Piedmont: Italy's Underrated Foodie Destination
A truffle doubling as my fantasy
wedding ring at I Bologna
Already visited Tuscany and made the pilgrimage to Umbria? As far as I am concerned, Piedmont remains one of Italy's most underrated destinations, which makes it one of the most pleasant and well-priced regions in the country. November is the perfect time to visit: the wine harvest has recently finished so you can get a taste of the new vintages, the foliage and vines are turning beautiful shades of yellow, red and brown, and best of all it's truffle season. Almost every good restaurant in Piedmont has a special truffle tasting menu. (Not to knock the great truffle offerings in cities like London or New York, but a fresh truffle that travels at most a few hours from dirt to dining table tastes way better than one shipped overseas.) Fresh, delicate, and just slightly pungent--hell, I understand why local prized pigs make whole careers out of foraging them. Maybe I'll sign up for their job.
Last week I dined at I Bologna, an amazing family-run institution near Asti (4 Via Nicola Sardi, Rocchetta Tanaro; 39-0141/644-600) and one of the holy grails of Italian restaurants. Here's the truffle-heavy menu bring served that day: an egg coddled with truffles (sublime), fresh taglierini made by the mother of the chef and topped with shavings of white truffle (they melted into the buttery pasta), and a fresh hazelnut parfait with caramel sauce that was so good I wanted to order two. My husband nibbled on local goat cheese accompanied by a marmalade made out of Barbera grapes and sipped the family's Monte Bruna Barbera Asti wine, which is a veritable bargain at 30 euros. It was one of those meals where I wanted to kneel on the floor and give thanks. (Don't worry, I restrained myself.) I Bologna was the first of a few days of truffle eating, a journey that only ended because, frankly, I couldn't eat anymore.