18 Sep Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Dining with Italian Winemakers
This past week was spent traveling around the Langhe in Piemonte, visiting wineries in Novello, one of the communes of Barolo, as well as the Roero, neighboring the Langhe. With so many wonderful visits and wines, it is almost impossible to pick the one thing that stood out all week. So for this week’s Please The Palate pick of the week, it is all of the wonderful lunches and dinners I enjoyed with winemakers.
As I look back at the week, it seems like I was eating all the time…and I think that is likely true. Each day included a full lunch with two or three courses, followed by a similar dinner that seemed to take place only hours later. But what was special about each meal, in addition to the delicious food and even more delicious wines, was the company of the winemakers, with whom I was able to converse with in Italian to have fun, interesting, and thoughtful conversations about wine and life.
I was in the town of Novello for the first couple days. Novello is one of the eleven communes in Barolo. Home to Nebbiolo and Barbera, it is also home to the indigenous white variety Nas-Cëtta.
I enjoyed lunch with Roberto Cogno from Cascina Gavetta, a small family producer, and Gabriele Oderda from Arnaldo Rivera, the cooperative in Novello. Arnaldo Rivera was an elementary school teacher and the mayor of Castiglione Falletto for 37 years. In 1958 he started the cooperative to help families with small plots of vines and today there are close to 300 members. One of the families that sells grapes to the cooperative is Roberto Cogno’s family but they also produce small amounts of wine, including Nascetta, under their own label Cascina Gavetta.
We enjoyed lunch at Bar Barbabuc located in the charming little Hotel Barbabuc where I was staying. Here we enjoyed classic Piemontese aperitivi including Lingua con Bagnetto Verde, thinly sliced beef tongue with a green sauce made with parsley and garlic.
That night, I was joined by a group of the winemakers for dinner at Ristorante LangOtto.
I enjoyed a sparkling Nascetto from Passone Massimilliano and Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolos from Marengo Mauro, Azienda Agricola Vietto, and San Silvestri. Each of these family-owned wineries produces Barolo and Barbera but are passionate about the indigenous white grape Nascetta which is starting to get some attention under the sub-DOC Nascetta delle commune di Novello.
Ristorante LangOtto is owned by Chef Otto Lucà and features a modern take on classics. A standout dish was the uovo morbida ai funghi porcini, riduzione di salsa trifold, crostini al burro, a soft egg with porcini mushrooms, cream sauce reduction, and toasted bread with butter.
The next day, after enjoying a vertical flight of Elvio Cogno Nascettas from 2020 to 2003, I had the pleasure to eat lunch with Valter Fissore of Elvio Cogno.
Elvio and I went to a restaurant in the town of Novello, near the church, that is called L’Angolo di Rosina. As the town is on the top of the hill, we sat outside looking over Novello.
My trip to Italy was a bit early for truffles but mushrooms are in bloom. We had Porcini Fritti, slices of fried porcini mushrooms that were addictive!
And, the tagliarini with funghi was magical. The thin egg pasta was delicate and the mushrooms were full of flavor, perfect to pair with Nebbiolo.
After Novello, I drove about 30 minutes to Roero, another UNESCO region in Piemomte that is neighbors to the Langhe, which is also home to Nebbiolo and Barbera, but Arneis, an elegant white wine, as well.
In Roero, I was honored to enjoy a family meal with Angelo Negro & Figli’s Giovanni Negro and his family (daughter Emanuele, son Angelo and his wife Annalisa) prepared by Giovanni’s wife Maria Elisa and daughter-in-law Pinuccia.
After Giovanni drove me around Monteu Roero to show me all of his vineyards, we sat down at a long table to taste the wines as we enjoyed lunch.
Maria Elisa and Pinuccia prepared traditional Piemontese dishes, such as Pomodoro Ripiena con salsa tonnata which was fresh tomatoes stuffed with a tuna puree.
We also had peperoncini con acciughe which were roasted peppers from Giovanni’s garden toped with anchovies.
And the pasta was so simple, a tagliarini (egg pasta) that was served plain and topped at the table with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. It was an honor to enjoy a home-cooked meal of traditional dishes with the family as I tasted through the wines.