This time Caro Macchi takes the stand.
This could also be called a story of names. First, Giancarlo and Terry, who in addition to living the Langhe know them inside and out. A Sunday in May they take Carlo to Renato and Marina’s restaurant, where he eats so well he doesn’t just return with Giancarlo and Terry, but also takes Stefano, Kyle, Roberto, Luciano and Pasquale, who are so struck by Renato’s deftness in the kitchen and Marina’s welcome in the hall that they will certainly take… A review based upon word of mouth might stop here, but those who don’t know where or how Renato cooks might want to know.
Renato and Marina are the owners of the Osteria Italia in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. We’re in the Barbaresco appellation, less than 4 km from Alba. I say less because I once walked back and forth from Alba to enjoy a walk in Langa interrupted by some fine food.
Returning to the Osteria Italia, San Rocco Seno D’Elvio is a tiny town surrounded by vineyards, one of those places tourists love to call picturesque. In addition to calling, they should take my advice and enter the Osteria Italia. The door is happy and inviting, with the name in white on a red field, and lots of stickers from the renowned guides that have found the place noteworthy. The hall inside the door, lined with wine bottles, is even more inviting, and more inviting still is the hall, with tables covered by picknicky tablecloths that confer a unique atmosphere to place settings
Let yourself be overcome by the country atmosphere of the hall, sit at one of the widely spaced tables, and give the menu a glance. A few good, classic unforgettable Langa dishes. You could start with vitello tonnato or Insalata Russa (one of the finest in Italy) or with Cotechino woth Fondue and chopped raw Fassona beef. This to begin, but be careful! Renato’s portions, perhaps because he offers a limited selection of dishes, tend to be abundant. Quite.
Therefore, the plates of tajarin and agnolotti al ragù will also be heaping, and many may have a hard time reaching the second course. Which again features classic Langa dishes such as rabbit in civet, beef braised in Barbaresco and, if you’re lucky, fritto misto alla piemontese, Piemontese fried dinner.
There’s nothing countrylike about the service, however, which is deft and professional; Marina oversees everything, often with the help of her daughter. Ask for the wine list and you’ll be surprised once again, discovering a wide selection of local wines, especially Barbaresco, at decidedly competitive prices.
In short, this is one of those places that makes a huge impression on the mind, but not the liver, because Renato’s cooking may be abundant but it’s also quite easy to digest. This is one of those places you enter happy, and leave perhaps stuffed but happier still. Especially because your wallet won’t take a hit: A full meal, with a good bottle of wine, will run about 40 Euros, and have you feeling as if you’ve eaten for 80.
Fraz. San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, 6 12051 Alba (CN)
E-mail: info AT osteriaitalia DOT it