The Vinous Guide to Eating and Drinking in
Mother Nature is especially
generous with Piedmont. She graces the region with world-class wines and a host
of raw ingredients that provide the inspiration for the Piedmontese table.
Local chefs have access to a dizzying array of local meats, cheeses and vegetables
that would make most of their colleagues green with envy. Liguria isn’t too far away for the things
that are missing, namely seafood and olive oil. But it is the mysterious,
elusive and super-expensive white truffle that takes Piedmont into the
There is no better time to enjoy
the bounty of Piedmont than the fall, a time when so many fabulous things come
together; the last few leaves on the vines, the smell of autumn, the new
vintage fermenting in the cellars, the fog-drenched landscapes and of course the
heavenly scent of white truffles.
What follows are some of my
favorite spots for food and wine in Piedmont.
It is not a comprehensive list, but rather a collection of places I have
personally been to many times over the years. If possible, I suggest visiting
Piedmont in late November. By then, most of the tourists are gone and truffles
are in peak season, which means at their most perfumed and abundant.
Lastly, don’t be surprised if you
see young children in any of these restaurants, even the most elegant. Of all the
places I visit regularly, Italy is without question the most family oriented
and kid friendly, which means parents don’t have to sacrifice a great meal in
order to be with the children and the kids have an opportunity to be educated
at the table.
I have been eating at the Osteria
dell’ Arco for longer than I can remember. One of my favorites going back to
the days when I had very little money, Osteria dell’ Arco remains one of Alba’s
stalwarts. Diners will find a menu heavy on the classics, and an excellent wine
list in a simple, traditional setting. I always feel the service could be a
little warmer at the Osteria, but that is a relatively small critique. Osteria
dell’ Arco is a favorite among Alba’s working professionals, so reservations
are absolutely essential, even for lunch. In my view, Osteria dell’ Arco
captures the essence of what Italian restaurants do better than any other –
offer affordable, every day food made with uncompromisingly high quality
standards at fair, working-class prices.
Osteria dell’ Arco, Piazza Savona, 5, Alba (CN), Italy. Tel. +39 0173 363974
No trip to Piedmont is complete
without a meal (or two!) at Centro Storico. Proprietor Alessio Cighetti is
larger than life, and so is a night out at this iconic winebar in Serralunga’s
historic center. Centro Storico is distinguished by a wine list that will shock
even the most seasoned of travelers for its depth, especially considering the
otherwise no frills setting. Champagne is a strong suit, and my drink of choice
here. Growers and grands marques are represented with equal breadth. The menu is very
simple, typically three/four choices of appetizer, pasta, main and dessert,
mostly leaning on the classics, and all impeccably prepared. Centro Storico is
a favorite among locals, so don’t be surprised if you see one or more
winemakers here on any given night. If the homemade gelato is available (not
usually on the menu) don’t miss it!
Insalata Russa, a Piemonte classic
Centro Storico, Via Roma 6, 12050 Serralunga d’Alba (CN). Tel. +39 0173 613 203
La Ciau del Tornavento
Chef/Proprietor Maurilio Garola is
going through an especially brilliant period at La Ciau del Tornavento. This is
one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the Langhe, especially during the day
or in the summer, when guests will be dazzled by the views. The cellar has
always been jaw dropping, but the food now is better than ever. Three recent
meals have all been superb. I prefer to stick with the classics, but La Ciau is
one of the few restaurants in Piedmont where diners will find just as much
pleasure in some of the more adventurous, creative choices that adorn the menu
For more on La Ciau, readers might enjoy this recent
article. As for the wine list, it will leave you thinking about how fast
you can come back, let’s leave it at that.
Above: La Ciau’s white truffle
starter with a glass of Chave’s 1985 Hermitage Blanc
La Ciau del Tornavento, Piazza Baracco, 7, Treiso (CN), Italy. Tel. +39 0173 638 333
A few years ago, the Bovio family
sold the restaurant Belvedere [not everybody knows that Belvedere is a restaurant]
, up until then a local icon, and moved to their current location, just outside
the La Morra town center. Ristorante Bovio is smaller and more intimate than
the Belvedere, and that is just fine. The food is pretty similar to what it has
always been, which is to say rich in the classics. The wine list is extensive,
but I wish the wines were kept and served a little cooler. Service is warm,
friendly and incredibly accommodating. In other words, what hospitality is
supposed to be all about. Two recent dinners were fabulous.
There is carne cruda there, somewhere beneath the truffles
Ristorante Bovio, Via Alba, 17 bis, La Morra (CN) Italy. Tel. +39 0173 590303
La Rei is going through a bit of a
transition right now. I wouldn’t have known that by the food, though, as
several recent dinners were among the best I have ever had here. Chef Chen
Shiqin has returned to his native Shanghai, and Marco Forneris, formerly of La
Libera in Alba, is now behind the stove. Giancarlo Vivalda, owner of Da Renzo
had consulted and set the direction of the menu when La Rei opened a few years
ago, but he has now been replaced by super star chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo,
who is now doing the consulting. Why does a restaurant with a great chef need a
consultant? I am not sure. Too many chefs in the kitchen? We will see, but I
hope not. The set menu of classics is superb, but so are many of the more
creative dishes on the menu, such as the Agnolotti al Plin, ‘Genovese’ style,
with braised onions, Parmesan foam and carne cruda, pictured below.
La Rei’s Agnolotti al Plin, ‘Genovese’ style, with braised onions, Parmesan
foam and carne cruda
Maitre d’Hôtel Davide Ostorero
spent several years at Cracco in Milan. He brings an urban sensibility and a
passion for detail that is pretty much nonexistent anywhere else in Piedmont.
Of course as a New Yorker, I am a bit spoiled and my expectations may be a bit
unrealistic (OK, they are), but no one does wine service better than La Rei,
which is why I almost always do my wine dinners here. The list is extensive and
very well priced for a high-end luxury restaurant. In the summer and early
fall, I suggest sitting at one of the outdoor tables, which will give diners
fabulous views of Bruno Giacosa’s Falletto estate.
Rei Ristorante, Il Boscareto Resort, Via Roddino 21, 12050 Serralunga d'Alba (CN). Tel. +39.0173 613 036
Trattoria La Coccinella
La Coccinella will delight fans of classic, old-school
Piemonte cooking. Located in Serravalle Langhe, La Coccinella is convenient to
Serralunga and Monforte, but will require a bit of a longer drive from other
parts of the Barolo zone. The ambiance is homey, warm and inviting. This is
Piedmont comfort food at its best. Gems are sprinkled throughout the wine
list. You won’t see a lot of tourists at
this haunt mostly frequented by locals and those in the know.
Trattoria La Coccinella, Via Provinciale A3, 5, 12050 Serravalle Langhe (CN) Italy. Tel. +39 0173 748220
Corona Reale (Da Renzo)
Antica Corona Reale, known simply as Da Renzo, is a must
during truffle season. Da Renzo is located in Cervere, which is a bit of a
drive from the Barolo zone, but closest to La Morra. The food is terrific year
round, but in the fall Renzo is the place to be. Proprietor Gian Piero Vivalda
makes the single greatest truffle dish in Piedmont; the heart attack-inducing, poached
egg in cocotte, essentially an egg poached in butter and cream, then topped
with shaved truffles. If there is one dish visitors must experience, this is
it. Other great choices include the Tortelli al Seirass and the Châteaubriand for two. Wild leeks and snails, both local to
Cervere, are not to be missed. I don’t go crazy for either frogs’ legs or tripe,
but those who do swear by Da Renzo’s versions. Service is exceptional. The wine list is well
chosen, but storage is inconsistent and the program overall remains the
Achilles heel of this otherwise exceptional Piedmont icon.
Above: Da Renzo’s Uova in
Corona Reale (Da Renzo), Via Fossano, 13, 12040 Cervere (CN), Italy. Tel. +39 0172 474132
Trattoria Antica Torre
Antica Torre is the perfect place to stop by for a quick,
simple, homemade meal in Barbaresco. Located just across the road from the
Produttori del Barbaresco, Antica Torre is a hit with locals, winemakers and
tourists alike. The food is simple, honest and presented with no makeup. Prices
reflect the every day, working class values of another era, which will thrill
travelers on a budget. Antica Torre’s wine list is a bit Spartan and simple,
but consistent with the setting. In the summer, the outdoor seating is a nice
Antica Torre, Via Torino 64, Barbaresco (CN), Italy. Tel. +39 173 635 170
Ristoro della Fondazione
Visitors who haven’t been to
Fontanafredda in a few years might be a little shocked by the recent transformation
that has recently taken place. The vistors’ center looks more like something
out of Napa Valley than Piedmont. A well-stocked gift shop sells an incredible selection
of wine related books plus wine and food items. The cafeteria-style restaurant
serves simple fare in an informal setting that borrows heavily from proprietor
Oscar Farinetti’s Eataly concept. Best of all, Fontanafredda is pretty much
always open, making it the prefect place to stop by for a quick bite if you are
on the run or happen to be in the neighborhood.
Fontanafredda, Via Alba, 15
, 12050 Serralunga d'Alba (CN), Italy. Tel. +39 0173 626 111
- Sadly, Antiné in
Barbaresco is now closed. Chef/Proprietor Andrea Martino is rumored to be on
his way to California.
- Massimo Camia has left Borgo
Antico to open a new restaurant in partnership with the Damilano family.
- Piedmont icon Cesare Giaccone is
said to be cooking back at his original restaurant, but only for friends and
with advance notice.
- I have not eaten at Andrea
Alciati’s Da Guido in the Relais San Maurizio in a few years, but it is said to
still be excellent. My last meal there was phenomenal.
- Brothers Ugo and Piero Alciati
have moved their version of the family’s Guido franchise to Fontanafredda. I
have yet to eat there.
- The top rated restaurant in
Piedmont by most guides remains Ceretto’s Duomo in Alba, but I have not been in
several years, hence its exclusion here.
-- Antonio Galloni