Wednesday, November 12, 2014

White Truffles Orgy in Alba - L'Osteria dell'Arco

We know we ought to thank our gracious villa host when we saw people being turned away at this popular spot in Alba because they didn't have a reservation for lunch. It's she who reminded us way back that we needed to make booking early to avoid disappointment, and we did.


L'Osteria dell'Arco is one of the better known places to eat in Alba, for its being one of the two restaurants affiliated with Slow Food, along with Osteria del Boccondivino in the nearby town of Bra. It's located inside a cozy courtyard at Piazza Savona, one of the main squares in the south side of Alba town center, 5 minutes away from the White Truffle Fair ground where we spent most of our Saturday morning.

The setting of the restaurant was casual and typical of a small town osteria - bar in front, dining room in the middle and kitchen at the back, and decor resembled a country house - but the atmosphere was lively when everyone arrived and filled the room soon after we arrived for our reservation after noon.
The menu entirely made up of traditional Piedmontese fares, with a number of dishes conformed to Slow Food Presidia standard, which means every ingredients were produced locally in small production and made in the traditional way. Since we were in the mood of white truffles, we decided to go for their "Il Tartufu" menu, which consists of 4 courses and with the exception of the dessert, served with shaved white truffles on top.


Even though the menu looks simple and straight-forward, typical of an old-fashioned osteria, I really like the cooking here, starting with the minimalist carne cruda - a hand-chopped Piedmontese veal tartare. Our pasta came next, which was the tajarin "40 tuorli". Tajarin is a type of local specialty pasta, flat and thin like Cantonese egg noodles, and here, it's made in-house using 40 eggs per kilo of flour (more than doubled as normal). It's served with a light coating of cheese and butter, and plenty of white truffles of course. I was a bit disappointed that the truffles were not shaved and served by the table but back in the kitchen; nonetheless the dish was still aromatic and looked sumptuous when it arrived.


We were having egg as main course. This week we came to the realization that white truffles were best served with eggs cooked in the simplest form. Here's it's baked with cream in a cocotte. Portion was huge and the dish was well-cooked with super-tasty cream and the egg yolk in just runny texture. We had this dish a few times during our trip and this was undoubtedly the best. There's no truffles for our dessert - but it's their signature dish of panna cotta with chunks of Madernassa pears poached in Moscato and drizzles of honey. It's simple but delicious. 

Their wine list was very impressive and of excellent value, which shouldn't be surprising given the restaurant started off as a wine bar. I spotted a good-value Gaja Barbaresco from a recent vintage so we decided to splurge a little bit and went for it. And after my first sip I realized why the winery was considered the best in the region. A slightly floral nose opened to a herbaceous/mint aroma, a bright, youthful cherry palate with some tar and later developed into something resemblance of white truffles (or is it because the room was filled with white truffles smell by then?) Towards the end of the bottle I could taste some wood, almost like pencil shavings. Probably the best wine we had all week long and lucky us as that was the last bottle they got at the restaurant as the sommelier told us when he brought the bottle over. 

This is one heck of a truffles meal and a satisfying lunch - and at 75 euros per person (without wine), this is of incredible value.

Full photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157646917228613/

When? October 25 2014
Where? L'Osteria dell'Arco, Piazza Savona 5, Alba, Italy
Menu Highlights? Everything white truffles!
Drinks? Gaja Barbaresco DOCG 2008
Web: http://www.boccondivinoslow.it/osteria/ita/osteria.asp

(This is the part of the Journey to Piedmont series, a writing project capturing our recent travel experiences to the region)


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