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An Italian Culinary Getaway Worthy of a Gold Medal
By Meredith Fisher

As the third largest region in Italy, Piedmont has long been recognized as a destination for vacationing chefs and food and wine lovers in-the-know. It is home to the elusive white truffle, the premier Italian wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, and, most famously, gianduja – a chocolate spread made with Piemontese hazelnuts, commercially known throughout the world as Nutella. more >>

HOTELS
Country:
Relais San Maurizio
Albergo Dell'Agenzia
La Villa Hotel
City:
Grand Hotel Sitea



RESTAURANTS
Country:
Guido da Costigliole
Trattoria nelle Vigne
Guido
Combal Zero
Osteria del Paluch
Villa San Carlo
   
 

continued.
Despite these noteworthy products, Piedmont has remained in the shadows of its more popular southern neighbors (Milan, Florence, Rome) and the glitzier coastal destinations (Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, Capri). But this is all about to change. In February 2006, all eyes will turn to this mountainous region in Northwest Italy when it hosts the Winter Olympics. In preparation for this winter’s Games, the region is in full swing, readying itself for an influx of international visitors. New hotels are being built, old ones are being refurbished. The restaurants of the regions – and the chefs who run their kitchens – are getting ready to show everyone what makes the cuisine of Piedmont so special.

Once the opening ceremony is televised, people across the world will be curious to sample an authentic taste of this region. For chefs, no matter where you are, now is the time to brush up on your Piemontese cooking. Of course the best way to do this is to head to Piedmont now, so that come February, you’ll be prepared to offer your guests your own personal take on this region’s cuisine.

Just an hour and a half from the Milan airport, the city of Turin is a perfect place to start your trip. A stay at the centrally located Hotel Grand Sitea is ideal for exploring the world renowned coffee houses and candy stores of Turin. Make your way to Buratti and Milano for caffé, Florio for gianduja gelato and Strada for candy and chocolate. While the city has its own fair share of restaurants, serving both modern and traditional Piemontese cuisine, the spot not to miss is Combal Zero at the Rivoli Castle on the edge of the city. Chef Davide Scabin serves innovative and provocative modern Italian cuisine at this elegant restaurant overlooking the city.

If time permits, try to schedule a tour of the Peyrano Chocolate Factory. One of the oldest in the region, you’ll have a chance to see cocoa go from bean to bar. Even without a tour, the store alone is worth a visit to sample their confections. Before heading out to the country, stop by Chef Marina Scasso’s restaurant Osteria del Paluch, perched atop a hill near the church La Superga. Known as an expert on cheeses and salumi, Marina scours the woods of her backyard for herbs and foliage to incorporate into every course of the meal, taking the concept of local cuisine to a new level.

A number of outstanding chefs dot the countryside of Piedmont. Most notably the Alciati brothers, whose restaurants, Guido and Guido da Costigliole, are both fine examples of the trend towards modernizing Piemontese cuisine. For a more traditional approach, visit Restaurant San Marco in Castelli or Trattoria nelle Vigne. Both display Piemontese cooking at its best, but each offers very distinct experiences. San Marco, a one-star Michelin restaurant is rooted firmly in the classics, such as vitello tonatto (sliced veal with tuna and caper sauce) and agnolotti del plin (small, half-moon-shaped ravioli filled with meat, cheese or vegetables). Meanwhile Trattoria nelle Vigne, as the name suggests, positioned idyllically in a vineyard, has no menu and no pretensions. Enjoy simple and tasty country food - anchovies with hazelnuts, sweet peppers with tuna, and tajarin (Piemontese pasta made with only egg yolks) – at country prices. A four course meal can be yours for only 21 euros.

 

HOTELS

Country

Relais San Maurizio
Localita San Maurizio, 39
12058 S. Stefano Belbo (CN) Italy
Phone: 39 0141 841900
Fax: 39 0141 843833

Located on at the tippy top of a hill overlooking the village of San Stefano Belbo, this is a perfect base camp for exploring the many villages and provinces of the Piedmont countryside. Originally built as a monastery in the 17th century, there is nothing monastic about the accommodations. Rooms are located in one of two main buildings or in individual cottages that line the property. As part of the Relais & Chateaux group, one can expect to find all the creature comforts of home with just the right amount of luxury mixed in. Most rooms come equipped with fireplaces, satellite TV, fluffy robes, and beauty products from the Vinotherapie Spa. The spa offers “wine therapy,” treatments based on the healing properties of polyphenols that are present in grapes. Start the day in the Breakfast Salon, and then relax in the sauna or on the sun deck. With the one-star Michelin restaurant Guido da Costigliole located in the old wine cellar, the only reason to leave the property is so that you can look forward to coming back. Despite the plush accommodations and world-class cuisine, a stay at San Maurizio isn’t as expensive as you might think, with standard rooms starting at 160 euros in the low season and 190 euros in the high season.

  • Rooms: 31
  • Rates: 160 euros – 380 euros. Click here for currency converter.
  • Credit Cards: AMEX, Diners, MasterCard, Visa, JCB
  • What to Do: Get a grape seed massage at the spa, lay out on the sundeck and then have cocktails at the Bar Hemingway while snacking on petit fours.

Albergo Dell'Agenzia
Via Fossano 21
12060 Pollenzo – Bra (CN)
Tel: 39 0172 458600
Fax: 39 0172 458645

How slow can you go? Find out at this 4-star hotel on the campus of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the first institution dedicated to studying the principles of Slow Food. Part of the Pollenzo Agency Complex, which includes the University, the Bank of Wine and the restaurant Guido, the Albergo is located in a restored Neogothic castle that once belonged to King Carlo Alberto. Each of the 44 rooms and 3 suites are named after a different wine region. You can learn more about the wine regions with a visit to the neighboring Bank of Wine, a project designed to preserve Italian wine. Free tours can be arranged through the university. Albergo has a well-equipped fitness center and is located only a few minutes away from the Cherasco Golf Club. Prince Charles stayed here during a recent visit so be prepared to pay upwards of 200 euros to be treated like royalty.
  • Rooms: 44
  • Rates: 195 euros – 340 euros. Click here for currency converter.
  • Credit Cards: AMEX, Diners, MasterCard, Visa, JCB
  • What to Do: Arrange a visit to nearby Cherasco to visit Pasticceria Barbero, a tiny chocolate shop and factory, famous for its Baci di Cherasco (www.pasticceriabarbero.com), a sinful combination of chocolate and hazelnuts. Stop in next door at Enoteca Patrito (www.enotecapatrito.it), where sommelier Silvano Patrito sells a wide selection of regional wines, and offers red or white tastings with a bite of grissini. If you’re still not full, book dinner at Guido.

La Villa Hotel
Casalotto di Mombaruzzo
Via Torino 7, 14046 Mombaruzzo (AT)
Piedmonte, Italy
Tel: 39 0141 793890
Fax: 39 347 2818843

Opened by an English couple in May 2005, this converted 17th century palazzo is located within the scenic Monferatto hills. Now a luxury country hotel, the rooms at La Villa have been designed with comfort and decorated with care. Every room in the hotel has a 360-degree view of the hills and vineyards, and affords a perfect vantage point for sunsets that seem to last forever. The hotel offers a variety of custom programs throughout the year centered around local events, wine tastings, truffle hunting and even furniture restoration.

  • Rooms: 14 rooms (2 apartments, 2 singles, 5 doubles, 5 suites)
  • Rates: 100 euros – 200 euros. Click here for currency converter.
  • Credit Cards: AMEX, MasterCard, Visa
  • What to Do: Go truffle hunting with La Casa del Tifulau, where 5th generation truffle hunters will teach you the mysteries of this fungi and take you out at night in search of the elusive white truffle. Arrange a tour of Berta Distillery, the largest Grappa distillery in the region.

City

Grand Hotel Sitea
Via Carlo Alberto, 35
10123 Turin – Italy
Tel: 39 01151 70171
Fax: 39 0115 48090
www.thi.it

You can’t beat the location of this full-service hotel on Via Carlo Alberto. What the hotel may lack in modern-day chic, it makes up for in classic elegance and attention to detail. Rooms are well-sized with marble bathrooms and slippers for guests. A continental breakfast buffet, business center, and outdoor garden round out the services that are offered with graciousness by the bi-lingual staff. The hotel is also home to The Carignano, one of the city’s most famous and elegant restaurants.

  • Rooms: 114 rooms (3 junior suites)
  • Rates: 105 euros – 300 euros. Click here for currency converter.
  • Credit Cards: AMEX, MasterCard, Visa
  • What to Do: One cup of Turin caffé and you’ll be ready to explore the city. Visit the National Museum of Cinema, a reminder of Turin’s former position as the leading film-producing center (until Rome took over). Take a ride to the top of the museum’s spire (which makes it the tallest museum in the world) for the best view of the city below. Afterwards, walk to Al Bicerin to sample to local coffee drink aptly named bicherin, a culinary treat made with espresso, hot chocolate, and cream.

RESTAURANTS
Country

Guido da Costigliole
Relais San Maurizio - Hotel del Monastero
Località San Maurizio, 39
12058 S. Stefano Belbo
Phone: 039 0141 841900

Whether or not you stay at Relais San Maurizio, the Guido restaurant located in the wine cellar of the former monastery is worth a visit for both the surroundings and the food. Nestled beneath the hotel, you’ll wine and dine under stone and barrel vaulting. Chefs Andrea Alciati and his mother, Lidia, serve regional specialties such as vitello tonatto, and they treat each dish with the utmost care and creativity. The slices of veal are beyond delicate and the tuna ultra creamy. They handle the pumpkin and potatoes in a vegetable lasagna with the same finesse, finishing it with a light cream.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Vitello Tonnato
    Lasagnetta Verde

Trattoria nelle Vigne
Via S. Croce (Loc. Cascinnoto)
Diano D’Alba
Phone: 039 0173 768503

As the name suggests, this trattoria will have you gazing at miles and miles of vineyards while you dine on hearty countryside classics. Sabrina Farioli serves a seasonal menu that focuses on the locally produced ingredients, like salty anchovies smothered in a hazelnut spread, and sweet peppers with tuna. The pane fritto con lardo (fried dough with lard) may be one of the best things you’ll ever taste, until of course you get to the tajarin, the region’s fresh pasta made with at least two dozen egg yolks per kilo of flour. Sabrina does this eggy pasta justice by topping it with a sausage Bolognese. You’ll get all of this, plus much more, for a mere 21 euros, including a medley of traditional desserts, including chocolate salami.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Insalata Pollo
    Pane Fritto con Lardo
    Tajarin Bolognese
    Agnoletti Rosemarini
    Semifreddo
    Panna Cotta

Guido
Guido da Costigliole’s sleeker and more grown-up brother is within the University of Gastronomic Sciences campus. It is a suitable location for the Alciati brothers who describe their culinary style as “cuisine de terroir.” Using history and culture as much as ingredients and technique, they have created a menu that is rooted in tradition with a nod to the future. An amuse of pea foam playfully garnished with a cheese sandwich is light and airy, while a cipolla gratinee (onion stuffed with tomatoes, basil, and meat) is hearty and rustic. The fusion of classic and modern dishes on the menu is echoed by the high-ceilinged dining room’s construction – a combination of brick, glass, and steel.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Cippolla Novella
    Capretto di Roccaverano
    Pistacchi Sformat

Combal Zero
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia – Rivoli
Phone: 011 95 65 2222

Davide Scabin isn’t just a chef; he’s a scientist, comedian, and artist all rolled into one. His laboratory is Combal Zero, the glossy restaurant overlooking Turin from the Castello di Rivoli complex, just outside the city. While the view might take your breath away, it’s nothing compared to what’s behind the kitchen door. He uses engineering to take food apart and then put it back together in unexpected ways, as in a pizza soup (a liquid slice) or a virtual oyster (a blending of watermelon, tuna eggs, and almond that tastes just like the briny mollusk it references). A methodic experimenter, Scabin expects patrons to let go of their inhibitions and interact with his food. A chisel and hammer accompany the fish fossil, and you’ll need a scalpel to crack into his signature cyber eggs. His innovative food is matched only by the naming of each dish: Harry Potter, Ham Book, and Piola Kit to name a few. Already a player on the international food scene, Scabin hopes to tear down the barriers between the dining room and the kitchen, creating a seamless experience where all senses play a part.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Savoy Bombe
    Cold Pea Soup
    Ham Book
    Cyber Eggs
    Piola Kit
    Cocoa Alexander

Osteria del Paluch
Baldissero Torinese (Torino)
Via Superga, 44 – 10020
Phone: 39 011 94 08 750

Chef Marina Scasso’s restaurant is perched atop a hill near the church La Superga. The restaurant serves a set menu that changes daily, depending on her whim and the products of the season. Known as an expert on cheeses and salumi, Marina scours the woods of her backyard for herbs and foliage to incorporate into every course of the meal, taking the concept of local cuisine to a new level. During the summer the outside park becomes part of the restaurant which allows Marina to serve more guests.

Villa San Carlo
Corso Divisioni Alpine 41
Cortemilia 12074
Phone: 39 0173 81546

Carlo Zarri is the owner and chef of this hotel cum restaurant in Cortemilia, a Piemontese town in the Langhe region. Zarri, a sommelier and member of the Italian Sommelier Association, has personally collected an extensive wine cellar with a focus on local wines. In addition to his chef and sommelier duties, Zarri teaches classes on the foods of Piedmont and has written two guidebooks on regional cooking and cuisine. He will also be in charge of catering services for the NBC coverage of the Olympic Games. StarChefs met up with him on his recent trip to New York when he cooked dinner at the James Beard House.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Vitello Tonnato with Baby Greens
    Truffled Risotto in Parmigiano Crust


 
hotlinks_general_narrow
  • Truffle Hunting in Willamette Valley
  • The New Range of Pasta and Wine
  • Forum: Piedmont is Getting In Shape for the 2006 Winter Olympicss


  •    Published: December 2005
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