Typical Piedmont Cuisine - the Best Italian Dishes

Home of the Slow Food Movement, Piemonte is the place to sit down, relax, grab your self a glass of wine and mangia!

Don’t chicken out on these dishes, you must give them a go because as they say “when in Rome, do like the Romans.” “We say when in Langhe do like the Langhette.”

Here is my easy guide of these northern Italian dishes, to help you figure out what those menu’s really mean.

vitello tonnato

Don’t ask for the English menu, here you have the perfect cheat sheet to show off your foodie Italian skills. 

Remember this is the real Piedmont Italian food, there are no spaghetti and meatballs on these menu’s. 

For Starters = Antipasti pronounced (an-ti-pah-stee)

Carne Cruda

pronounced car-neh cru-dah

This is a typical dish like a beef tartar but instead of lots of flavors to cover the delicate meat flavor, they will just add EVOO and salt. If you want to look like a local, this is eaten with a grissini (breadstick) in hand to give some crunch. The way the people in Alba enjoy their Carne Cruda is thin slices, the way the people in Monferrato enjoy their Carne Cruda is chopped with a knife (batutta con cotello)

Vitello Tonnato

pronounced vi-tell-oh toh-nat-toh

This dish everyone must try, because once you start you can’t stop! A real traditional Piedmontese recipe.

You have roast beef thinly sliced with a tuna, caper, and mayo sauce. Absolutely delicious, trust me. 

Insalata Russa

pronounced in-sa-la-ta rue-ssah

This is Italy’s example of Potato Salad with some peas and carrots to make it healthy. There is sometimes tuna or hard boiled eggs added to this dish.

Tonno di Coniglio

pronounced ton-no D co-nig-li-oh 

A wonderful light dish made with rabbit that has been slow cooked to look like canned tuna. There is no tuna in this dish but the rabbit sure does look like one. 

Bagna Cauda

pronounced ban-ya caou-dah

This one is for the brave, a traditional Piedmontese recipe. A fondue served warm made with EVOO, lots and lots of garlic, and anchovy. You will take this and dip your veggies here and must have a glass of Barbera to help clean your pallet. 

agnolotti del plin

For the First Course = Primi pronounced (pree-me)

Tajarin

pronounced thai-ya-reeen 

This is what Piedmont is famous for, our typical egg pasta, like spaghetti, but yellow from all the egg yolks they put inside. This dish when the White Truffles of Alba are in season can be grated on top for extra flavor. Otherwise you will find it typically served with a ragù (rah-ghu) or salsiccia (sal-see-cha) or fassone (fas-on-neh).

Agnolotti del Plin

pronounced ag-know-lo-tea del pleen

This is our small but big flavored ravioli. Typically stuffed with meat and vegetables, but can also me made in the magro (ma-grow) version and will then be stuffed with ricotta (re-coat-ta) and spinach.

Gnocchi

pronounced ño-key

This wonderful potato dumplings are light and fluffy and will typically be served with Castelmagno (cast-al-mag-know) cheese, which is a wonderful cows milk cheese coming from the Alps. Or you will find it al pomodoro (pom-oh-door-row) a tomato sauce. 

Risotto

pronounced riz-aught-toh 

This is our rice, but made differently than the white rice you might find in an Asian or Indian restaurant. We cook ours with a vegetable broth adding a little bit at a time until the rice has reach the perfect texture. Then we will add either cheese, or seasonal vegetables. 

secondo

Main Course = Secondi (say-con-D)

Tagliata

pronounced tag-lee-ah-tah

this is the under filet of Fasone (fa-so-neh). Fasone is the breed of cow we have here in Piemonte, which is white, and very lean and so thus the meat should be enjoyed as rare as possible. Because if you cook it too much then it is better to braised to make it tender again. 

Brasato

pronounced brah-za-toe

This is braised beef cooked in wine. Sometimes with Barolo wine, sometimes with Barbaresco wine, and sometimes with Nebbiolo wine. Slow cooked and so tender that can be cut with a spoon. 

Bollito Misto

pronounced bowl-eat-toe miss-toe

This is a wintertime favorite of all kinds of boiled meat. Typically coming from the cow, and will be all kinds of different cuts. This is also served with two typical salsas that are Verde (ver-day) made with parsley, garlic, and EVOO or Rosso (roe-so) made with red peppers, and EVOO. The sauces are crucial to give the meat some extra flavor. 

Fritto Misto

pronounced free-toe me-stow

The literal translation is a mixture of fried things. Yum! With this you must be prepared for a typical Piedmontese meal of 25 courses of fried stuff. You must be brave as they fry everything from sausage, veggies, brains, heart, to cookies and apples, for the lighter side of things. 

Dessert = Dolce (dole-chay)

Bunet

pronounced boo-net

This is like a chocolate custard made with chocolate, almond cookies, eggs, and rum. It is quite decadent and perfect after a meal if a little bit of red wine is still in the glass.  

Semifreddo

pronounced semy-fray-dough

As is sounds it is an almost frozen dessert. Typically made with Torrone (tore-rone-nay) an egg white nougat with honey and hazelnuts. Or they will make it with Chinato (key-nat-toe) a red grape fortified wine with and infusion of quinine, herbs and spices.

 The Slow Food Movement

A few words about the Slow Food Movement that was started in Piemonte. It stated by Carlo Petrini in the 1990’s as the story goes; when McDonalds was trying to get the ok to be able to open up a food store in Piemonte or Rome (I am not quite sure which of the two), Carlo Petrini along with a group of friends and maybe some politicians started a protest, stating that Italy does not need any fast food stores.

What Italy needs is to practice the Slow Food traditions that are becoming more and more rare. That phrase Slow Food was the start of a movement, and organization to help preserve the traditional recipes and methods of the Italian regional cooking. With this list that I have given to you are some of these dishes that we need to keep in our traditions.

Please come to Piedmont with an open mind and to embrace the traditional foods that have shaped this area.

What we say in Sommelier school is: “wine from the area, food from the area.” As these are the two things that really go the best together.

You will also notice that when enjoying the wines and the food together that they make a perfect match. 

At the end of this story, thanks to the Slow Food they have put some pretty interesting laws in place for McDonalds and any other fast food chains.

That for their food stores they must place on each menu products coming from that area.

So what does this mean?

No outside foods, no processed meat or (pink slime) as they call it. It must be made from the farms surrounding.

So when you are in Piemont and they have a burger with Tuma cheese, now you know why. 

Thinking to visit the vineyards in Piemonte, Italy? Why wait!!

SAM_2325

SAM_2325

There are plenty of things to see and do and who wouldn’t want to take a visit to a Barolo or Barbaresco vineyard?

I mean the wine is what brought me to Piemonte. The finesse of Nebbiolo, the vineyards of Barolo and Barbesco all seemed so magical. I came to visit to see and taste the wines and meet the winemakers. Then I fell in love. One with the rolling hills covered with vineyards in Langa and two with a charming Italian man. (Ladies watch out for those Italians). I came to Piemonte because I was driven by my passion for the wine and the food. I was given the opportunity to work first hand in a vineyard to help out with the year’s production of Nebbiolo to make Barbaresco. I loved it, there was something about working with the grapes and making the wine and talking to people about what I was doing. There were so many visitors who would come to take a winery tour, come to taste the wines. They would want me to take them on the winemaking journey, to tour with them in the winery talking about what is going on, what we were doing and learn something new. The winery tour and vineyard tour was my favorite part, taking a walk on a crisp autumn morning when the vineyard leaves were beginning to change color. You can tell the grape varietal by the color the leaves change “Gianni one day said to me”, as we were taking a walk in one of the vineyards located in the Asti area.

We would wake up early every morning to be greeted in the cellar by a tractor full of grapes ready for the crush. All of these ruby colored grapes filling every single red plastic crate. When you hold up the Nebbiolo grapes to the sun you can see through them the skins of the Nebbiolo take almost a Rose’ color and in light become transparent.   The Nebbiolo is the king of the grapes here in Piemonte and in all of Italy. The essence of Nebbiolo is like no other, it is elegante, complex, and can sometimes be quite powerful. There is no other grape to compare it to. It is also one grape that does not ever show as wonderful when planted outside of it’s Piemontese home. Even in Piemonte the Nebbiolo grape is quite finicky, it really does not like to go too far away. Just like most Italians, their home is beautiful, their culture is wonderful, and it is hard to find another place in the world as wonderful as Italy.

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WP_20150908_003

As the harvest started to come to an end, Gianni and I would take his fast car to the mountains to have a traditional Piemontese mountain meal. We would drive for hours on these windy streets to arrive to a restaurant that looked more like someone’s home and would be welcomed in to have an amazing meal. We would eat Polenta with cheese, braised meats (my favorite was always the wild boar), have a couple of bottles of Piemontese wine and enjoy hours of laughs amongst us as well as the warm and charming mountain people who were feeding us this wonderful meal. We would then finish the meal with some Genepy or some Amaro from the area. Then head off to some quite grassy spot and take a nap. With the wind blowing in our hair and the sounds of the leaves shaking and the slight kiss of the sun amongst our faces. This was heaven.  I will never forget these times, and this was what made understanding the simplicities of life and how it should be.

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2013-02-16 20.27.16

It was hard to return to the states, the flat, same old, East Coast that I have always known. Now I knew something different. A new way of life, one for living.

Even to this day when we go to take a trip even if it is a couple of days, I miss the rolling hills of the Langhe. The picturesque views of the Alps, the windy vineyard lined streets of Piemonte. I am glad that I decided to live here, and I love being able to share with people the wonderful experiences that I have had over the years of life in Langhe. I am glad to be able to tour with people to have more wine tour experience in Piemonte. To get to know much better the area’s of Barolo and Barbaresco and to get to know well the people the families who are behind such breathtaking wines. I now get to know their stories, and can see and feel their passion. But not only for just the wine, but the land, the work that goes into it, their family traditions that have been passed down to them over the years. They like the vines are really attached to the soil, the land, the history. It is amazing to find these things, to be able to share these things with my guests, with you, this is what I love.