Three lunches in Italy

December 3, 2013

Every two years in October we drive from our house on the Côte d’Azur to the region around Alba where Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto wines are grown. We like to stop for lunch en route there and back. This year we spent October 21 and 22 at the Hotel Corte Gondina in La Morra. 

The big attraction of the trip is the dinner at Ristorante Bovio with generous portions of fresh, seasonal white truffles shaved over each of six dishes. I have posted on these dinners before and will not repeat this year as our dinner was almost exactly the same as in 2011. We also had a lovely dinner at Osteria Veglio in La Morra, on which I have just posted. Here I am describing our three lunches. The first was in Noli, a fishing village on the Italian coast just before we turn onto the autostrada north into the Piemonte. The second was in Alba, where we go shopping and walking during the middle day. The third was in Ventimiglia, just before our reentry into France, where we like to shop in the market and food stores. We have been in all three of these restaurants before.

There is a well-equipped stand by the beach in Noli where fishermen sell their fresh catch, but there was only one seller at noon on this grey October Monday. Back from the waterfront is a lively town center with very old buildings. Pino Ristorante is on a narrow alleyway off to the right of this photo.
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We ordered the Menù classico and a glass of Vermentino. 

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The starter was a thin omelette with grated zucchini and a very brown crust underneath. We each had half of the first one. The second also included small chopped cuttlefish and was even tastier.

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The classic local dish of spaghetti with small clams was lovely, just why we stop at Noli.

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The fish of the day was ricciola, or amberjack. It was smothered in a sauce of potato strips, tomatoes, olives, pine nuts and basil. Even though this had local authenticity, it was too elaborate a presentation and not at all consistent with the good straightforward cuisine of the first two dishes.

While we were enjoying lunch, the FedEx deliverer arrived at Pino with a replacement part for the coffee machine. This created some activity trying to install it, and so we went to Caffé Gino for our coffee en route back to our car.
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Coffee in Italy is always better than coffee in France or New York. 


The following day we went to Alba, where the Tuesday market was in full progress. We did some window shopping and some real shopping, buying Barolo at Grandi Vini Enoteca and truffled products at Tartufi Ponzio. A little before noon we went to our usual meeting place, Vincafé. We had glasses of Arneis with their generous free munchies.
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We then took the short walk to Enosfizioteca Conterosso, where we were the first customers. 
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I ordered a glass of the house nebbiolo. My first course was a
Terrina di cardi gobbi di Nizza gratinati al forno .
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Cardoons gratinéed with butter and Parmesan cheese are a local specialty.

Linda had a
Risotto “Carnaroli” mantecato con Toma d’Alba con tartufo bianco d’Alba.
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A risotto made with the local cow and sheep’s milk cheese had been topped with white truffle shavings.

I went on to
Agnolotti del plin al sugo d’arrosto con tartufo bianco d’Alba.
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Small agnolotti filled with veal had been dressed with veal jus and topped with white truffle shavings.


The following day, on the drive back to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, we shopped in the Ventimiglia market. Among other good things, I bought a fresh daurade to bake for dinner at home that evening. We went to lunch at Ristorante Cuneo.

The appetizer was a wedge of torte verde, a local specialty with zucchini and greens in flaky pastry.
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We ordered a bottle of the local Vermentino.
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We each had a large plate of spaghetti vongole.
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This was particularly good.

The waiter suggested seasonal porcini. I ordered them with a veal scallopini. They came sliced in a quite liquid sauce, not sautéed as I had expected, but the flavor was good.
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Well, these three lunches were good breaks in the middle of the day while we looked forward to substantial evening meals. They were also a good window into Italian cuisine.


4 Responses to “Three lunches in Italy”

  1. Karen Says:

    But, did you have the wild boar? Next time?

  2. Goodness, reading this review made me hungry, and spaghetti vongole is one of my favourite Italian dishes.

  3. George Says:

    Michael, these are the eats we miss most by not living there anymore. The meals at Cuneo where the dishes just kept coming without us ordering will be in our memory forever. As do the same type of meals in Apricale, that I am sure you have also tried.

    Thanks for sharing these with us in addition to the spectacularly creative and unique dishes that you experience in the special places you visit.


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