October and November marks the season for the celebrated fungus, the tartufo bianco (white truffle), in central and northern Italy. The northern Italian region of Piemonte (Piedmont) in particular is not only a popular destination for the delicious local delicacy but also famous for its wines – primarily the Barolo, the Barbaresco, the Barbera and the Moscato D’Asti. And all just a 5-hour drive from Zurich!

Barolo vineyards

Enjoying the view of Barolo vineyards

Neive

A nice view from the town of Neive

What better reason to go back to Italy than for truffles, food and wine? Mike and I ventured out for a weekend of gluttony with our friends Mark and Tina. Since it was a weekend all about food and wine, let’s get right to it!

Treating Your Taste Buds 

Alba pano

On our way to Alba

Alba Truffle Festival

Alba’s annual White Truffle Festival, now in its 84th year, is a month-long celebration and exhibition that brings people from all over the world to experience the white truffle. You’ll find a plethora of booths selling both black and white truffles, cheeses of all varieties, sausages, mushrooms and wines. Even if you don’t make any purchases, having a look around and taking in all the different smells and tastings is a unique experience. Admission is only €2.50 so why not? 🙂

Alba Truffle Fair

Entering the Annual Alba White Truffle Fair

Alba Truffle Fair

The Alba White Truffle Fair offers lots of booths and tastings, not just white truffles

White truffles

A selection of white truffles, they smell divine

Cheeses

Mmmm cheese!

Nebbiolo

Cheese aged with Nebbiolo grape skins

Wine Tasting 

The Marchesi di Barolo Winery 

Our first wine tasting brought us to the historical cellars of the Marchesi di Barolo, where it was said that the Barolo wine was born more than 200 years ago – named after its town where it was first produced. Today, it is a winery run by the Abbona family, where its knowledge of vineyards and wines have been passed down for 5 generations.

Group pic Marchesi

At the Marchesi di Barolo Winery with our friends, Mark and Tina

Old Barolo

A bottle of vintage 1859 Barolo

Nebbiolo d'Alba

A more recent Nebbiola d’Alba we tasted 🙂

Wine tour at Marchesi di Barolo

Wine tour at Marchesi di Barolo

Wine tasting

Finished the wine tour with the best part, tasting it!

 

The Azienda Negretti Winery

This family-owned winery in La Morra was an ideal stop for our wine and food weekend. We were lucky enough to spend a couple hours with wine maker, Massimo Negretti, who shared with us a little about his family’s history, the grapes grown in the region, the harvest and wine-producing process. This winery specializes in the varieties of noble Barolo, classic Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera and the Dadà (a truly invigorating Chardonnay, which was new for me). Overall, I enjoyed the experience and the wines here over the Marchesi di Barolo – the intimacy and the attention we received from Massimo at his winery was first class.

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Wine tasting at the family-owned Azienda Negretti winery

Wines we liked

Negretti wines we particularly liked

Chardonnay

Mmm the buttery Langhe Chardonnay

Barbera

The Barbera d’Alba

Negretti

With the wine maker, Massimo Negretti at his family’s winery

Restaurants

Oh the deliciousness of Piedmont! Here’s what I ate over the weekend 🙂

Dinner at Massimo Camina (La Morra):

We found the staff to be on the pretentious side, always a damper on the experience…however, the food was inventive and delicious and our taste buds could not complain!

photo 8

Starter: Cream of potato soup with small leg of quail and foie gras in yellow onion

Cheese "Lasagnette"

Primi: Cheese “Lasagnette” with artichoke

Lamb and porcini

Secondi: Lightly battered lamb chops and porcini mushrooms

Dessert

Petit Four – dessert sampler compliments of the restaurant

Barolo

The Paolo Scavino 2010 Barolo was a perfect complement to our meal

 

Dinner at Ristorante San Marco (Canelli): 

We loved this restaurant in Canelli. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the staff was friendly and patient with our tough decision-making…what to eat! Here, we could pick a truffle for our table – they weigh it before purchase (cost is by the gram) and then it’s ours to share for the meal. Truffles on everything, please!

Truffles

Selecting a truffle for the table

Truffle selection

Pasta with truffles

Primi: Homemade egg pasta with butter and fresh white truffles

Veal

Secondi: Piedmontese veal cheek with quail egg topped with white truffles

Crème brûlée

Dessert! Crème brûlée, fresh berries, cream caramel and ice cream

Apple pie

And more dessert – Apple pie with almonds in pistachio sauce

Miguel begs for yummies

The restaurant’s dog, Miguel, begs Mike for some delicious scraps

 

Dinner at San Marco

Finishing dinner at San Marco – near empty wines, petit fours and fat tummies 🙂

 

Bar Roma (Santo Stefano Belbo):

This little bar in Santo Stefano Belbo is a great family-run local hangout. Whether it’s a cup of perfect foamy cappuccino or a sparkling glass of Moscato-secco, you’ll feel right at home and be treated like family. We went back the next day!

Bar Roma

The relaxed and fun atmosphere at Bar Roma

Lunch at Il Cascinalenuovo (Isola d’Asti):

We stopped by this restaurant for lunch on our way home. Since I was already stuffed from the weekend, I opted out of the tasting menu and went for the primi, which was a seasonal pumpkin risotto…hit the spot!

 

Parmesan

Parmesan sticks and hors d’oeuvres to whet the appetite!

Risotto

Entree: Pumpkin risotto with duck ragout

Dessert

Petit four sampler, compliments of the restaurant

 

Where We Stayed

La Residence delle Rose (Monforte d’Alba):

This quaint hotel has only 2 guest rooms, both done with great care. Each room has a view and the larger guest room is a suite with a small kitchen and rooftop terrace, boasting a 360-degree view of the vineyards.

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Mark and Mike taking in the view on the rooftop terrace of La Residence delle Rose

photo 15

Panoramic view from La Residence delle Rose

 

Residenza San Vito (Calamandrana):

This charming and brand new B&B has 5 guest rooms featuring original woodwork from the 18th century and high ceilings. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with private balconies. The hospitable owner, Angelo, welcomed his guests through friendly chatter, an amazing breakfast and even free bottles of wine from his small vineyard.

photo 37

At the charming Residenza San Vito

Overall, a very full weekend of sampling Italy’s famed food, wine and the tartufo bianco! Before you plan your trip however:

Two Important Tips>

  • Bring a detailed map or have access to Google Maps – we found that destinations were not always easy to find as every other street was named Via Alba or Via Roma, without street numbers. Our GPS could not locate the destination half the time and we were lucky to have access to the Internet.
  • Make appointments with the wineries and restaurant reservations well in advance of your trip, especially during high season to make the most of your holiday in Piedmont.

Happy eating!