If you are in Italy to try the local wines, then surely you’re also there to try them with the local foods at the authentic ristoranti, trattorie and osterie you find across the countryside and in the small towns. There are thousands of excellent eateries throughout the entire country, but in my opinion, there is no region that has as many first-rate restaurants as there are in Piemonte.
It’s really a win-win situation in Piemonte, especially in the Langhe, where some of the most famous red wines in the world are produced. From the effusively fruity Dolcetto to the spicy, tangy Barbera to the glorious, full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco that are produced solely from Nebbiolo, this is an area with a bounty of superb wines. Pair that with the local foods, from the fresh vegetables (especially carrots, zucchini and asparagus), game (rabbit), poultry and meats and you have a recipe for countless remarkable food experiences.
I wrote about dining in Piemonte almost two years ago and I’ve been meaning to get back to it for some time now. Given the pleasures of my most recent trip in early May and considering the wonderful meals I enjoyed during this stay, I thought I’d return to the subject.
The first moment of discovery came at the lovely Trattoria del Bivio, located in the small town of Ceretto Langhe in the Alta Langa district, just outside the town of Roddino (this is a bit east of Monforte and a bit south of Serralunga). Tajarin is a staple in the Langhe, a simple, hand-made pasta often served with meat or vegetables; I’ve enjoyed it dozens of times in Piemonte at Michelin-star dining rooms as well as the most simple trattorie. This preparation with antice (sort of a small lobster) and asparagi was one of the best I’ve ever had; quite rich and wonderfully complex. Massimo Torrengo is the chef here and based solely on this dish, I’m recommending this trattoria.
I love what I call comfort food in Piemonte – simple, everyday food using local ingredients that perfectly serve the local wines. There are many excellent places in the Langhe for this type of humble cuisine; this time I tried La Rosa dei Vini in Serralunga for the first time. It’s about as simple a dining room as you could want – basically plain white and yellow walls with some simple chairs, although you do get beautiful views of the nearby vineyards. I started my meal with a dish of breaded zucchini flowers with a sauce of Castelmagno cheese – tasty, simple and honest. I loved it!
For my primi piatti, I tried risotto con radichio, aceto balsamico e miele; the honey a nice touch that balances out the slight bitterness of the radicchio. Rich and delicious and elegantly prepared – all for 10 Euro! An added bonus at La Rosa dei Vini is its incredible wine list, especially its selection of Barolos. Here are a few of the beautifully priced bottlings I found:
- Oddero Rocche di Castiglione 1996 – 41 Euro
- Fontanafredda La Rosa 1998 – 51 Euro
- Aldo Conterno Bussia Soprana 1998 – 43 Euro
There are also several gorgeous Champagnes from small estates and of course, many value priced bottlings of local Dolcetto and Barbera. Reasonable pricing of local wines is a great tradition in the Langhe (and in my wine areas throughout Italy) and it gives the diner a way to try more than one bottle if he or she likes. Given the range of local foods, it’s a great way to discover the various style of local reds.
My dining companion at La Rosa dei Vini was Franco Massolino, whose family firm is one of the most successful of the area. He commented that he thought this was the best Barolo list in the area, both in terms of selection and price. What a great combination of wonderful food and outstanding wine!
Trattoria del Bivio, Loc. Cavallotti, 9 -12050 Ceretto Langhe – Tel: (039) 0173 520383
La Rosa dei Vini, Loc. Parafada, 4 – 12050 Serralunga d’Alba – Tel: (039) 0173 613218