August 2, 2008
Italy, part 5: the wild, wild North of Italy
Before I tell about one of the top 5 meals I've ever had in Italy, I want to remember a few of the other things about Asiago that struck me. I knew they were famous for cheese, but why were there so many great bakeries and pastry shops in one town, in the North no less, which is not as famous as Southern Italy for pastries?
All I know is I drooled over the windows on every corner...
Now, back to that meal. We were taken on a country road by Stefano, up the mountain to a place where he said the food was "local but not typical." Hmmm. I was intrigued. We pulled up alongside some horses eating to what looked a lot like a ranch in Colorado: stables, more horses, a little ranch-style outpost with a sign saying "Locanda Appaloosa."It was dusk and really pretty up there and all I could think of was that this was a strange place for a restaurant.
The owner came outside to greet us, as did his cute old dog named Byron (like the poet) and led us into what seemed like their home rather than a restaurant. There was a big open kitchen, used for cooking demonstrations, with a huge old antique stove as the centerpiece and everything was done in wood from floors to ceiling. On the walls were murals of Western scenes and there were American Indian artifacts all over the place. It was as if the owners had an obsession with the Wild, Wild West. Not to worry, though. This was no Outback Steakhouse. The food turned out to be unmistakably Italian and unbelievably good.
I think I counted 11 courses, but I may have lost count after the 2nd or 3rd dessert.
Here is the menu, with accompanying pictures (the quality of which get progressively worse as the wine got progressively better...)
Pane fritto con guanciale di maiale affumicato (fried bread stuffed with smoked pork jowl - on right - the others were a vegetarian antipasto I can't remember because who wouldn't eat the pork jowl?) *served with Prosecco made using the Champagne method.
La nostra "carne salada" con i xaleti marinati (housemade beef carpaccio aged for 25 days in salt and spices with marinated local wild mushrooms)
Ricottini di zucca e erba cipollina con polvere di amaretto e ricotta affumicata di malga (housemade smoked ricotta with pumpkin, amaretto and herbs)
Bigoli con la salsiccia (housemade 'bigoli' - a large, hollow whole-wheat pasta- with sausage) *wine: Zonta Cabernet dal Bassano "Due santi"
Pasta e fagioli estiva leggermente piccante (a summer, spicy 'pasta e fagioli' soup)
Stinco di maialino da latte arrosto in due cotture (Roast suckling pig -slow roasted in milk for 8 hours)
Polenta "grezza" e couscous con verdure tritte (homemade, unprocessed polenta and couscous with sauteed vegetables)
Robiola con erba cipollina e marmellata di carrote; Gorgonzola con Madeira, noci e miele d'Acacia (blurry photo notwithstanding, this cheese course was amazing: housemade Robiola with herbs and carrot marmelade; housemade Gorgonzola with Madeira wine, hazelnuts and Acacia honey).
Piccola cassata italiana con frutti di bosco (a 'cassata' semifreddo with wild berries-oh, yummy)
Tortino di pesche (the lightest, most delicious little peach torte)
Cioccolatini di casa al latte con la liquirizia e cioccolatino bianco con il croccante (can you believe this?? little housemade chocolates with licorice and white chocolate with candy sprinkles) *served with dessert wine and then finished off with a 'crema di limoncello'
I can die now. Just remembering it makes me happy... Grazie to Francesca, the chef-owner (yes, a Female Italian Chef! Hooray!) And Pippo, her husband, co-owner/manager/waiter. I got so excited I had to have a picture with them.