This time Carlo Macchi invites a guest, whom he introduces with,
This article was written by Giancarlo Montaldo, who isn’t another new member of the IGP team, but is a dear friend and a journalist who knows Piemonte (and more) like the back of his hand. Given that it was he who introduced me to this restaurant, it seems only right tat he write about it. I can only say that had I written, I would have been even more enthusiastic…. GO!!!
The Restaurant with rooms those coming from Canale encounter at the entrance to Montà is more than just a Belvedere; it’s also great food and drink, given the dishes and wines they offer, and especially the wines, which include many great older vintages from both banks of the Tanaro River.
I went on a rainy, rainy evening in the course of Nebbiolo Prima, with Carlo Macchi and Alessandra Piubello. Outside the clouds hovered lmaking the sky seem gloomier than it was. But the view of the rolling hills was so beautiful that one could see through the storm and imagine what the panorama might be on a clear bright day. Seated at the great table, looking out over the valley, we felt as if we were in paradise.
The Triverio family has been hostlers since Nonna Emilia bought the inn at the gate to Montò, which then offered changes of horses and a place for animals and men to sleep. In the mid 1800s, long before trucks and cars assisted the climb from Canale to Montà, the addition of a pair of horses or oxen to the train pulling a carriage or wagon was essential if the driver wanted to get from Alba to Torino.
Here Piemontese cooking slowly came together. First Nonna Emilia, then Daughter-in-Law Angelina, who has been joined by another Emilia, her daughter; it is here that the two cooks repeat the rituals of the selection of the ingredients, the preparation of the foods, and the pairing of flavors, all keeping in mind what the land and tradition have developed over time.
The raw salami began the dance with its crisp aromas and full flavors, followed by Insalata Russa, prepared in the classic way: The vegetables boiled in water with a little salt and a splash of vinegar, and diced to help the aromas and flavors meld. An intriguing contrast between the richness of the mayonnaise and the sourness of the lemon and vinegar.
The hand-chopped raw beef with just a minimum of other ingredients (a pinch of salt, a little lemon, and extravirgin olive oil) brought the antipasti to a close.
Asparagus is another jewel in Roero’s crown, especially the spears from the sandier parts of the highlands, towards the Pianalto Torinese. They were flavorful and crisp, served in a surprising ragù over hand-made tajarin. Tajarin are a specialty of Alba, made between the Langhe and Roero, and legends speak of dozens of yolks per kilo of soft wheat flour. A tradition that’s not entirely believable, considering that until after the War eggs were a precious commodity that went to feed the sick, or sold to gather the coins necessary to purchase sugar, coffee, the cocoa necessary to make desserts, and so on.
Memories of the days the farmers spent combining lunch and dinner came together in another dish too, one combining rustic simplicity with memorable flavors and aromas. Just a game cock, nothing more. But what a game cock! One that spent its days scratching in the barnyard, roasted with potatoes, carrots, and seasonal vegetables.
Finally, bonét. In Langa, as in Roero, be one at home or in a restaurant, one cannot conclude a meal without a slice of bonét, the classic chocolate dessert that also includes eggs, flour, amaretti and other simpler ingredients to produce a “not too sweet sweet” with bitter aftertastes that are so beguiling as to make it work well with a wine such as Dolcetto, which is not sweet. No complaints should you happen to have a good Moscato d’Asti, but if you don’t try a simple red and you won’t regret it.
We mentioned wine. Here, the women of Casa Belvedere kept quiet, in their great kitchen, working on the next day’s foods, while Marco Triverio, Sommelier and Emilia’s brother, revealed all the passion he has for what the vineyards produce on the left and right banks of the Tanaro River.
Following his advice we began with a pale Favorita, termed “delle Langhe”, but produced on a crest in Roero. Blessed with subtle rich aromas, which almost seemed hesitant to emerge in all their splendor, it accompanied the antipasti: Neither full nor invasive, it is a refined wine from a small producer, Bartolomeo Demarie of Vezza d’Alba, one of the winemakers Marco appreciates the most.
We then sought a “Nebiolin” from the sandy hills of Roero, and were satisfied. Once again a Langhe DOC, it reveals the deftness of the sandy terroirs so common in Roero. It was from Santo Stefano, where the soils really are loose, and the producer is again small: Carlo Costa, who is unknown to most, but not to Marco, who search for the new is incessant.
You know what is the finest quality of a truffle dog? His sense of smell, of course. And Carlo Macchi has a great nose too, though for wine, not truffles. He started browsing the wine list Marco had given us, flipping from page to page, and coming back to one with an unending list of great wines (Roero, Barolo and Barbaresco) from historic vintages at amazing prices (amazing being a euphemism for astonishingly reasonable).
We asked why the prices were so low, and Marco replied “I’d rather people drink the wines.” Who can disagree with that?
We therefore decided upon a 1996 Produttori del Barbaresco. Not a Riserva, but a blend from a vintage remembered for its great climatic harmony, and we could not have made a better selection on that rainy night. The finesse of the aromas and flavors we found in our glasses says so even now.
We took things slowly. One sip after the other, without rushing and in friendship, without fighting over the bottle. Carlo enjoyed the last sip, and he deserved it. After all, t’was he who found te special bottle.
We emerged midway between evening and night to a sky that continued to rain down on hills and valleys, and made our unhurried way home.
We will return to Belvedere di Montà. And will seek another bottle that can tell the story of a vineyard, of its hills, of the vintage, and of the winemaker. And leaving time for many open thoughts, hoping that it will rain no more.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.