Monday, November 3, 2014

Susa, 2: Slow Osteria

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Via Leopoldo Agnes 21, Susa, November 3, 2014—
I TOOK A LOOK in this year's Slow Food guide to the Osterie d'Italia, helpfully available as an iPhone app, to see if there might be anything nearby, and found a place that sounded familiar.

Sure enough, after driving the Statale road a few kilometers east of here and on the other side of the river, and getting stuck behind a big herd of dairy cows lumbering down the road, and then driving up the steep hill through thirteen hairpin curves, we pulled up by the biggest elm tree I have ever seen in a picturesque little village where, I remembered, we had taken Rosa to dinner once, and Rosa has been gone since 2007; I know because we visited her grave today in the Chiomonte cemetery.

This place is really wonderful: fittingly, since we have only one more dinner to eat in Italy this trip, it joins Scannabue, where we ate on our first night in Italy a couple of weeks ago; they are certainly the best restaurants we've dined in.

We were the only diners in the restaurant, in a small, comfortable upstairs room furnished with tastefully homey pictures and whatnots. The chef brought our courses, carrying them up a flight of stairs from his kitchen on the ground floor. We began with a trio, as is customary here: one of the best insalate russe we've had, the peas and carrots carefully cooked al dente, the potatoes marvelously flavorful; a very tasty pepperoncino cooked in olive oil and smothered with mayonnaise; a fresh tomino of goat cheese covered with a long-cooked strawberry jam made, I'm sure, with fraises des bois.

Then came the salami you see above, pungent and spicy and nicely textured, and a local three-month-old fresh cheese served with one of the finest honeys I've ever tasted.

IMG 6764Next, a vegetable tart with a soft cheese sauce, Castelmagno I wouldn't be surprised. When I asked what vegetables were in it, zucchini surely, Oh, zucchini, yes, six or eight vegetables, the cook said. Leeks and onions, I'm sure; but also the most discreet amount of carrot, and probably some spinach… And the pastry! Light, flaky, perfectly salted, buttery…

On, then, to a plate of spaghetti very lightly treated with a meat sauce, so lightly you might almost overlook it, but not the sprig of rosemary stuck into it. And then, why not, we divided a serving of brasato, chunks of beef nicely braised in an artigianal beer. A carbonade, in fact: but the beautiful fried polenta reminded us we were certainly in Italy — it is made from corn sun-dried somewhere up in northeast Piemonte; we'll have to explore that corner one of these days…

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Since I liked the polenta so much, I agreed to a polenta cake for dessert, covered with local marrons glacés. A small glass of light but pointed gentian liqueur helped the whole meal resolve beautifully.

Grignolino d'Asti, Bava, vintage unrecorded — I really do have to get my act together…
Il Sentiero dei Franchi, Borgata Cresto, 16, 10050 Sant'Antonino di Susa (TO); +39 011 963 1747

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