The Roero is a wine growing area just north of the more famous Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco). The grape variety Arneis put the area on the map, hopefully their profumato Nebbiolo on sandy soil will keep it there. Instead of seeing just vines lining the countryside, you’ll notice patches of woods and hiking trails. This is a good thing if you enjoy rabbit, or that miracolo della natura, tartufo bianco (white truffles). You didn’t think they were sourced from Alba, did you? Tartufi were once a humble ingredient found in the cucina povera of the area. I find eating them even today in the Roero more charming than in Langhe, and not only because they can often be cheaper.
ROERO (3 suggestions):
1. Ristorante all’Enoteca / Chef Davide Pallude
(Via Roma, 57, 12043 Canale CN, tel. 017 39 58 57)
Italians bring panache to jeans. Stylish well-cut jeans, matched with an ironed shirt and blazer, or a top, et voilá! one’s got just the outfit that fits the vibe at a classy but unfussy place like Ristorante all’Enoteca, with chef Davide Pallude. If you don’t have fitted jeans, there’s a more casual Osteria downstairs. Both places are at the same location as the regional Roero Enoteca, so you’ll find a deep and Roero-wide, wine list. Order a bottle of the white Arneis to get thing going (a few producers are fermenting with some skin contact to good results). If it’s Fall and something on the menu says tartfuo, you say: Sì, grazie! Order an aged Roero DOCG wine (Nebbiolo grape as in Barolo) and you’ll be a part of the history of this relatively newer appellation, as this is the place where many Roero producers come themselves for a fine dining dinner, while drinking and checking in on other Roero producer’s wine. In fact, that’s what’s so cool here. There are locals who love wine and food, a bit of the international crowd, wine producers, and a convivial air and conversation amid all very serious food and wine. This is a model enoteca risotorante for other areas of Italy. (Grazie to Angelo Ferrio from Cascina Ca’ Rossa for bringing me here on the spur of the moment almost a decade ago.)
2. Ristorante Il Centro
(Via Umberto I, 12041 Priocca, tel. 0173 61 61 12)
I think they got a Michelin star a few years ago, so the Cordero family and Co. is now expected to be en ponte. That said, this place has had it going on for years now; you’ll find no snobbery or tightness in the dining room air. I’ve never had a less than a stellar meal here. The well-managed wine cellar neither too big (read: you’re still ready the wine-Bible list and your friends are ordering dessert), or too small; there are no filler bottles or producers, and the owners and sommeliers are great at thinking of what why you might enjoy with being overly analytical. Food is precise but not fussy, perfectly cooked, and with the best materia prima (raw ingredients). One of the classic antipasti, on the rounds that come out at the start of a meal in Piemonte, is a sweet-sour one-two punch of roasted peppers with a slice of anchovy, and a few drops of wine vinegar. It’s very simple, but delicious and easily replicated all over piemonte (and maybe your next dinner party). Il Centro’s is looks and tastes better. Val del Prete’s Arneis we import is a great match.
3. Trattoria Tre Galline
(Piazza Trento E Trieste 71, 12043 Canale, tel. 0173 97 97 99)
Sometimes a simple lunch with lots of local character is just the thing. A plate of home made pasta Tajarin with local mushrooms, or maybe a small plate of carne cruda. This is the perfect humble lunch place for both, or just one of them. Wine list is small but there are a few gem local producers. Enrico Cauda and his brother Manuele from Cascina Fornace took me here a few years ago.