|"I'm going to be a slight rip-off."|
Ordinarily you can't go wrong taking dining advice from winemakers.* Where I miscalculated after our visit to Francesco Rinaldi e Figli might have been that I hadn't been speaking with the actual winemaker. Or perhaps there simply aren't any good lunch options within the price range we were seeking** in the town of Barolo itself, which, alone among towns we visited in the region, my friends and I unanimously found to be a self-parodic touristic moneypit.
The main street of the tiny town is lined with tasting rooms, all charging for tastings. There's a "Museum of the Corkscrew" that appears to be just a baroque beard for yet another shop selling wine, t-shirts, mugs, and other wine-ish memorabilia. And the castle that dominates the town houses a Museum of Barolo, which the Native Companion and J's wife C incomprehensibly decided to visit after declining to join us tasting at Francesco Rinaldi e Figli. (At lunch they insisted the puppet shows and hammy videos in the tour at the Museum of Barolo had been very amusing.)
J and I had planned to just get paninos somewhere. But the sandwich café in Barolo that day was unconscionably hot, hotter even on the tarped-over terrace than inside among the candy bars and Lotto tickets. So we had the NC and C meet us on the pleasant terrace at La Cantinetta, a place that was probably most notable for some absurd Batman Eating Pasta With Child On Lap artwork on the wall.
If I had to search the meal for some teachable moment - I suppose this is my self-imposed responsibility, in writing about it? - it would just be that Piemontese meals on autopilot are full of fairly reliable, unscrewupable options. I got no particular sense of quality consciousness from the staff at La Cantinetta, who instead displayed a sort of hokey Italianate moneygrubbiness I remember well from my time in the North End of Boston.
But the carne crudo was still absolutely fine.
And the tajarin - that rough-cut egg pasta, frequently in meat sauce, that everyone who's been through Piedmont will urge you to sample at all costs - was as pillow-soft and simplistic as it was everywhere else I tried it, including at some notably better restaurants. I didn't come away from this trip a great fan of tajarin, all told. It seems like its the area's specialty pasta sort of by default.***
Physically unable to drink red wine in the Augusto heat, J and I settled on an inexpensive bottle of Arneis we'd never heard of, on the simple basis that the producer, Bric Cenciurio, made two bottles of this grape and this one had a vineyard designation, "Sito dei Fossili." Sometimes this can imply that the vineyard-designated wine will be more structured, potent, and so forth... At other times, as in the case of the "Sito dei Fossili," the producer has just spent a little money on oak elevage, giving you what tastes quite a bit like the basic wine, plus wood.
The "Sito dei Fossili" sees just 40 days in oak, so it was far from overpowering, but nevertheless the wine was certainly one of the dullest Arneises I'd had in a while. It could have come from anywhere, it was like Faceless Italian Bianco #3589. There just aren't a lot of options for quality versions of Arneis, even in Piedmont. The best stuff - Bruno Giacosa, Brovia, Giovanni Almondo - is widely imported to the states, and these wines share an infinitesimally spritzy, energetic, oak-free style far removed from the soft and pear-shaped "Sito dei Fossili."
* No matter how tiny the town, how the odd the recommendation, e.g. Ludwig Bindernagel's suggestion we eat at Marmara Kebab in Poligny.
** Here everyone will recommend Ristorante Brezza. I really wanted to go! Not to mention taste through the wines. But the scheduling just didn't work out. Next trip.
*** Every town with a population over forty in Italy must by law have a specialty amaro, pasta, hand gesture, etc. It's how the economy has been sustained up till now.
33 Via Roma
Tel: +39 017356198
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Francesco Rinaldi e Figli, Barolo
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Capella di Sol Lewitt, La Morra
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Osteria La Salita, Monforte d'Alba
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Solativo Vinosteria, Ivrea
N.D.P. in Piemonte: Luigi Ferrando, Ivrea
N.D.P. en Suisse: Chateau de Villa, Sierre