Piemonte Dining

30 09 2007

Antico Caffè Callisano

In the vaulted arcade of Alba’s Piazza Duomo, this 18th-century confection of pink marble and gilt is the preferred first stop for truffle hunters seeking an eye-opener on market mornings in November.
3 Piazza Risorgimento, Alba; 39-0173/442-101; coffee and pastries for two $10.

Caffè al Bicerin

The signature bicerin (melted chocolate, coffee, and cream) has been served at this Turin landmark since 1763. 5 Piazza della Consolata, Turin; 39-011/436-9325; pastries and hot chocolate for two $6; www.bicerin.com.  

Caffè Converso

You, too, might spy Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini downing an espresso at this ornate turn-of-the-19th-century café and bakery. 199 Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Bra; 39-0172/413-626; coffee and pastries for two $6.

Ciau del Tornavento

The 45,000-bottle wine cellar, peerless cheese selection, and adventurous modern Italian food are the draws at this restaurant, where ho-hum ambience is redeemed by stunning views. 7 Piazza Baracco, Treiso; 39-0173/638-333; dinner for two $152.


This new-school gelateria meticulously sources all ingredients—from cream and eggs to add-ins like cornmeal cookies and coffee. 1D Piazza Paleocapa, Turin; 39-011/511-9067; gelato for two $6.


An old-world warmth suffuses the service in this dramatic, modern room; the kitchen turns out contemporary riffs on traditional Piedmontese comfort foods. 19 Via Fossano, Pollenzo; 39-0172/458-422; dinner for two $190.

I Bologna

Owned and operated by an esteemed Bologna wine-making family, this trattoria cooks impeccably fresh, flavorful renditions of esoteric regional classics. 4 Via Nicola Sardi, Rocchetta Tanaro; 39-0141/644-600; dinner for two $100.

La Bottega del Vicoletto

A great place to stock up for a picnic, this shop cooks up dishes to go and offers local cheeses and rare provisions such as venison prosciutto. 6 Via Bertero, Alba; 39-0173/ 363-196; picnic for two $25.

L’Angolo di Paradiso

Dining at “Da Cesare,” as the locals call it, is like being in chef Cesare Giaccone’s kitchen. His signature capretto, or roast baby goat, is cooked on a spit in an open fireplace in the restaurant. 12 Via Umberto, Albaretto Torre; 39-0173/520-141; dinner for two $180.

Osteria de la Rosa Rossa

Book early to get a table at this casual, homey osteria serving seriously delicious snails. 31 Via San Pietro, Cherasco; 39-0172/ 488-133; dinner for two $28.

Osteria LaLibera

This sleek corner room attracts an international crowd for its inventive preparations of market-to-table fresh ingredients. 24A Via Elvio Pertinace, Alba; 39-0173/293-155; dinner for two $100.

Piazza Duomo

In a pink minimalist space, chef Enrico Crippi serves avant-garde Italian food made with rarely seen ingredients like hop sprouts and goat’s beard. 4 Piazza Risorgimento, Alba; 39-0173/442-800; dinner for two $178.


Chess Players

29 09 2007



Hopefully never again (go to 2:05):

Theatre Londontown

28 09 2007
  • 39 Steps – Criterion – COM
  • All About My Mother – Old Vic – DRA
  • Avenue Q – Noel Coward – MUS
  • Awake and Sing! – Alameida – DRA
  • Billy Elliot – Victoria Palace – MUS; no TKTS
  • Blood Brothers – Phoenix – MUS
  • Boeing-Boeing – Comedy – COM
  • Buddy – Duchess – MUS
  • Cabaret – Lyric – MUS
  • Chicago – Cambridge – MUS
  • Country Wife – Haymarket – DRA; M- Sa 1930; W and Sa 1430
  • Desperately Seeking Susan -Novello – MUS; M-Thu 2000; F 1700 & 2030; Sa 1500 & 2000
  • Dirty Dancing – Aldwych – MUS
  • Emperor Jones – National – DRA
  • Fiddler on the Roof – Savoy – MUS
  • Footloose – Playhouse – MUS; M-Thu 1945; Fri 1730 & 2030; Sa 1500 and 1945; TKTS GBP 27
  • Grease – Piccadilly – MUS
  • Hairspray – Shaftsbury – MUS
  • Herge’s Adventures of Tin Tin –
  • Jersey Boys – Prince Edward – MUS
  • Joseph/Dreamcoat – Adelphi – MUS; M, W-Sa: 1930; Tu 1900; W & Sa 1500
  • Kean – Apollo – DRA
  • Les Miserables – Queen’s – MUS
  • Lion King – Lyceum – MUS
  • Lord of the Rings – Drury Lane – MUS; M1900, Tu-Sa 1930; Thu & Sa 1400; TKTS GBP33
  • Mamma Mia! – Prince of Wales – MUS
  • Mary Poppins – Prince Edward – MUS
  • Monty Python Spamalot – Palace – MUS
  • Parade – Donmar Warehouse – MUS
  • Phantom – Her Majesty’s – MUS
  • Present Laughter – Lyttleton – COM
  • Rafta Rafta – Lyttleton – DRA
  • Rhinoceros – Royal Court – DARK COM
  • Saint Joan – National – DRA
  • Shadowlands – Wyndham’s – DRA; M-Sa 1930; Thu and Sa 1430
  • Sound of Music – Palladium – MUS
  • Stomp – Vaudeville – PERF
  • Wicked – Apollo – MUS
  • Woman in Black – Fortune – THR

My Picks for this fiscal quarter

  • Boeing Boeing (COM) – Theatre Locale: Panton St SW1 4DN. 0870-060-6622. Tube: Piccadilly Circus; M-Sa 1930; Thu & Sa 1430 & 1930. 2:35
  • LOTR (DRA) – Theatre Royal Drury Lane; Catherein St, Wc2B 5JF. 0870-830-0200. Tube: Covent Garden; M 1900; Tu-Sa 1930; Thu & Sa: 1400 & 1930. 3:00 with 2 intervals.
  • Rafta! Rafta! (DRA) – National Theater Lyttleon; South Bank SE1 9PX; 020-7452-3000; Tube: Southwark; M-Sa 1930; 2:35
  • Love’s Labour Lost (SHK) – Globe; Bankside SE1 9DT; 020-7401-9919; Tube: Southwark; Su 1600. Last perf
  • Macbeth (SHK) – Gielgud; Shaftsbury W1d 6AR; 0870-950-0915; Tube: Piccadilly Circus; M-Sa 1930; Sa 1430. No discount tickets.

Piemonte Restaurants

27 09 2007

Traditional eateries –

  • Antica Torre (Barbaresco) – excellent pasta (Tajarin, Agnolotti), rather basic wine list. Booking needed.
  • Grappolo d’Oro (Monforte) – best value, good food, nice wine list, good also for groups
  • I Bologna (Rocchetta Tanaro) – Raffaella “Barbera” Bologna’s aunt makes the best ravioli
  • La Stazione (Santo Stefano Belbo) – Genuine food, good value, a family place. Treacherous road.

Young trattorias with good wine lists:

  • Osteria dell’Arco (Alba) – delicate, genuine food, good wine list, fair prices (Slow Food)
  • Osteria Veglio (La Morra) – very nice ambience, good food and wines, young team. Nice lookout point. Park near bus stop.
  • Osteria La Salita (Monforte) – relaxed osteria, top wine list, short menu with excellent food
  • Enoclub (Alba) – very good service, nice food, good wine list, in a cosy brick-cellar

Creative Cuisine

  • Piazza Duomo (Alba) – the best creative cuisine: light, elegant, even after 10 courses, hype
  • Il Cascinalenuovo (Isola d’Asti) – very good modern Piedmontese, top wine list and service
  • Antinè (Barbaresco) – elegant star-rated regional cuisine, top-value, huge Barbaresco selection
  • All’Enoteca (Canale) – reasonably creative cuisine, very good wine list and service
  • Tornavento (Treiso) – inventive cuisine, super wine list and a spectacular panorama window
  • Borgo Antico (Barolo) – In a “post-modern” winery, elegant tables, excellent cooking. Too formal. You could be in SF!
  • Da Renzo (Cervere) – star-rated trattoria, specialities: frogs, snails, Piedmontese beef
  • Locanda del Pilone (Madonna di Como/Alba) – very creative chef, a nice place in the hills
  • Guido (Pollenzo) – a big name in Langhe cooking, in the setting of the Culinary University
  • Al Centro (Priocca) – classic fine cuisine, elegantly served, a bit formal, try Roero wines here

Cesare – Allegedly a “must” for every Langhe visitor: start with the creative salad of the season. For main course the special is capretto (baby goat grilled on the open fire)l. But Cesare is completely crazy! At present he cooks in his private house for maximum 25 diners. Prix fixed at E75. No substitutions. We decided not to risk it. If he decides not to cook that night, there’s a sign that says “Gone Fishing”. Crazy.


  • La Pergola (Vezza d’Alba)
  • Tornavento (Treiso)
  • Osteria La Salita (Monforte)
  • Da Felicin (Monforte)

BUSINESS HOTELS ALBA – There is no charming hotel in Alba. But some people nevertheless prefer staying in town where they can at least find a drink after dinner. Best place for an aperitivo or digestivo is La Brasilera:

  • I Castelli – With car park and all the comfort of a 4 star hotel, but not really charming
  • Motel Alba – Newly renovated, swimming pool, parking, but in the industrial zone
  • Hotel Savona– Best position in the centre, still a bit old fashioned
  • Langhe – Relatively quiet position, rooms rather modern

The nicest hotels are situated in the hills around Alba. The first four have a pool, which is not a bad thing in the sometimes extremely hot season from June to September:

  • Relais San Maurizio (Santo Stefano Belbo) – in an ex-monastery on a hill, good restaurant
  • Castello di Villa (Isola d’Asti) – Swiss-managed wonderful castle, perfectly renovated
  • Villa Beccaris (Monforte d’Alba) – wonderful position, different room categories, quiet
  • Villa Tiboldi (Canale) – fine little hotel on a hill in the vineyards, nice restaurant
  • Corte Gondina (La Morra) – a beautiful villa, cosy four-poster beds, view of the Barolo zone
  • Locanda del Pilone (Alba) – a luxury agriturismo 5 km out of Alba, star-rated restaurant

Most of us wine enthusiasnts love to spend more on food and wine, often prefer simpler places but they want a clean room with efficient bathrooms and good beds:

  • Cascina Barac (San Rocco Seno d’Elvio) – a winery with comfortable rooms in quiet position
  • Casa Nicolini (Trestelle/Barbaresco) – very nice, air-conditioned rooms, good food available
  • Cascina delle Rose (Trestelle/Barbaresco) – cosy agriturismo in the Barbaresco hills
  • Le Torri (Castiglione Falletto) – family-run hotel with a good traditional restaurant
  • Grappolo d’Oro (Monforte) – central hotel with apartments, good restaurant

Material World

26 09 2007




And, for fun:

Driving Langhe

25 09 2007

The Langhe is crisscrossed by tiny country roads, with alternative routes possible between its villages and hamlets. This drive plots an itinerary among the most interesting sights of the central and western parts of the region and follows the most scenic roads. Still, it is worth branching away from the set route if you’d like to explore some of the area’s many other byways. Most of the region’s roads are unclassified (they have no number) and follow north-to-south-running valleys and ridges, and that there are few lateral links across the hills from west to east. While Alba makes a good point of departure, you could just as easily start the drive from Bra and nearby Cherasco, a gracious little village, and join the itinerary outlined below at La Morra. We used Serralunga d’Alba as it is centrally located.
Leave Alba on Corso Enotria and the S29 road south and, after a few hundred yards, turn right on the winding road that climbs to Diano d’Alba. The town is home to a decent Dolcetto red wine as well as the brick-built San Giovanni Battista, a 16th-century parish church that affords sweeping views over the region. From here strike west to the village of Grinzane Cavour, dominated by the redoubtable 13th-century Castello Cavour. The castle is now home to both a wine museum and the Enoteca Regionale Cavour (Piazza Castello 5, tel +39 [0]173 262 159. Castle: up to seven guided tours daily except Tuesday & January; museum $), one of 12 regional enotecas where you can taste and buy local wines. The castle is also the seat of the Ordine dei Cavalieri del Tartufo e dei Vini di Alba, a trade organization that, among other things, holds a charity truffle auction in November.
Proceed southwest from Grinzane Cavour via Gallo d’Alba toward La Morra. 2.4 km east of La Morra stands the Abbazia dell’Annunziata, where there is another wine museum, the Museo Ratti dei Vini d’Alba (tel +39 [0]173 50 185, by appt. Monday-Friday). Hilltop La Morra (3) commands breezy views and preserves a charming medieval center, as well as the Cantina Comunale (Via Carlo Alberto 2, tel +39 [0]173 509 204), which serves as a visitor center and public enoteca for 50 local wine producers. Wine in La Morra has a particular fame; Julius Caesar stopped here to sample a local vintage, recording the occurrence in his memoirs.
From La Morra drive south the short distance to Barolo, the village that gives its name to the most famous of Piedmont’s red wines. About a hundred different Barolos and other wines can be bought at the Enoteca Regionale in the Castello Comunale Falletti di Barolo (Piazza Falletti 1, tel +39 [0]173 56 277, closed Thursday & January), which is also a visitor center and home to another small museum of viticulture. Visit as well the cantina of the Marchesi di Barolo (Via Alba 12, tel +39 [0]173 564 400), Barolo’s greatest historic producer.
Country roads lead 5.8 km southwest from Barolo to Monforte d’Alba, another center of Barolo production, including the outstanding wines of Gianfranco Alessandria (tel +39 [0]173 78 576), Aldo Conterno (tel +39 [0]173 78 150), and Domenico Clerico (tel +39 [0]173 78 171). Drive north 9.6 km along the picturesque road through Castiglione Falletto and turn right before Gallo d’Alba to Serralunga d’Alba, among Le Langhe’s most striking villages, thanks to the majestic Castello Falletti (Via del Castello 1, tel +39 [0]173 613 358, closed Monday), built in 1340. The village’s Bar Centro Storico (Via Roma 6, tel +39 [0]173 613 203) and Bottega del Vino (Via Foglio 1, tel +39 [0]173 613 604) are good places to buy wine and snacks.
Follow more pretty roads south via Roddino and Serravalle Langhe to Bossolasco, a gloriously situated village that is popular with visitors in summer. Just under 12 km to its west is the village of Dogliani, known for its excellent Dolcetto wines. To learn more and make purchases stop by the Cantina del Dolcetto di Dogliani (Via Torino 58, tel +39 [0]173 792 282). Otherwise, follow the road south from Bossolasco to Murazzano, another lovely hilltop village, its tree-ringed summit dominated by a solitary tower, the sole remnant of the village’s medieval fortifications. The village is known for its eponymous cheese, widely available in local shops.
From Murazzano drive southeast to Viglierchi, where a road strikes east toward Monesiglio, worth a detour for the Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Acqua Dolce. This tiny 13th-century Romanesque church (near the village on the outskirts of the hamlet of San Biagio) has rare early frescoes. If time is short, ignore this detour and take the magnificent ridge-top road north via Mombarcaro and Niella Belbo as far as Cravanzana. A short way beyond Cravanzana, take a right turn down to the Bormida Valley and Cortèmilia, a village of Roman or earlier origins. The village can also be reached on a valley-bottom road from Monesiglio. Today, Cortèmilia is the commercial and light-industrial capital of the Langhe, but it preserves medieval pockets among the more modern buildings of the two quarters (either side of the river) that make up its old heart.
At Cortèmilia you could continue east along the valley to visit Acqui Terme. If your base is Alba, however, the scenic S29 leads northwest and homeward for 30.5 km through still more lovely countryside. Climbing steeply from Cortèmilia the route runs first through Castino, dipping and winding between hills and valleys to Borgomale, dominated by another 13th-century castle.
Just beyond Borgomale, at Benevello, more diversions present themselves, notably the road northwest to Mango, with another castle, the Castello dei Marchesi di Busca. The castle is home to the Enoteca Regionale Colline del Moscato (Piazza XX Settembre 19, tel +39 [0]141 89 291, closed Monday & Tuesday), where you can buy sweeter Moscato and Asti wines, and the Ristorante Castel di Mango (tel +39 [0]141 89 141, closed Monday & Tuesday). From Mango you could return to Alba via Barbaresco to the northwest, the village that gives its name to the second of the region’s great red wines. Here, too, there is another Enoteca Regionale (Via Torino 8, tel +39 [0]173 635 251, closed Wednesday), best seen in conjunction with the premises of Angelo Gaja (Via Torino 36, tel +39 [0]173 635 255), one of Italy’s most celebrated wine producers. If you do not make this detour, the route from Benevello to Alba, via Ricca, is straight ahead.

Basilica Superga

24 09 2007

A classic Sunday outing from Torino, this little St. Peter’s stands on a wooded ridge 10 km NE of centro. It was erected by Vittorio Amedeo II after the Madonna answered his please for victory against the French in an important battle during the War of Spanish succession. Built by court architect Filippo Juvarra between 1716 and 1731, it lacks the audacity of Palazzo Madama but has refined authority over the dense oak forests around it. Take the tramvia a dentiera (rack tramway) from the Sassi stop in Piazza Modena. The restored 1930s trams are electric and leave every hour on the hour between 0900 and 2000, and until 0000 on Tuesdays.