This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand.
It was November, and it was raining. Usually in the Astigiano November is DOC, and if it’s raining it’s DOCG.
It was a DOCG Riserva type day, and together with the rest of the Winesurf team that had been tasting Barbera I was crossing the Asti hills towards Alba. The lunch hour was approaching and with Pierlorenzo Tasselli and Pasquale Porcelli not having an idea of where to eat at the appointed hour leads to an unending litany of complaints and falling sugar levels that wreak havoc on morale, especially on a DOCG Riserva November day. And thus I took inspiration from Winnie the Pooh, and put a paw to my head while saying, “Think, Think.”
I was beginning to despair when Winnie provided an answer. I remembered a small family run restaurant where I had eaten very well not too long before. Alas, my memory stopped with a woman who was very good in the kitchen, with the family revolving around her, and a warm, not too large, elegant dining hall.
I put Winnie back to work, using Pasquale’s most modern of phones, and soon it all falls into place. I was thinking of the Ristorante Violetta near Calamandrana. Thanks to modern conveniences we call and make reservations.
I said “near” Calamandrana for a reason. Indeed, we leave town, following occasional signs, and after a few km see the restaurant through the rain coming down in the square. A square that at one time must have been the courtyard fo a farm complex (where, we later discover, they built wagons). In the 60s the Lovisolo family had opened a small delicatessen and a town bar, which, with time became today’s restaurant.
And now we’re sitting in a hall that, in terms of size, brings to mind the living room of an old house. Tables, place settings, and ambiance are tremendously relaxing, and it almost seems that the rain is stopping.
We however concentrate on the hyperpiemontese menu recited by Carlo, Son of Maria, who has always ruled the kitchen. And make classic selections: Finely chopped raw beef, tajarin al ragù, ravioli with the sauce from a roast, and house gnocchi.
As second courses we settle upon stuffed gunea hen and rabbit roll, only because they don’t have the fabulous finanziera, a dish one cannot miss when Maria makes it. Both the guinea hen and the rabbit quite meet our expectations, and as the plates empty the sky seems to clear, perhaps also thanks to the two bottles of Barbera we selected from the wine list, which is quite local.
We told Pierlorenzo to think about dessert, and he selected a chilled (perhaps he was feeling warm?) nougat budding.
When it was all said and done, we realized more than two hours had passed, and Alba was awaiting us. The bill was quite acceptable, 45 euros per person, and we emerged so well warmed from the restaurant that we forgot our umbrellas. But only briefly, because outside it was still a November DOCG Riserva day, though the time spent enjoying Maria Lovisolo’s dishes had given us a ray of light.
Valle S. Giovanni 1, Calamandrana (AT)
Tel. e Fax 0220.127.116.11