The sheer number of excellent dining spots in this area, from the humble trattoria or osteria to the more formal ristorante, makes dining unique. Menu pricing is exceptionally reasonable; expect less than 25 Euro for two courses at lunch and usually less than 40 Euro for a similar-sized meal at dinner. This pricing is for a more humble dining room, while the cost for a more specialized ristorante will be only slightly higher; much less than in Italy’s large cities or premium restaurants throughout much of North America. Wine pricing is also eminently fair, with many bottles priced only a few euros higher than in a local enoteca.
GOING LOCAL IN BARBARESCO
Let’s start our culinary tour in the Barbaresco zone, just east and slightly north of the city of Alba. At Antica Torre, just in front of the iconic Barbaresco tower, the most requested dish is tajarin. Suppose there is one plate you need to know and try in the Langhe. In that case, it is tajarin, a celebrated hand-made, thin local pasta (much like tagliatelle), traditionally made with 40 egg yolks and often topped with tomatoes and a meat option of beef, pork, or veal. Tajarin is so celebrated in the Langhe that many chefs compete with their counterparts to see who makes the best version; I had been told by several wine producers that I had to try the tajarin at Antica Torre, and I was not disappointed. One note; the size of the servings of pasta in Piemonte is ample for the average diner, so don’t worry about adding a few pounds during your dining tour here, as you can walk it off during your winery visits!
One of the best restaurants in the town of Barbaresco is Antiné, a five-minute walk from Antica Torre. Chef Manuel Bouchard opened this small, elegantly appointed dining room in 2014 at 25; he received immediate critical acclaim, which continues today. Pasta, such as raviolini del plin (plin, meaning to pinch, is a small, pillow-shaped pasta) and tajarin – here topped with rabbit – are outstanding. The second Piatti (main courses), such as braised beef in a Barbaresco sauce, and pheasant with artichokes and Tartufo, are exquisitely prepared.
Antiné has one of the most thorough wine lists in the area, as it encompasses everything from Champagne (more than 60 selections) to white and red wines from around the world. Barbaresco and Barolo are naturally featured (more than 250 selections of Barbaresco, with almost 100 different offerings of Barolo); prices are pretty reasonable, as evidenced by a Musso Rio Sordo Barbaresco 2016 for 45 Euro or a 2010 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato for 120 Euro.
In the neighboring town of Treiso, La Ciau del Tornavento is truly one of the showcase restaurants of the Langhe, offering the diner a great meal and a memorable experience. The dining room is one of the largest in the area; the expansive windows provide a splendid view of Treiso and the immediate countryside. Chef/proprietor Maurilio Garola offers the classic Piemontese dishes (plin, Vitello tonnato) and specializes in seafood, among the finest of any area ristorante; black cuttlefish cappuccino and amberjack ceviche are only two of the outstanding options. The food presentation here is striking and second-to-none, as is the wine list; ask if you can take a quick tour of the cellar, which contains 60,000 bottles! A visit to La Ciau will make you feel like Langhe royalty.
STYLISH DINING IN THE BAROLO AREA
Moving to the Barolo zone, several dozen places are situated amidst the eleven communes that I can highly recommend; given space limitations, I’ll only be able to mention a few.
La Cantinetta in the town of Barolo has been a favorite of mine (and many tourists) for years. It’s a comfortable spot where you can sit outside or inside and enjoy classic local dishes easily prepared; the menu inside is on a blackboard, and there is an inspired selection of local wines by the glass and bottle that are reasonably priced.
A short walk away is Locanda La Gemella, managed by Claudio Viberti, winemaker of the Giovanni Viberti winery located just outside the town of Barolo. He also operates his family’s Trattoria al Buon Padre in Vergne, a long-established spot for beef and Barolo lovers. The restaurant is a beautiful, medium-sized dining room decorated in a brighter, more airy tone than is usual for the area. As for the food, there is equal emphasis on seafood and meat – the fassona veal shoulder filet I enjoyed during my lunch there was elegantly prepared and paired beautifully with a younger Barolo.
Chef Alessandro Neri, Photo @Tom Hyland
Il Grecale, situated on a hill outside the town of La Morra, is a seafood restaurant in the middle of the Barolo zone. While that may surprise some, it is refreshing to see this. The concept has been carried out brilliantly by proprietors Alessandro Neri, chef, and his partner Elisa Migliassi. They manage the dining room and the wine program, which features numerous sparkling wines from Italy and France. All types of fish and seafood are available, ranging from sardines and mackerel to caviar, king crab, and Ligurian shrimp.
In Serralunga, Osteria Tre Case, located just underneath the town’s iconic Castello, is a local favorite, a multi-level space that offers an intimate feel. The cuisine is a mix of traditional and innovative with a straightforward, minimal presentation; pricing on both food and wine is very reasonable. Also, in Serralunga, don’t miss Antico Podere Tota Virginia, which offers an excellent selection of younger and older Barolo. The maltagliati pasta with rabbit and truffles I enjoyed during a recent fall visit was one of the most memorable plates I’ve ever enjoyed in the Langhe.
Maltagliati pasta at Antico Podere Tota Virginia, Photo @Tom Hyland
TRADITION AND INNOVATION IN ALBA
Finally, we finish in the city of Alba, home to more dining establishments than you can experience during several visits. For an osteria, try LaLibera, managed by the amiable Flavia Boffa. Dominated by traditional Langhe offerings with an updated approach, this is what we in America would label as an “honest” meal; everything is so beautiful and simply presented. Desserts, especially the gelato alla crema affogato di Marsala are gorgeous.
Piazza Duomo, located in the heart of central Alba, is Piemonte’s only three-star Michelin restaurant, and it’s easy to see why given the chef's outstanding service and astounding creativity Enrico Crippa. A signature offering is Insalata 20, 30, 40, a salad referring to the number of edible flowers that comprise the dish; the flowers, as well as the vegetables used at Piazza Duomo, are grown in a private garden just outside the city, where Crippa personally selects the produce.
Chef Enrico Crippa in his kitchen, Photo @Tom Hyland
There is a magnificent wine list, and as you might imagine, there are many examples of older Barolo along with grand cru whites and reds from Burgundy; there are also many acceptable values from all over Italy. One final note about Crippa’s cuisine is that he worked for years in Japan, and that influence comes through in many of his seafood preparations and sauces. So while Piazza Duomo is not a typical restaurant for Alba, it is one of the most exacting and innovative in the world.
Want to learn more about Barolo? Join Tom Hyland for our live member webinar on June 29!
Via Torino 64, Barbaresco
Via Torino 16, Barbaresco
La Ciau del Tornavento
Piazza Baracco 7, Treiso
Via Roma 33, Barolo
Via delle Viole 30, Vergne
Locanda del Gemella
Piazza Eraldo Cabutto 5, Barolo
Borgata Muratori 90, La Morra
Osteria Tre Case
Via Roma 36, Serralunga d’Alba
Antica Podere Tota Virginia
Localitá Baudana 69, Serralunga d’Alba
Via Elvio Pertinace 24, Alba
Piazza Risorgimento 4, Alba
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