You never have to travel too far from Alba to enjoy good food. Most restaurants will offer fresh produce, well prepared and cooked and have a selection of reasonable wines to accompany. But if you come searching for international-style Michelin starred cuisine, with one exception, Piazza Duomo, look elsewhere. This is the home of the cucina casalinga, the traditional home cooking of the hills. That’s not to say that the food can’t be elegant and more refined than you would be served at home, but rather that the dishes are based on tried and tested favourites that the locals have been eating for ages. Ingredients are most often from local sources and only foods of the season are used. Below, there are just a few of my favourite restaurants to be found close to Alba.
Trattoria Del Bivio – Massimo Torrengo, Albaretto della Torre http://www.trattoriadelbivio.it
This stylish and elegant restaurant with rooms is one of the great watering holes of the Langhe hills. It’s only about 15 k from Alba, with magnificent views from the 6 bedrooms of the rolling hills folding down to Cravanzana. The restaurant is sure to please with Selia Promio giving you a warm welcome on arrival and chef Massimo Torrengo creating dishes with a modern twist on traditional favourites. Try his signature dish -Il Cappuccio e Brioches – a twist on breakfast with a fonduta cheese sauce topped with truffle and served with a savoury croissant for dipping. His Tajarin (hand-made tagliatelle) served with a Bra Sausage Sauce is the best I’ve tasted and again, is a dish well worth ordering.The menu offers plenty of choice as does the extensive and well chosen wine list.
Castello di Guarene – Gabriele Boffa, Guarene https://www.castellodiguarene.com/
Just a few miles outside Alba in the Roero lies the sumptuos Castello di Guarene. A luxury hotel set in the old castle of Guarene and where the very talented young chef, Gabriele Boffa has established his wonderful restaurant. Although modern in style, the dishes still retain their roots in the Piemonte tradition. This restaurant is well worth a detour if you’re looking for fine food and an extensive wine list.
Piazza Duomo – Enrico Crippa, Alba http://www.piazzaduomoalba.it/en/
This stylish and elegant restaurant has three Michelin rosettes and despite my original comment of not star gazing in the Langhe, this one is a superb place to eat so long as your wallet is full. Enrico Crippa learned his trade not only in Italy where he was born but also in France and Japan, the latter’s influence being both visible and edible at his table. The restaurant’s own vegetable garden supplies many of the ingredients and others are sourced locally. The dishes are creative with a nod to local tradition but fashioned in Sgr Crippa’s own style. He only uses the freshest of ingredients and dishes can even change in service to accommodate this. On my first visit, the dining room was run by an old friend from Chester so the red carpet was rolled out. Then Sgr Ceretto arrived with his daughter, also acquaintances so again, special treatment was given. What a meal! And great wines too courtesy of the Ceretto family and cantina. As I intimated, this dining experience will not come cheap (expect about 200/250 euros without wine) but when you want the best, cost becomes a secondary consideration.
Trattoria La Coccinella – Massimo Dellaferrera, Serravalle http://www.trattoriacoccinella.com
Three brothers are at the heart of this restaurant where you will find a wide choice of traditional Langhe dishes alongside a specialist seafood menu. The dining room is quite rustic with a variety of old radios and other artefacts to decorate, the cuisine is excellent and the wine list is fairly extensive with plenty of choice of local wines including Barolo and Barbaresco. The dining room is run by Tiziano and Alessandro who serve you in a relaxed yet professional style.
La Repubblica di Perno – Marco Forneis, Località Perno http://www.repubblicadiperno.it
This little restaurant takes a bit of finding, nestling in the hamlet of Perno, part of the town of Monforte d’Alba. It’s Barolo country so the wine list is extensive and carefully thought out by chef patron Marco. But it’s not just limited to Piemontese wines with a good selection of fine wines from other parts of Europe. You certainly won’t be disappointed with the food. The menu is short but offers something for everyone and the dishes are very traditional but cooked with a professional touch. Marco and his wife Elena are a delight to be with and the relaxed style of the restaurant is emulated by this lovely couple. The place is small (about 24 covers) so be sure to book. The only table downstairs is right by the kitchen so you can wait with mouth watering while Marco prepares you some Langhe delights.
Dulcis Vitis – Bruno Cingolani, Alba http://www.dulcisvitis.it/en/
The genial Bruno Cingolani is both host and chef at this tucked away restaurant in the heart of Alba. You’ll find Via Ratazzi running off Via Ospedale and it’s well worth the search. Dishes are simply constructed with a modernist twist and there is a good selection of wines to match. In the summer you can choose between the elegant dining room or dining al fresco with views of the kitchen where you can see your food being created. If you’re in the centre of Alba, do give this place a try. Prices are fair for the quality and it’s a cut above most of the rest.
Osteria del Vignaiolo – Luciano Marengo, La Morra http://osteriadelvignaiolo.it/
This excellent restaurant in the hamlet of Santa Maria has an elegant dining room with seating outside in the good weather. The food is traditional and of high quality. One particular favourite of mine is a Parmesan basket with a potato puree and quail legs and a reduction sauce. The wine list is extensive with most of the La Morra producers represented. Prices are fair too. Well worth a visit.
Trattoria Belvedere – Elena Risaglia, Serravalle http://www.belvederetrattoria.it/ristorante/
This simple little restaurant just of the main square in Serravalle Langhe is simply what the Langhe is all about. Great ingredients, simply prepared and very fair prices. The place also offers bed and breakfast too so drinking and driving should never be a problem. The surroundings are smart yet rustic, the food very good and the wines simple but sufficient. An excellent choice when the rigours of the Michelin Guide become too much!
Circolo La Torre – Angelino, Albaretto Torre No website
Most villages have a circolo – a kind of social club – but this is one of the best. Angelino, Sardinian by birth but now very much Langhese does not offer a menu but just cooks what’s good on the day. Pierra Porro who runs the front of house just glides back and too from kitchen to dining room as if on casters and always has a welcoming smile. The food is simple but very good and don’t worry about the lack of menu as something will always be made for you to satisfy any diet. Wines are limited but decent and the prices are low.
Filippo, Oste in Albaretto – Filippo Giaccone, Albaretto Torre http://www.filippogiaccone.com
Yet another great restaurant in Albaretto. A short, simple menu with traditional dishes, a good wine list and a delightful panorama if you’re eating in the garden. Filippo learned his trade from his father, Cesare, who had the restaurant before him (and now has a new restaurant further up the road, not listed here as it’s only open by appointment) and very well taught he has been. There is often a rabbit roasting over an open fire to be taken as a main course and the choice of antipasti and primi is small but good. Booking is recommended.
Osteria dell’Arco – Maurizio, Alba http://www.boccondivinoslow.it/osteria/ita/osteria.asp
This is the sister restaurant to Il Boccodivino in Bra where the Slow Food movement originated. The Slow Food tradition continues to this day and when dishes are prepared using Slow food ingredients, they are marked with the snail logo on the menu and served on plates with the same mark. The food is good, sensibly priced with a good selection of wines to wash it down. The restaurant is tucked away in a small square just off the main piazza, Piazza Savona in Alba and it gets busy for both lunch and dinner with the locals so I’d advise booking.
Pizzeria La Rue – Tiziana, Lequio Berria No website
This is a great find but you may need a compass to get there! It’s tucked away at the back of the Village of Lequio Berria but for a simple dinner, hearty and satisfying it’s well worth the effort of the search. As well as pizzas, the restaurant offers a small selection of other dishes but the pizza is the best! La Rue is the local dialect word for a wheel and when the pizzas come, they’re about the same size with a thin and crispy crust that have been cooked in a wood-fired oven to add just a hint of a smokey taste. Tiziana is a great believer in bio-dynamics and although not all products are bio-dynamic, the most are at least organic and very tasty too. A great place and costs nothing.
Madonna della Neve – Cirio Family, Cessole http://www.ristorantemadonnadellaneve.it
This was a restaurant regularly enjoyed by Michele Ferrero. It’s cuisine is rustic and hearty with plenty of choice on the menu and wines to accompany. It’s also an hotel so despite its far-flung location, there’s no need to move far after dinner. One special dish to be found here is the small Ravioli del Plan served dry in a napkin and then served once again covered in Barbera wine. Just as the grandparents would have eaten them. The surrounding countryside is beautiful in the Bormida Valley too to walk off the excesses of lunch or dinner.
La Cantinetta -Paolo Chiappetto, Barolo Awaiting Website
This fairly simple bistro-style restaurant in the heart of the village of Barolo is great fun with good cuisine and wines. The menu is pretty traditional with furnishings more modern, as is the artwork adorning the walls. Paolo’s brother Maurilio runs the front of house with panache and service is exemplary. There’s a good choice of dishes too and some truly excellent wines to be had as you’d expect in a village with such a famous name. However, as its in Barolo it’s often full so booking is advisable.