A barking dog greets us as we approach the door. The ristorante overlooks the valley, but at 8:30pm it’s too dark to appreciate the view anymore. We are seated (after successfully confirming our reservations online in Italian (woo hoo!)) at the table with our place card which reads:
Well… I guess that sets the staff’s expectations of us fairly low. Nowhere to go but up, now!
We order antipasti and main courses. An amuse is sent out from the kitchen: breaded and fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with veal and herbs. Lovely. We order a bottle recommended by Nicola (a Barbera d’Alba) and it’s great (of course).
Nancy’s quail with its uovi looks and tastes great and my tartare of veal is wonderfully light and clean tasting. Both dishes are topped with shaved truffles. Neither dish stands a chance. When our next course arrives, my veal filet comes wrapped up as a gift in cellophane and ribbon. Nancy’s taglietelli with white truffles shows up as just pasta with a little butter, but having observed it several times in the restaurant already, we know what’s coming. The head waiter comes over with the white truffle and starts shaving. With every slice, I can hear the cash register bell ringing *ka-ching! ka-ching!* After about 45 slices, the dish is probably worth the €35 we paid for it. Both dishes are delicious.
With that course conquered, the desserts are offered and, despite achieving satiety, Nancy orders the pannecotta and the semifreddo. I get the tortello di nocciolo (hazelnut torte). Nancy eats half of hers, and I all of mine. An espresso and cappuccino finish off the meal.
So, Sinio is right in the middle of the Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto regions. With only 7 major communes in Barolo, we decide to hit that one first (and, as it turns out, last).
The first stop is La Morra. Not because it has an Enoteca Comunale (like a tasting room for that commune’s wines), but because it has sweeping vistas of the entire Barolo region. On the way there, we’re shocked at the vast number of vines on the hills. The density of the vineyards themselves is as common in Sonoma or Napa, but it seems that every square foot of space in the region is planted (unlike Sonoma and Napa). Combine that with the fact that the vines are trellised to resemble 6 foot high walls, and the “maze” of vineyards is incredible.
We get to La Morra and the entirely friendly (and fluent in English) lady gets us to the right spot. We enter the enoteca and make a friend. Nicola (that’s nee-COH-lah; a guy) is friendly, loves wine, loves food and lives 20 meters away. He helps us with some Barolo selections and several tastings, as well as dinner suggestions and reservations. After probably an hour in there, we step outside and notice that the sun has broken free! Picture-snapping ensues, and we head out to the commune of Barolo.
Barolo is pretty dead, by the time we get there. We mistakenly step into a producer’s cantina instead of the commune’s and end up paying €10 to taste 4 wines (only 2 barolos). The wines weren’t that great, but the situation could have been worse. We could have been tourists in Napa Valley and paid as much to taste Beringer’s wines or something. We eventually find the right spot, but it’s closed by the time we get there. After walking around a bit, we elect to head on to the other four communes. In Serralunga, we snap some castle pics and when lured into a small wine bar by Sinatra’s crooning, we find out why everywhere is so dead: harvest. We have a glass of wine each in the company of the 3 dogs, 2 cats and 1 person that seem to inhabit the town, then move on.
We manage to hit all but one of the communes before dinner, and with 30 minutes left to spare, we head back to La Morra for our dinner reservations. We arrive on time and see a couple we met earlier in the day (Bill and Jen from New York, who were staying at an agritourismo in La Morra. Sounded wonderful and cheap… Perfect).