MY FAVORITE DISH? AMATRICIANA … EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT PIEDMONTESE”
All eyes on Margarete Stein
Please meet our first FOOD TALK pick Margarete Stein, alumna of the University of Gastronomic Sciences UNISG in Pollenzo in Piedmont, coffee sapiens currently working on the elBulliLab project, and gourmet who appreciates great food even more due to the fact that she can’t even boil an egg properly. We talked to her about the Italian region she comes from, what to do and where to enjoy the best food and wine in Piedmont.
It was about five years ago in Vienna, when I met Margarete, an energetic Italian from Turin, everyone calls “Gretel”. Indeed Gretel’s not very Italian sounding name can be explained easily: her mum is from Iran, her dad is half German, half Italian, and Gretel was born and grew up in Turin, studied Political Sciences and Romance Studies in Vienna, worked as a tutor at the University of Vienna and in food marketing. Gretel is one of the most independent, energetic and determined people that crossed my path in the last years. And even though she might be pretty small in stature, she is always hungry and a passionate foodie who never stops exploring.
For a long time she believed that Italy did not have enough to offer to a young woman like her with lots of ideas in mind and the will to realize them. It was an interview with the famous Italian writer Andrea Camilleri that made her change her mind. In this interview, Camilleri highlights the responsibility everyone has for the country they come from, the personal responsibility everybody should be aware and the power each individual has to support a positive development in their country. It was back then that Gretel decided to once again pack her bags, go back to Italy and dedicate herself to the studies of what Italy is probably best known for: its culinary diversity.
Piedmont and its vineyards
There are many good reasons for visiting Piedmont. This Alpine region whose name translates as “at the foot of the mountain”, borders France and Switzerland in Italy’s far north-west and is known for its abundance of fine wine and great food. For decades the Piedmont region was only the Piedmontese people only. Only in the 1980s, tourists from Italy and Switzerland began to discover this region, and since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the region has become more popular for tourists from all around the world.
DID YOU KNOW THAT ESPRESSO, TRAMEZZINI AND VERMOUTH WERE BORN IN PIEDMONT?
The region is not only where to the world’s most famous hazelnut cacoa spread Nutella produced in Alba and the Asti Spumante made especially around Asti and Alba come from. It is also home to the most DOCGs and DOCs in Italy. Especially the hilly Langhe area in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont is attracting thousands of wine enthusiasts from all around the world. Make sure to visit the following places and municipalities to try some of the best Piedmontese wines: Alba, Barolo, Barbaresco, La Morra, Neive, Roero, Treiso. While Barolo and Barbaresco wines are amongst the most well-known ones of the region, you should also try the Nebbiolo red wine or the Arneis white wine. Side note: Most of the wineries in the Langhe are still family run-operations, so make sure to plan your stay ahead and make an appointment for visits.
When to plan your visit
The Langhe offer breathtaking views and great wine at any time of the year. Depending on the experience you are looking for you might select the right time to come and visit the region. Fall definitely marks the height of tourist season due to the harvest and events like the International White Truffle Festival in Alba taking place right after harvest. If you want to enjoy the Langhe at their best, plan your visit during off season from January to April, or from May to August. We recommend traveling by car from town to town to discover the vineyards since traveling by public transport might be tricky and very time consuming. There are numerous small hotels in most of the municipalities, often with breathtaking views over the vineyards and including breakfast. You can also plan your stay at a Bed&Breakfast or book a private apartment. If you are planning to visit the Langhe during high season, make sure to plan your stay a few months in advance in order to get some of the good deals.
Gretel’s Foodie Insights
Piedmont is known for its dense concentration of Michelin-rated restaurants but there are also numerous great places where you can enjoy great meals for a very good price. We asked Gretel about which restaurants definitely should be on your must-eat list when you visit the Langhe Region in Piedmont.
- Banca del Vino (Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, 13, 12042 Pollenzo)
Visit the Banca del Vino in Pollenzo near Bra. The Wine Bank is located in the historical cellars of the Agenzia di Pollenzo. Book a guided tour and get to know more about wine, the Slow Food Movement, its founder Carlo Petrini, and the University of Gastronomic Sciences UNISG.
- Osteria del Boccondivino (Via Mendicità, 14, Bra)
Enjoy lunch or dinner at this Osteria where the Slow Food Movement was born. It is recommended to book a table in advance.
- Gusto Madre (Via Armando Diaz, 2, 12051 Alba)
The two great pizza chefs Massimiliano Prete and Fabio Ciriaci studied every single detail, the ingredients, and employment techniques of different flours to create their gourmet pizza variations that are served with a selection of wine and craft beers at Gusto Madre in Alba. Absolutely worth a visit!
- La bottega delle delizie (Via Pollenzo, 6, Bra)
This specialty coffee shop was founded in 1982 in Bra and is known as one of the best in Italy. Stop by for a coffee break!
- La Ciau del Tornavento (Piazza Baracco, 7, 12050 Treiso):
Up on a hillside oberlooking the Barbaresco vineyards, the restaurant is set in a 1930s building that used to be a nursery school, and has a Michelin star. The two chefs Maurilio Garola and marco Lombardo focus on traditional dished prepared with high quality local ingredients. Nadia Benech, the wine director, is responsible for the restaurant’s famous wine list. Visit the legendary wine cellar after your meal.
- Osteria More e Macine (Via XX Settembre, 18, 12064 La Morra)
This Osteria is located in the downtown of La Morra. Enjoy your lunch and great wine in a modern and casual environment.
- Piazza Duomo (Piazza Risorgimento, 4, 12051 Alba)
Founded in 2013, the award-winning chef Enrico Crippa’s cuisine made Piazza Duomo in Alba become one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, reaching the 15th ranking position in 2017 and winning three Michelin stars. Crippa is Italian but has worked in France and Japan and combines all these influences in his work. Check the menu and book online. The prices at Piazza Duomo are higher than at the other restaurants in the region, but absolutely worth the experience and taste explosion. If you are in Alba and did not book anywhere in advance, we recommend you Crippa’s bistrot La Piola.
- Zero enoteca convivale (Via Pollenzo, 10, 12042 Bra)
Natural wine bar in Bra. Ask the owner Maurizio Damilano for a recommendation and enjoy your wine in a modern and relaxed environment.