is also a much larger farmers' market, and a regular market, in Dogliani on Saturday. Alba, a regular market on Tuesday and both on Saturday; Bra a regular market on Friday (two different areas, one near the station and one near The Duomo) and a farmers' market on Saturday. If someone would correct me if I have the dates mixed up, would appreciate it.
There might be a good macelleria in Barolo, but I don't know for sure. There is a decent one in La Morra and several really good ones in Alba and Bra. Cheese, there is, of course, Giolito in Bra and there are a few decent ones in Alba, but nothing like Giolito. There are two good cheese stands in the Bra market (the upper market near The Duomo) on Friday. There is also a decent fish stand at the same market.
Restaurants. Is this the list from TorreBarolo? From our point of view, eliminate Felicin; della Posta is okay; Saracca is a very good wine bar; we don't know Catari nor that Vignaiolo. We haven't been to Centro Storico, nor La Rei. In La Morra I've written about Osteria Vignaiolo and Bovio... just search. We got tired of sub par ingredients, ambience, service and tour busses at the former (note that we're in a minority).
Bovio has a great wine list, mediocre food and no warmth to the service.
Hope this helps a bit.
TorreBarolo does look like an interesting place. One look at that roof-top terrace, and we were sold. The owner has promised a list of her restaurant recommendations; but the list I have provided here is what I have gathered from Antonio Galloni and friends from the wineberserkers.com bulletin board. You seem to be focused upon what I am looking for: more tratteria/osteria locales frequented by Italians and not Michelin-starred placed overrun by tourists. Ambience, service, warmth and traditional Piemonte cuisine is what I am interested in.
As for Elio Altare, I have been in email contact with Beatrice Bongiovanni and plan to schedule a visit prior to our arrival.
What do you know about Nieve? I have visits scheduled with Sottimano in the morning and Produttori in the afternoon, so am looking for a lunch spot in that area.
Thanks again, Jeff
I respect Antonio very much with regard to wine, but not with restaurants. Tornavento, please. Marea in New York, please again.
Re Neive (n.b.). You're obviously very interested in wine. You want to go to osterie and trattorie. Bardon is 30 minutes away. A wine list in a trattoria not to be believed. You're on that side of Alba so it makes perfect sense.
Perhaps my friends Peter R and Jeff C, and others, will chime in.
I presume the reservation question is a general one. We think it is always a good idea to make a reservation. You want to make sure the place is going to be open. It sometimes happens that for one reason or another it will not be open even though it says it will be. Second, restaurants do fill up. We've seen people turned away at many of the restaurants I've mentioned that we like in Piemonte. Most of the places we like have no more than fifty covers, so you never know.
As a general rule, we've seen that Italians are terrible at making reservations in advance. They can't understand why there is no place for them when they appear, when all it would have taken was a phone call the day before.
Unless there is a ponte, a Saturday night or Sunday lunch or a holiday, in Piemonte, a few days in advance is almost always enough particularly in June when you're going to be there; October and November are a different story.
As for restaurants in Neive, at all costs avoid La Contea. It is a tourist trap. Much better and rather charming is La Luna nel Pozzo -- family run, nice service3, good wine list and food that is above average, although not stupendous. We have not eaten elsewhere in Neive, although we enjoy walking around the village and almost always stop there at least for a coffee. If you are headed to Barbaresco for your winery visits, you might want to consider lunch at Tre Stelle just up the road from the town. Not at the level of a Bardon or others that allende mentions, but the food is solid and the service polished.
I have reviewed your many posts about Piemonte and am so grateful for your kindness in sharing your dining experiences. Two additional questions if I may:
(1) I rescheduled a winery visit my first Tuesday in Barolo so I can visit the market in Dogliani. Where will I find this wonderful contadini market? Is there anywhere in Dogliani you would recommend for lunch or on the drive back to Barolo?
(2) Are there any agriturismo in the area that you would recommend for simple, rustic fare in a friendly setting?
Tuesday is a huge market day in Dogliaini. The market, on two parallel streets, runs for about half a mile. Most of the market is your typical town market i.e. clothes in one form or other. At the very end is the regular fruit and vegetable market and behind that, tucked away in a small space by the water, are the contadini.
We don't know of any place in Dogliani to eat. It is, however, a good opportunity to have lunch at La Torre in Cherasco if you're so inclined. Only 20 minutes away and on the way back to Barolo. Or Veglio, which is a touch farther coming back, but even closer to Barolo after lunch, and if it is a nice day, you've got a beautiful terrace to sit on overlooking the La Morra and Barolo vineyards.
Sorry, that we can't help you re any agriturismo, but there should be others here who possibly can.
here's a list given to me by the fine folks at Elio Altare, that I used for a friend as well:
Small family run hotel in La Morra:
HOTEL CORTE GONDINA * * *
Via Roma 100
12064 La Morra
Tel. 0039 / 0173 / 509781
Fax. 0039 / 0173 / 509782
Palas Cerquio - We stayed there. Fantastic
Brand newly restored resort in the middle of the vineyards, amazing view on the rolling hills with swimming pool
PALAS CEREQUIO * * * *
Barolo Cru Resort
12064 La Morra
Tel. 0039/ 0173/ 50657
Fax. 0039/0173/ 509424
Simple family run agriturismo
AGRITURISMO FRATELLI REVELLO
Frazione Annunziata 103
12064 La Morra
tel 0039/ 0173 50276
fax. 0039/ 0173 50139
simple family run agriturismo, famous for the tasty breakfast, ideal for families with kids with swimming pool
AGRITURISMO CASCINA DEL MONASTERO
Frazione Annunziata 112 a
12064 La Morra
tel 0039 / 0173 509245
fax 0039 / 0173 500861
Simple family run agriturismo
with swimming pool
AGRITURSIMO BRICCO DEI COGNI
Località bricco dei Cogni, 39
12064 La Morra
tel 0039 / 0173 / 509832
fax 0039 / 0173/ 500014
Simple family run agriturismo
AGRITURISMO IL GRAPPOLO
Via Fornace 33
12064 La Morra
tel 0039 / 0173 509254
fax 0039 / 0173 50271
We stayed a Palas Cerequio. Roberto and Jayne are phenomenal people and hosts.
The food there is fantastic, and Roberto is as good a Sommelier as you're going to come across, although you'd never know it judging by his disposition.
They gave us numerous places to stay while we were there, and Roberto knows, having worked in a 3* Michelin rated restaurant himself.
Veglio is a 5 minute drive, and La Morra is walkable, if you so choose. Actually, Elio Altare is definitely walkable from there as well. I would also look to see if you can get into GD Vajra, which is close by. Their Barolo Albe just received huge reviews, and isn't over-the-top price-wise.
Why worry about getting in there? Most tastings are the same, and the facilities damn similar. Clerico's facility is absurd. Roagna, Scavino, Vietti, Altare, Voerzio, GD Vajra, there are so many! Don't get hung up!
I'd try to get into 2, tops, but then again I'm not a huge fan of hanging around wineries when all the wines are available every place else...with food!
Very well said. Totally agree.
Jeff, in Piemonte most of the wineries are the same, at least they were when we did them, many years ago.
We got to know Gaja well and his great place was no different from any of the others, and as weinish said, all the wines are available at other places... with food. You'll even find many restaurants that you go to, have glasses that you want to try. In fact, most of the restaurants that you want to go to will have them. Some of them, not all, will open up a new bottle and just pour you a glass. Niceness counts for everything in Piemonte and if people are very nice, the Piemontese respond in kind, many times over.
There are so many outlets for tasting... Barolo (multiple places), where you'll be staying, La Morra (multiple places) and others. You might pay a bit, but will never have to feel that you have to buy bottles from a winery that you are visiting.
Allende- I have been following your reports on Piemonte and have learned so much. We are staying in La Morra from July 5- July 12. After much searching on the web I was able to find out that La Torre will be closed after Juy 6 so I made a reservation for lunch on July 6:-) Do you know if any of the shops in Cherasco are open on a Sunday?
Also do you know if Ristorante Guido is open for lunch during the week?
Thank you so very much
Come and enjoy a different wonderful robiola every day, could be the motto for The Langhe as far as cheese is concerned. Apply it to wine and you have the essence of the area. Oh, and the view from the top of La Morra looking west to the (still) snow covered Alps is breathtaking.
We were up here again for two weeks. Didn’t eat out as much as we normally do because the vegetables from the contadini at the markets here (particularly Dogliani on Tuesday and Saturday) are really great.
Here is the restaurant report.
1.Da Bardon 2 km south of the small village of San Marzano Oliveto. Between Nizza Monferrato and Canelli.
The last meal of this trip will be written about first. Why? Because of all the places we like up here, in its special way, we like Bardon the best. Not necessarily in any one area, except for the wine list which is by far the best for us. But, overall, Bardon is the place we most like to go to and even though it is 45 minutes from La Morra, we go there more often than any place else other than Osteria Veglio, which is 5 minutes away from us.
The service (all family) is excellent; the food is very good and is different in many ways from other places up here (and in some ways is the same because of many of the classics). The ingredients are first rate (there is no better carne cruda for us); the skill level of cooking is very high for a trattoria (for us, their plin are our favorite). But what really differentiates Bardon from other places is the intensity of the flavors of food. The roasted rabbit and faraona that we had today were simply amazing in the taste. I had the plin and my wife had tagliatelle verde with walnuts and robiola. For dessert, poached peaches and vanilla ice cream. Two glasses of grappa ,one from Gaja and another from a producer Il Giovane.
Among many other things on the menu today were finanziera, gnocchi al sugo di vitello, stinco di vitello and also of maiale, gnocchi al sugo di salsiccia di Bra, bollito misto
I told one of the brothers who own the place that I dream of his wine list during the winter. Am not sure why (perhaps because we’ve been there so much) but he said “you’re going to be the only American who has a copy.” (who knows if that’s true, but it sounded good) And so I have a hard copy of the incredible wine list of 34 pages (e.g. several hundred barolos). We drank a 2004 Barbaresco La Spinetta Starderi; excellent. Yes, there are the barolos and barbarescos and barberas that are expensive (and some which are not), but there are also lots of nebbiolos and dolcettos at 12 Euros a bottle.
Total was 248. Food was 58 Euros, wine was 190 Euros.
A wonderful trattoria. Go.
2. Locanda Dell’Olmo in Borgo Marengo south of Alessandria.
Two gamberi in The Gambero Rosso, one snail in Osteria D’Italia. Usually means a really good trattoria. Great description in both books. Close to the Piemonte/Liguria border and the place was said to reflect both in its menu.
What a disappointment. Mediocre at best. Menu had one dish (cima) that was Ligurian. The rest was run of the mill Piemontese dishes that you can find in 50 others places up here. Food was mostly tasteless. Don’t know what the guides are thinking. Wasted meal. Skip this place.
3. La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe.
Monday lunch, but the restaurant was full as it was a long ponte with the Festa della Repubblica. All Italians except for us and an Australian couple.
Excellent meal once again, with different choices available from what we had last month. There is a full fish menu as well and it looked enticing, but we stuck with non-fish. I guess if I were asked what one thing, among many, distinguishes La Coccinella, it would be the robustness of the taste of the dishes. Not strong in an overpowering way, but the tastes of the ingredients stand out and the dishes are well seasoned. Other things that stand out: wonderful, polite, informal, but professional service; very good wine list; excellent grissini:), I mean really good.
I started with the Quenelle di Seiras con Quaglia e Pancetta and my wife had the plin stuffed with rabbit and olives with a sugo arrosto. Then a Tagliata di Coniglio con Asparagi gratinati e nocciole; and the Agnello con Patate Ripiene di Cipollotti e Lardo. All four dishes were really good. A wonderful cheese course finished off the meal.
To drink we had a 2005 Barolo (the 2006 was all gone), Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Francia. Excellent if a touch young.
Total bill was 218 Euros. Food 68 Euros; the Barolo 150 Euros.
To put Coccinella in perspective as to where it is: about 35 minutes from Barolo; about 20-25 minutes from Monforte d’Alba. Lovely scenic easy drives from both towns.
4. Osteria La Torre in Cherasco
In all the times we have been here, it has only been for dinner. The first time this week (we went a second time) we went for lunch and the place didn’t miss a beat. As I’ve said before, in their new place, La Torre has one of the most pleasant dining rooms up here from a physical standpoint; good sized tables well spaced, a modern, but not austere, room.
Gabriele (in the dining room) and his brother Marco (in the kitchen) make a perfect pair. Courteous friendly service and excellent cooking. The fact that there is now (since November) a written menu and a blackboard of piatti del giorno, will make it easier for non Itaiian speakers to order, in contrast to before, when Gabriele recited the menu.
The place in its current location (two years) is tucked into a side street, not under the arches as it had previously been. Cherasco is a lovely town, but really off the beaten track up here compared let’s say with Monforte d’Alba which is flooded with tourists. In all the times we’ve been to La Torre, there have been only one or two times where, except for us, there have there been any non Italians.
The brothers are originally from Cuneo and you’ll see that reflected in a few dishes not from the standard fare of The Langhe. In fact, that is one of the things that distinguishes La Torre from most other ristorante, trattorie and osterie up here. Yes, the classics are on the menu, but there are Langhe dishes that you don’t often see on menus (e.g. finanziera, as rich as can be). The other thing that distinguishes it, is the level of cooking. It might say Osteria La Torre, but Marco’s cooking is at a very different level from most places of its type up here. A much, much higher skill level compared to fifty other trattorie that we’ve been to up here over a long period of time. For those of you familiar with the area, a comparison would be appropriate; The skill level of cooking at Il Centro at Priocca (very high) and the skill level at Bovio here in La Morra (toward the low end).
What did we eat? Three stuzzichini: fried brains; crostini di fegato; giardiniera (with the vegetables having a very slight pickled taste). Then for a first course I had the classic peppers stuffed with tuna and my wife had the the sardine torta. For the second course tajarin with coniglio and I had the fegato. First class ingredients, perfectly cooked. Some of the other dishes on the piatti del giorno were caponata; cappesante; coniglio Langarola (with peppers) and for dessert, zuppa di fragole. On the regular menu, some of the dishes were risotto al ortiche; guanciale di vitello; baccala confit.
For dessert we had a semifreddo of zabaglione.
We drank a 2010 Barbera, Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile’. Excellent.
Total check was 79 Euros, 51 for the food, 28 for the Barbera.
We went again, for dinner, a week later. Another excellent meal. All different stuzzichini, including deep fried testa which were delicious. All different piatti del giorno. Among the dishes we had were seppie arrosto with assorted roasted vegetables; rognone trifolato; tajarin with rabbit; a peach torta. All really good. Could eat here once a week because Marco changes the menu often. To drink a 2010 Barbera, Roberto Voerzio, Cerreto. Two glasses of Barolo Chinato to finish off dinner.
Total check was 89 Euros, 59 for the food and Barolo Chinato, 30 for the wine.
5. Il Centro in Priocca, an easy scenic 20 minute drive northwest of Alba.
As I’ve written many times before, one of our favorite restaurants in The Langhe. Superb cooking by Elide and the dining room is handled expertly by her husband Enrico. You can read past postings for more detail.
We hadn’t been there since Easter lunch last year. Only one thing has changed and that is, as La Torre in Cherasco has done, a written menu. Enrico still recites the piatti del giorno, but he said that this way was a bit easier with regard to non Italian speakers. Written or not, it is still a great menu, combining some of the classics that you see on almost every menu up here, with those Piemontese dishes that you rarely see.
Quality of ingredients is superb, higher than any place we know up here. Elide’s skill level is truly amazing. Her cooking is light, but intensely flavorful.
Here is what we had. Two stuzzichini: Deep fried acacia flowers, a local specialty, with a batter so light it was almost translucent; then carne cruda, the meat from calves that eat only hazelnuts for the last few months of thier lives. Excellent. For an antipasto, we both had asparagus two ways: a few were deep fried and the others were wrapped around thin slices of flavorful fish. Then my wife had a terrine of carne bianca (rabbit, chicken and turkey) and vegetables, served with a parsley sauce. Fantastic! I had the roasted quail with leeks. For a secondo we split polpettine, made with meat and innards (think finanziera) in a tomato based sauce. Dessert… hazelnut cake, as light as can be, and a rich orange zabaglione, made from yolks you rarely see. A 2006 Barbaresco, La Spinetta, Starderi to drink. My wife’s favorite barbaresco.
Among other things on the menu: a bollito misto: lumache al verde; tajarin di coniglio; creme di cipollotti; risotto con le rane; gnocchi di ricotta di capra; crostatina al albicoche.
Total bill was 220 Euros: 100 for the food and 120 for the barbaresco.
One of the real gems in The Langhe. Don’t miss it.
6. Osteria Veglio, in Annuziata, just below La Morra.
A beautiful day so we sat outside under the covered terrace with the vineyards below. In the (short) distance the view is of Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga D’Alba. Right up the hill is Roberto Voerzio, Elio Altare, Mauro Veglio and just to the west is Cerreto. All the great Barolo vineyards, and today in full bloom. Marvelous view and the food was marvelous as well. That’s why we keep coming back, over and over and over.
Simple food, well prepared. Excellent ingredients, wonderful service. No pretense. Exactly what you want in your local trattoria. Again, as I’ve said before, this is a vegetarian’s delight; the chef is a vegetarian.
We had pasta gran duro with asparagi and mozzarella; coniglio sott’oglio, insalata di fagiolini; cartoccio di verdure e formaggio fresco; tagliata di vitello (really excellent veal) and for dessert, semifreddo di torrone. A 2011 Barbera, Sandrone to drink.
Total check was 100 Euros; 66 Euros for food; 34 Euros for wine.
Just a great place. Go.
re: jen kalb
Nothing much out of the ordinary, but the flavors are much stronger than what we get even in Tuscany. And the contadini have picked them that morning.
So the normal vegetables of the season: string beans; leeks; great tomatoes; zucchini; flat broad beans; flat broad peas (like snow peas).
The ones that are only seen in this area don't even have names from the contadini. Most of them are greens of some type. Very thin long chard, incredibly flavorful (not like the usual chard) and many varieties of field greens (to be cooked) and special greens to be used in frittate.
Salad greens are totally different from Tuscany.
That's basically it.
I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy, 2.5 weeks of which was spent in the Piemonte, (Barolo for 2 weeks and the last 3 nights 2 miles away in the vineyard of Cerequio at Palas Cerequio). We had a fantastic stay, thanks in large measure to Allende's dining recommendations. I hope to post my experiences in this thread over the next couple of days. Stay tuned.
We were in The Langhe again the other day and had dinner at La Torre in Cherasco, one of our favorite trattorie. The next day we had lunch at Il Centro.
Il Centro in Priocca
We’ve written about Il Centro many times (just look at the links to prior posts). What can we say that we haven’t said before. That it is by far our favorite restaurant in Piemonte. That every meal we’ve ever had there, by ourselves and many with friends, has been a gem (that’s consistency1).
Of all the great meals we’ve had there, and there have now been eight so far, this one was the best. Elide and Enrico Cordero, and their son Giampiero run an incredible restaurant. Very understated, no glitz, just great food, a wonderful wine list, a very comfortable dining room and excellent, excellent service. The Corderos aim to please and they do.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Elide uses great ingredients and cooks them to perfection. The concept of the dishes is spot on and the plating is perfect. She is fabulous. Her skill level is very high, with antipasti, primi, secondi and desserts (try that crostatina alle prugne if it is on the menu).
In addition to Elide's wonderful menu and great dishes, you have Enrico and Giampiero in the dining room. They are professionals in every sense of the word and make a meal there incredibly enjoyable. Both are extremely knowledgeable about wine and have created a broad wine list that is very reasonable priced.
We started with a stuzzichini of marinated tuna on a bed of zucchini and intense zucchini puree. Then, for me the dish of the year: a cestino di parmigiano, con funghi porcini, with the funghi simply indescribably good. We have never tasted anything like them. Never! And that’s the beauty of the ingredients that The Corderos seek out and use.
The other dishes that we had were: melanzane tomino, salsa verde; risotto con fonduta di Taleggio e tartufo nero (generously shaved and with great flavor); fegatino di coniglio con cipolle marmellate; pollo all cacciatore (a cliche, that I hadn’t had in thirty years and would not have ordered any place but here; this was not Bresse chicken, but it could have been). For dessert, gelato al torrone con biscotto di nocciole e pistacchi and the crostatina.
We drank a 2007 Barbaresco La Spinetta Valeirano.
The total bill was 233 Euros. 118 Euros for the wine and 115 Euros for the food.
With all the great places in The Langhe, if we had to pick only one restaurant to go to for consistently great meals, Il Centro is the one, just as Bardon is, for us, the one great trattoria to go to. And, as I said, this does not take anything away from any of the other wonderful places up there.
La Torre, Cherasco
The previous evening was La Torre. Another excellent meal in an equally appealing setting. I’ve described it before and henjef provided wonderful photos two months ago when he and his wife were there. Modern, clean lines, a garden area in the back when it is warm enough to serve in the evening. Owned by two brothers, Gabrielle in the dining room and Marco who is the chef.
It is always a treat to go there. Almost always totally Italian clientele, though Gabrielle said that for the next two and a half months they have a lot of reservations from Americans which is unusual for them. Told him why I thought this was now the case.
The staff in the dining room is very good, particularly the head waitress. Always smiling, curteous and making sure you’re looked after. Gabrielle can be a bit quirky on some nights as he was last Wednesday. It’s not you. He’s very friendly, sometimes just a bit quirky. Ignore it. Marco is always gregarious, but typically doesn’t come out until the service is mostly through.
Again, wonderful trattoria cooking, with a few twists reflecting their backgrounds. Always a lot of daily specials dpending on what Marco wants to cook, but also a menu with many traditional dishes. A very good wine list with reasonable prices.
What did we have: A mixed antipasto plate: the traditional peppers stuffed with tuna; fried anchovies; terrine of vegetables with bagna cauda… all very good. I had Tajarin al ragu di salsiccia di Bra. For a main course, my wife had the roasted faraona with perfectly cooked vegetables and I had the quaglie ripiene di fegatelli di pollo al Marsala e amaretti. Again, both dishes used great ingredients and were well cooked, which has been the case in all the times we’ve eaten there. Marco knows what he is doing. This is not your usual Piemontese trattoria. Among the many other dishes we could have had were: mille foglie di pomodoro; coccote di lumache alla parigina; muscolo di vitello al vino nebbiolo; finanziera; ravioli verde ripiene di Seirass e erbette al pomodoro.
Excellent bread and grissini.
La Torre has an great cheese trolley so we had a cheese course to go with the 2010 Conterno Barbera, Cascina Francia (one of our favorite barberas). Then a hazelnut semifreddo with yellow raspberries for dessert.
Total check 100 Euros, including 36 Euros for the barbera. Go!
A few more things. As in many trattorie, if you want your check, you get up and go to the cassa (if not you’re going to be sitting for a long time:) . It would appear that the 2014 vintage is going to be poor. Tremendous amount of rain… and cold. We saw the same thing in other parts of the north. We didn’t stay in our apartment in La Morra because unfortunately we were only going to be there one night. Stayed at Casa Pavesi in Grinzane Cavour. Excellent!
Well Ziggy, you're going soon, correct? Have fun.
The fact that the vintage in all likelihood will be poor (unless revisionist history comes into play which is often the case), is just part of the normal cycle. There have been so many incredible vintages in the first decade of the century, that there is plenty of great wine there for a long time.
Meant to say (unless I said it and can't find it) that the photo is of Giampiero Cordero in the cantina. After you pay your check, and if it is not busy, ask to see the cantina. It's really great.
Allende, bravo on an excellent report and for the reminder of how valuable a resource for dining in Italy you are. When we read guides and books about dining, we have no idea how often or how long ago the author has eaten at a particular establishment. Even write-ups of our one-off visits to a particular restaurant are unreliable because any dining establishment can have a good day (or bad). What you provide to us is an understanding not only of good food, but a frame of reference (8 visits to Il Centro!) and personal knowledge of the owners and chefs we cannot get anywhere else. Not to mention your generosity in sharing this information with others. Invaluable!
A couple of questions if I may:
melanzane tomino--is that basically eggplant baked with Toma cheese?
cestino di parmigiano--that translates as "basket of parmigiano". What exactly is that, and how does Elide work the funghi in?
fegatino di coniglio con cipolle marmellate--I see that Elide is still finding ways to put rabbit livers to use. Was this a particularly rich dish?
The melanzane tomino was a light summer antipasto. It was a piece of melanzane, perhaps 3/4 of an inch thick, baked (not grilled) with lots of herbs, and slightly warm. It was set on a bed of very, very intense salsa verde, and on the plate were several small scoops of fresh goat cheese and diced tomatoes. Mrs. Allende said it was outstanding.
The cestino was a medium size thin basket made of parmigiano. Sort of like a shaped frico from Friuli. Inside the basket were the sautéed funghi. It's easy to make. First you get the funghi...
The fegatino di coniglio was very rich, not so much for the fegatino (although that was rich), but from the cipolle marmellate which was very reduced onions.
Why don't the four of us fly over tomorrow night and try the dishes. My treat.