Last weekend, Easter weekend, we took our new old car for a spin in the Piemonte, Piedmont region of Italy. I think it’s a region often overlooked but with some culinary traditions (gianduja / truffles / mushrooms, anyone?) and excellent wines that can’t be ignored. And once you’re in the Langhe and Monferrato areas of Piemonte, you’ll notice the rolling hills and endless vineyards may recall another, much-hyped region (Tuscany).
At least on a sunny day.
On a less than stellar day, you’ll see how the wine Nebbiolo (deriving from the Italian word for fog, nebbia) gets its name.
This Easter the weather was definitely less than stellar, and though we planned an outing for later in the day, we decided to enjoy a nice lunch at our hotel and not risk a meal somewhere, somehow on Easter Sunday. Luckily we already knew it would be good.
And what a meal it was. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much when it wasn’t a wedding. Here’s what we ate:
We started with a trio of appetizers for Easter lunch – roasted peperone with bagna cauda, a typical Piemontese sauce to eat with fresh or roasted vegetables. Sometimes it’s presented as a dip, kept warm while it’s consumed, or it’s ladled directly onto the vegetables as you see here. Bagna cauda is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter, so it’s full of umami.
The torta di Pasqua, Easter cake, made with cheese and honey is there in the top right. It had the consistency of a very fluffy quiche or soufflé.
Here’s a close-up of the other antipasto, a savory Torta di Pasqua, or rustica, is a torte with spinach, ricotta, and eggs, and a very flaky, buttery crust.
The first primo, pasta dish of the meal: Ravioli alla Piemontese, which were my highlight of the meal. I had cheated, though, and had them the day before, so I knew what I was in for. These lovely ravioli were made with a lighter non-egg pasta, and were hand-rolled and filled in the kitchen while we waited. They were drizzled lightly with a little tomato and that dark sauce is from a brasato, pot roast, and that little drizzle added so much flavor to the dish.
Our second primo, gnocchi in fonduta, melted cheese, were obviously hand formed as well and covered in a savory cheese sauce.
Many Italians eat lamb, agnello, or goat, capretta, at Easter. We were in the goat camp for that day, and I was quite glad as sometimes the flavor of lamb meat can be a little too strong for me. The roasted vegetables with the meat were trying hard to keep their form before melting in your mouth. I especially loved the borettane roasted onions. (I’m kind of addicted to them)
For the second “secondo” or meat entree, was another Piemontese specialty, Cima alla Piemontese, or sometimes called Saccocchia. Various meat products (head, brain, tongue) are mixed with chicken meat and ground out to form a log. This one surrounded with veal, baked and then sliced and garnished with artichoke hearts.
We were in a medieval building, dating back to 1000 (AD). Yes, no missing centuries from that number. I loved some of the little touches like this candle holder turned electric light.
As for dessert, by then I was just trying to stay seated at the table and as our individual tiramisu arrived, we took those heavy silver spoons and dipped, and dipped, and dipped.
Until it was all gone.
La Loggia ristorante
Acqui Terme, Piemonte, Italy