We very recently tried two of allende's four recommendations to you: Da Ivan and La Buca. They were spectacularly good. Our lunch at La Buca was one of the simplest, almost humble, yet one of the very best of many memorable meals over a two-week period of food-focused travel through Piemonte and Emilia Romagna. The dinner at Da Ivan was also great, and the wine list even better. At both these places, it is very interesting to make a point of seeing the cantina.
I seem to recall from one of your posts that you are also from Sydney. They will be thrilled to know that: at these two places, outs was the only non-Italian table; and though they get some American tourists, visitors from Sydney generated animated conversation.
It sounded like you already have a place fixed in Reggio Emilia; if you have a spare night in the area, I highly recommend staying a night at Da Ivan's. The place is merely comfortable; what is extraordinary and unforgettable is the warmth and vitality of Ivan as the host.
We felt we hadn't kept enough time to explore Parma --- architecturally, an inexhaustible city. By way of food, the kilo of 78-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano that we bought at Gastronomia Garibaldi to bring back was probably the best food purchase we have ever made to bring home.
Just to let you know, allende, that your recommendations for ER (of restaurants and of dishes!) were equally successful. Will post the ER report soon too.
One general point I thought may be worth mentioning. We have found, in this trip and others, we enjoy the meal most when we keep in mind the idea of *relative* superiority. The quality of beef, lamb and all kinds of fish that we get in Sydney is superb (in my opinion, an order of magnitude better than in NYC). But pork, poultry, some of the gamier meat (coniglio,, piccione) and vegetables in Italy are clearly far superior, as are of course all the infinite varieties of pasta. The dishes we end up being somewhat less impressed with even at good places --- e.g., the tagliata of veal at Veglio this time --- are usually the result of ordering without thinking of this. (Not that the veal was not good but not markedly superior to what we can get.)
Thanks, jen. What was really remarkable was that, even though not on the menu, most of the places served a plate of contrasting vegetables, cooked three ways! Some delicate ones raw, some blanched and some lightly roasted/grilled. The plates at Il Centro, Da Renzo and Veglio were the best, good enough to be one of the highlights of the meal at each.
Thanks again, allende, for all the wonderful suggestions, not only of restaurants but also of particular dishes. In our last two days in Piemonte, we did manage to fit in Osterio Veglio, La Torre and Il Cascinalenuovo. And all were excellent in their own ways.
We had a very pleasant lunch at Veglio. The food was very good: especially, del plin cotto in brodo e serviti al tovagliolo and the plate of vegetables, some cooked some raw. The service too was warm and welcoming: when we asked if they might have a particular wine in a slightly older vintage (an Altare Lange Nebbiolo from Arborina), they went to look in the cellar and came back with a choice of two older vintages and charged the same price as the listed (much younger) vintage.
For lunch the next day at La Torre, we had a bit of a problem with the recited menu. Unlike Da Bardon, where the choices were recited separately for each course, here the whole menu was recited at the start. That makes sense from the point of view of planning the meal, but with our command of Italians, so many choices posed a challenge. Nonetheless, it turned out the order worked quite well. A fantastic dish we have never had before (or since) stood out: a polenta gnocchi. We later regretted not ordering the lumache, as we discovered while walking through Cherasco that the town has a month-long snail festival!
At dinner at Il Cascinalenuovo, we began with a split-order of allende's recommendation: the mille foglie. It was the antipasto of the trip! The agnolotti del plin were also superb. The very warm service by the father-and-daughter team made the evening more special; the daughter (Alice), being fluent in English, was primarily looking after us, with the father (Roberto) advising on the wine list. The wine here surprised us (had left the choice to Roberto, with some indication of a price point and wines we have enjoyed): a 1990 Barbaresco. Didn't know Barbarescos aged so well.
In thinking over all the meals in Piemonte, we find it easier to rank the dishes we enjoyed the most than ranking the restaurants. Our favourite antipasto was the mille foglie at Cascinalenuovo; the favourite primo the cappeletti di faraona at Da Renzo; the favourite secondo the egg and cheese dish with tartufo bianco at Da Renzo, primarily for the quality of the tartufo, closely followed by the cognilio al forno at Da Bardon; Da Bardon had the best wine list of the trip by far. We also greatly enjoyed the vegetables: we often especially requested a plate even when not on the menu and invariably the quality was superlative. We are not big doci people; so didn't have them unless we had the degustazione and included dolci.
It is only when writing the above that it seems that Da Renzo and Da Bardon were probably the two we enjoyed the most overall; but Il Centro and Il Cascinalenuovo were also almost equally special.
Grazie mille, barberinibee: very kind of you to take the time to locate and post the links. We'll look through them tomorrow morning before heading out to Torino.
I dare not enter the Cinema museum when we are in Torino for only a day ... for I am a film buff. (When I was an 18-year old, I had made a documentary film for a regional tv in India; but inability to raise funds for a full-length film ensured a short career!) I recall that, looking through some thread, I had noted a reference in one of your posts to Abbas Kiarostami's tribute to Arezzo played out on the rearview mirror of a car in "Certified Copy"; knew I had spotted another film buff.
Thanks for the Palazzo Madama trip and for sharing your reservations about the Quadrilatero district.
The salone is certainly off our agenda now. And some chocolate shops are certainly on: Gobino and Peyrano kept coming up when we looked. Will make an attempt to spend time looking in some of the historic shops, as you suggest.
We are in fact carrying the (entire) Plotkin book. (BTW, I knew some of his writings on opera, but didn't know about this book before I saw a reference to it on your post.) I am also carrying a copy of a NYTimes "36 hours in" Torino piece from June this year. Haven't really had a chance to look at either --- will have to do on the way.
The way we have eaten the last 7 days, it will do us no harm to go without a full meal in Torino. We were keen on the cafes and the bars for a sense of the atmosphere, not so much for the free stuff :)
Thanks again for taking the time.
Thanks very much, minchilli, for the post: was very useful. We had decided to focus on the city of Torino rather than the Salone (after all, there are other such festivals, but the city is unique). But, somehow, it had not occurred to us that all good restaurants will be full. So, as you say, good thing we are planning to focus on cafes and bars. I suppose we have to fight crowds there too ...
Thanks for the Bordo tip.
Enjoy the Salone!
Thanks, Villasampaguita, for your advice. We will make a point of seeking out the Quadrilatero Romano area.
We will be in Torino on Saturday. Thanks for alerting us to it. Will look through the program later, but do you recommend it highly, bearing in mind we only have 24 hours in Torino?
Our plan for Torino was to try various cafes and aperitivo places rather than go to restaurants for lunch &/or dinner. Does that make sense?
Haven't really done a search on Torino on CH yet ... So, may come back with questions if we don't find the info in previous threads.
Hello again, allende,
Turns out we have a booking at Osteria Veglio tomorrow --- kind of by mistake. (We had asked the owner of the house we are renting if she could book four restaurants for us and gave a couple of fall-back options, including Veglio; looking through her email, I see she has booked Veglio as well.)
We have to call them anyway to postpone the time to 14:00. If you think La Torre is an order of magnitude better, we could ask if cancelling Veglio at such a short notice will inconvenience them. (We would normally give a restaurant at least 24-hour notice if we cancel.)
Tomorrow our main plan is to drive through (and walk in) Barolo and La Morra and also to stop by the enoteca in Grinzane Cavour that a few posters have spoken highly of. We won't quite linger at lunch as we have been doing.
We don't have set plans for Friday. Any area we should focus on driving through? Food-wise, we were leaning towards trying for a dinner at Cascinalenuovo (driving back on the Autostrada is straightforward); we could go to La Torre for lunch instead, but don't think we can handle both.
A very enjoyable lunch today at All'enoteca, but quite a different experience from the other three places we have tried in Piemonte. We had opted for the "short surprise menu" of 5 courses, with a request for the piccione with tartufo nero as the secondo. We could not come up with a counting system by which we had fewer than 9 courses (not counting stuzzichini). 3 antipasti (well-described upthread by Powers), 2 primi --- two different types of ravioli, one with roast meat, one with "liquid" pesto ---
Every course was excellent; maybe not traditional but certainly produce-driven and flavour-driven. And excellent value at 70 euros, especially so with the extra courses. Our only mildly critical observation was that one does see a similar style of food in Sydney and New York --- the two cities we know well --- and, no doubt, in Paris and London too; so, it felt a bit closer to "global food" (for want of a better term).
When searching through threads to see what we can find on Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, I had thoroughly enjoyed, and learnt much from, your many posts. If I may say so, they strike me as models of good writing (in addition to being also highly informative).
I am afraid the only thing I know about the tour group is that they arrived in an alarmingly large bus. Turned out it was a group of only about 20 (or 25 max); they were speaking in Italian --- so, I presume either from Italy or perhaps the Italian part of Switzerland; mostly couples, some I imagine retired, others a mix of 40 and 50+.
To preserve the purity of this thread, I will hold my queries on the possibilities in ER to a more suitable thread and hope to learn more from you and others.
Time now to head out for the Wednesday market in Asti that Fred Plotkin (a book that I first learnt about in your post) rates as the fifth best (!) in Italy --- after Bologna, Padova, Genova and San Remo.
Thanks for the suggestion of La Torre. More later ...
Apologies if this gets posted twice ... the first attempt seemed to glitch out ...
Thanks very much for the two quick responses: saw them just before heading out to Da Bardon. And was able to take full advantage of your advice with great success --- both on procuring wine and the walk after lunch.
In fact, it had begun in an unpromising way. As we approached Da Bardon, to our consternation, a large tour bus pulled in precisely at the moment we were about to turn in to their driveway. We considered leaving right away after tendering our apologies. Indeed, if it were not for the out-of-the-way location, the lure of the wine list and your strong recommendation, we would have done precisely that. We entered after waiting for a few minutes. And it took only another couple of minutes to realize that the presence of the tour group (a party of Italians) was not going to make any difference.
The food was both simple and superb: shared the two antipasti of a vegetable flan and a cotechino with a silky potato puree; then a primo of ravioli del plin; cognilio al forno and a brasato al barbera as the two secondi. But of course it is the wine list that is truly extraordinary. Hard to keep to one's notional budget with a list like that. Had a 1996 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi de Boschis --- very good indeed.
As I continued to study the wine list long after our wine had been served, at some point the owner came with an extra copy of the list and said, in charming English, "for you to take home". And *that* gave me my break to ask if I could also take some wine home. After a moment of surprised silence, he beamed: "how many bottles?" Finally, settled for two 1996s --- Scavino Bric del Fiasc and G, Conterno Cascina Francina -- and two 1999s --- Altare Arborina and Ratti Roche. [For each vintage, the first was my choice from my limited knowledge and the second the owner's recommendation.]
The walk you suggested (in fact, the road we had taken from Alba on the last stretch to the restaurant) was excellent --- pretty and peaceful.
Thanks for your suggestions on places in ER: more later on them.
Thanks for the tip on the cantina. We haven't managed to go to Barolo yet (plan to do so on Thursday). We will stop by then; we still have room to take two more bottles. Don't know Barolos enough to deconstruct "modern" applied to them: do you mean a "new-world-style"? We had figured that, as you say, I wouldn't have much luck getting old vintages from a winery that we happen to walk in to for the first time.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to a lunch at All'Enoteca that we know you like a lot.
@P H Rodgers
Thanks for taking the time to respond. Il Centro would probably have been the perfect place to look for wine to take home --- the prices there were even more friendly than at Da Bardon (which were still very reasonable). If we had known that the owner of Il Centro also had an enoteca, we would have surely approached him. Not knowing that, we were afraid that they may find the idea somewhat offensive --- after all, they have the wine carefully stored to serve as something complementary to their food. But Priocca is not that far from Alba and we would consider going just to the enoteca to see what might be available.
In my first post here, and in our first trip to Piemonte, wanted to thank the many posters on this board for their dedication to sharing their knowledge. Special thanks to allende and Villasampaguita for their frequent posts sharing their passion for the food and wine of Piemonte.
Although we have been to Italy seven or eight times and have generally sought out good restaurants (relying on Gambero Rosso's cuisine score --- for we cannot really read Italian --- and Michelin), the focus of all previous trips were art, history and nature. This one is meant to be a two-week trip through Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna centred on food and wine.
We had a couple of particularly busy months at work leading up to the trip and had not had the time to do the background "research" we would have liked. But the searches on CH proved to be so informative, we feel we have access to expert research.
We arrived in Piemonte this past weekend, and have rented a house near Alba (in Scaparoni) for a week. This was the weekend of the Bachanal. Although thoroughly jet-lagged, walked about for some 6 hours on Saturday. The truffle market was fun and the evening had the atmosphere of an old village fair. Didn't buy any truffle, but did buy some superbly fresh pasta and porcini mushroom to cook.
The plan for the rest of the week is to go for long lunches, then walk about for an hour or two to work off a bit of the food (more importantly, the vino) before driving back; and, if necessary, a "home"-cooked light dinner.
So far, two great successes. A wonderful lunch on Sunday at Il Centro in Priocca. The menu degustazione had 3 antipasti (the cod particularly good), a primi (tajarin, with tartufo bianco at our request), a secondo (a very rich veal cheek), dolci. They also served a plate of seasonal vegetables at our request: so good that it was very nearly the highlight. As has been mentioned on this thread, an amazing wine list. Had a superb 1997 Elio Grasso Barolo at a price so reasonable for the quality that it was mildly baffling. We didn't even think about dinner.
Today (Monday) a fine long lunch at Antica Corona Reale in Cervere. The highlight was the secondo: an egg and cheese dish redolent with tartufo bianco, showing how good the combination is for trapping the aroma of truffle, compared with topping pasta or crudo with sliced truffle. As others have remarked, the wine list is not in the same league as the list in Il Centro. But an elegant 2004 Silvio Grasso Barolo from La Morra matched the food well. (We were debating between that and a 2004 Luciano Sandrone when the very helpful Japanese waitress described the difference in a precise lucid jargon-free way.) Cervere struck us as an uninspiring town (e.g., compared to Priocca) on what seemed to be a truck route, and walking about wasn't really pleasant.
We have a lunch reservation at Del Belbo Da Bardon in San Marzano Oliveto for tomorrow and at All'Enoteca in Canale on Wednesday. Beyond that, we don't have anything booked. Over the last two days, saw a disadvantage of long lunches: one doesn't get to do much else while there is light. But don't see an alternative, as we are not keen to drive at night after (what could be) a bottle of vino each on roads that are unfamiliar to us. So, will probably take a break on Thursday and then try Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti on Friday.
Then, on to Torino on Saturday to enjoy the aperitivo scene. And on to Emiiia-Romagna on Sunday for 5 days. Tentative plans are for dinners at Dal Pescatore (although not in ER), Da Ivan, and maybe for something different, Osteria Francescana. Does this plan make sense?
One question of the experts. We are keen to take 6 bottles of Barolo back, ideally ready-to-drink bottles from great vintages like 1996, 1997, 2001. In the shops in Alba, didn't see anything older than 2004. Is there a place one could buy old vintages? Could one ask, e.g., Il Centro if they would be willing to sell wine (at their listed price) to take back?
OK, already too long a post ...