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Jul 22, 2014 06:37 PM

Alba Truffle Day(s) for Idiots

We arrive on October 24th, staying 12 km south of Alba. So we will have the following day or the next (Saturday or Sunday) to allocate for the Alba truffle fest, before continuing with the Allende-fest!
Any advice on how to best take advantage of our Alba day. Saturday (market day?) or Sunday? Should I book any of the special chef events that day? Do you spend the entire day? Would this be the exception to "better to eat outside of Alba" rule. TIA. Idiot

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  1. Ziggy41,

    We've only been to the truffle fair in Alba once, many years ago. Perhaps it has changed, but at the time it was nothing special. Some events that showed the Italian penchant for stupid frivolity (similar to the TV shows), but not much more. Then there were the truffles themselves for sale on the open tables. Sales, some, for show, definitely. The truffle sales in some of the smaller towns are more fun to observe.

    Alba is jammed, which is both good and bad. Alba is simply a great town, truly superb, but when overly packed it is not as much fun as usual.

    Would this be the exception to "better to eat outside of Alba" rule. I think not, but as you've seen from many past posts, I might be in the minority. For what it's worth, we've been to almost all of the several places in Alba that people on this board have raved about. In my mind, some are fine, most are not. But within a 20-25 minute drive from Alba, there are places, IMO, that are much, much better. You'll be staying south of the city, so that makes it even easier for you.

    If you go, I'd probably go on Saturday, so at least you would have the market, which while not great, is a lot of fun. Don't forget that there are two parts to the food market.

    The "real" truffle experience is in the places to eat. The smell just permeates many places and when shaved on simple dishes (eggs and fonduta in particular and pasta and risotto not that far behind), it is a unique experience.

    Speaking of restaurants, friends of ours just came back from a two week trip to Barolo. Among other places they ate were: Bardon, Centro in Priocca, La Torre in Cherasco, Coccinella (I think twice) and Veglio. Hopefully, after they settle down, they will write a bit about the trip on Chowhound and give you another perspective on the places. Hint: fantastic trip. The restaurants, the food, wine and the visits to a few great wineries.



    1. I will certainly defer to Allende regarding the Truffle Fair. We were near Alba during the fair in 2010 but did not attend (long story).

      One of the best truffle dishes we had during that trip was at Villa Tiboldi outside of Canale (127 Case Sparse). Cheese souffle topped with truffle shavings. They bring out the truffle, weigh it, and start shaving - you decide how much you want. Fantastic restaurant with a gorgeous view over the surrounding hills. Highly recommended.

      1. Thanks to you both. Villa Tiboldi is on the map as a possible stop, and I believe the first saved item. I also inquired about staying there initially. Pictures look stunning.

        Allende, looking forward to your friends report (if they choose to do so). Appreciate all your advice.

        I do have one more question. I normally dont seek tours of any kind when in Italy but in this case would anyone recommend someone to tour the area with for half to a full day that would be much more enjoyable than self touring

        19 Replies
        1. re: Ziggy41

          Are you thinking of a tour of wineries, or other sights in general?
          I have a winemaker friend in La Morra and I can ask her if she knows of anyone who conducts tours in the area.

          1. re: ekc

            Sights in general...
            Area food purveyors
            A winery
            His/Her's favorite village/town, etc

            1. re: ekc

              Unless Allende is available...

              1. re: Ziggy41

                Would gladly do it, pro bono, but unfortunately will not be there at that time :)

                Favorite town clearly is Alba, but again, don't bother to eat there. There is so much better outside the town in the countryside.

                Area food purveyors. Not sure exactly what you mean. If you're looking for interesting food stores I would say Bra and Alba. Other than that there are the markets which I've covered in other posts. People have to remember that The Langhe and the area around it, particularly north, are all very small towns with not much going on in the way of food stores... a butcher, a baker, a cantina communale, a wine store or two etc.

                Sights in general. You are staying (south of Alba) in some of the most beautiful territory. The small villages and countryside are stunning. Another thought is the Piazza Belvedere in La Morra where you're looking down and out on fabulous Barolo vineyards (from three of the Barolo areas) and the French and Italian Alps toward the west and northwest. And you can eat at Osteria Veglio five minutes away or La Torre in Cherasco less than 15 minutes away.

                1. re: allende

                  Sights in general. The large piazza in the "upper town" (up the paved road incline, not too steep, of about a quarter mile) in Serravalle Langhe.

                  It's a 360, but the real beauty is looking from southwest to northwest over the vineyards and to the Itaiian Alps in the distance.

                  And as an added bonus, La Coccinella is on the Provinciale five minutes back down the road.

                  1. re: allende

                    Do you mean the main square in Serravalle, Piazza Luigi Ravina? There's a church, tower, nice views on top of a small soccer field?

                    1. re: Ziggy41

                      Ah, so you know it. Don't know the name of the Piazza (although from Google it looks like Ravina), nor the small soccer field, but the church is there as are the views.

                      Been to Coccinella?

                      1. re: allende

                        Oh, I just Google drove it ;) Thats the extent of me ever being in the area. Never been to Piedmont

                        1. re: Ziggy41

                          Ziggy 41,

                          Here is a picture showing the view from across the street from La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe.

              2. re: ekc

                OK Zig, I finally received a reply from my friend Silvia Altare and here were her two suggestions for tours in the area. The said both ladies were great and to certainly use her name.

                SILVIA APRATO
                TASTING TOURSĀ® di Aprato Silvia
                Via degli Alpini, 6 -14019 Villanova d'Asti (AT) ITALY
                Tel. +39 0141 948467 - Mob. +39 393 6353479

                or second option

                MARIA BELLINGERI

                Silvia also sent me a list of restaurant recs for her area (and I can attest that she has a very good food and wine palate) that I will email to you, to supplement Allende's always excellent suggestions.

                1. re: ekc

                  Hi ekc,

                  Would you share with the board, Silvia's list of restaurants for her area.

                  Many thanks.


                  1. re: allende

                    I will be happy to - once I have time to re-type the list (she sent a .pdf).

                    Soon, I promise!

                    1. re: ekc

                      Hi ekc - any chance you've had an opportunity to type/post the list as yet? We're heading to the region in a few weeks and would love some hints and tips. Many thanks.

                      1. re: Skelse

                        Skelse, there was another thread about this. look for it in the July pages

                        1. re: Ziggy41

                          Thanks Zig, have had a trawl and can't seem to find it (but I'm probably not looking in the right place)... no matter, think we'll be hitting Da Bardon, Osterie Veglio and perhaps More e Macine for a light meal if we can squeeze it in. We're only there for a weekend so it sounds like we may have to return.

                          @Allende - many thanks for all your posts (through the years), your contributions are clearly not wasted and I plan to take advantage as best I can. Fantastic work.

                    2. re: ekc

                      And Zig, if you want to visit Altare, I am sure we can arrange something. :-)

                      1. re: ekc

                        Thanks so much for this ekc. Really appreciate it

                  2. allende, jeff or anyone else,

                    Now that I know that the best way to enjoy the truffles is with eggs, which of your favorites does it well?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Ziggy41


                      There is no "best" way. Eggs are one good way and the way I prefer, but pasta is another (but not with a heavy sauce) and certainly fonduta and carne cruda are delicious as well with truffles.

                      For me, I would choose Il Centro and Bardon for a dish with shaved truffles. We have only been to the "new " Guido at Fontanafredda once, and only this past spring. I would imagine that they would "do truffles" quite well, but. of course, don't know for sure.

                      The main thing is to have truffles shaved on simple dishes and dishes without assertive ingredients.

                      Have a lot of fun. I'm envious. We'll be in Piemonte for two days this week, but, of course, no truffles yet.

                      1. re: allende

                        Thanks allende! In addition to your preference I based the "Best" on a local truffle hunter (local in Alba, not Staten Island, NY) who prefers it the same way, and my personal fascination with egg dishes. Il Centro was on the bubble in my schedule so perhaps its time to move them higher.

                          1. re: allende

                            Monday: La Torre or La Coccinella
                            Sunday: Il Centro or munching the streets of Alba during the festival

                            I'm pretty sure I know what your prefer ;)
                            La Torre and Il Centro

                            1. re: Ziggy41

                              I'd definitely prefer Il Centro for Sunday lunch and as much as I would like a dinner at La Torre and Coccinella on a Monday, would definitely go to Bardon on Monday, preferably for lunch. But, as henjef so well explained and showed with photos, they're all good.

                              As someone once said on this board, there is an incredible concentration of very good country restaurants and trattorias within 25 miles of Alba.

                              1. re: allende

                                The current plan is Bardon on Tuesday for lunch on the way to Corte Pallavicina.
                                I forgot to mantion La Torre or Coccinella that would be for lunch

                      2. re: Ziggy41

                        It is not strictly an egg dish, but the raviolo at La Libera was filled with an egg yolk and is topped with truffle shavings. Superb and I still talk about it 4 years later!

                        1. re: ekc

                          That does sound superb. I think I read somewhere that they changed chefs not too long ago so I wonder if they still do it. I'm still on the fence about spending an entire Sunday in Alba or visiting it after lunch elsewhere like Il Centro

                          1. re: Ziggy41

                            Off board, a friend of mine who posts here asked me what I thought of ekc's winemaker friend's list.


                            We've been to perhaps half of the places over a long period of time. I think it is basically a very good list and it's great for listing the closing dates. Thank you ekc; it is very helpful.

                            I won't comment on several of the restaurants we like in and around the Langhe. I've done enough of that and you know my preferences (and biases).

                            With all due respect there are several on the list that I disagree with La Signora's comments. I'm not right and she's not wrong; just a difference of opinion.

                            Two stand out. Ristorante Tournavento is not to our liking. A very conceited group of individuals who are, in our opinion full of themselves. Mediocre service. A great wine list, overpriced. Mediocre cooking.

                            Ristorante Bovio. A great view. An incredible wine list, very fairly priced. An unbelievable view if you get one of a few tables facing east (Veglio has the same view from an open terrace, but because it is not enclosed like Bovio, they usually serve on the terrace only at lunch or in the summer when it's warm). Poor service with no smile and no personality. Cooking is mediocre. If you must go, stick with an antipasto, cheese and a great bottle of wine.

                            Others: Arco and La Libera in Alba. Okay, but nothing more. There are so many very good trattorie outside of Alba; why eat in town for mediocre meals.

                            Felicin. You can do much much better. In fact, very close by is La Posta. Not one of our favorite favorites, but good and much better than Felicin.

                            Vignaiolo. I've written about it before. Okay, but perfunctory service. Food is fine, but nothing more. Too overrun with tour buses.

                            Massimo Carnia. We really liked him at Borgo Antico, but this menu at his new place, where we have not been and don't intend to go, is very very strange.

                            Hope I didn't offend too many of you and sorry for using the word mediocre so much.

                            The comments were just meant to be our personal preferences and were meant to be, perhaps, helpful.

                            1. re: allende

                              It doesn't hurt to have another point of view. Still, a great and extremely helpful list.

                              The one thing I would mention however, for those coming during the truffle festival, some of the closing dates can potentially be wrong. For example La Libera closed on Sundays as the info indicates tho its actually open on Sundays in October looks like

                              1. re: allende

                                No offense allende - differing points of view are what makes the world go round!

                                I had a very good meal at Bovio, but would agree about the service. Certainly not smiley!

                                And I still stand by the raviolo at La Libera. ;-)