The Best Lunch in Northern Italy

 

Sometimes the best moments of vacations are the spontaneous ones, the ones you never planned or mapped or reserved, the ones where you just got in the car and went left when Google Maps said right. One day when we were scheduled to drive from Monaco to the French Alps, we decided to make a pit stop to pick up some of our favorite Moscato and ended up having the best meal of our 2-week trip. Today we’re off to La Morra in the Piedmonte region of Italy.

To get there from Monaco, we have to drive through the eastern part of the French Riviera and the Western part of the Italian Riviera, which meant 2 hours of breathtaking views.

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Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France

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Views like this definitely made the drive go by a lot faster!

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It doesn’t get much better than summer on the Riviera.

When to Go 

First, where actually is “La Morra”? By car, La Morra is about 2.5 hours from Monaco, 2 hours from Genoa and an hour from Torino. So if you are visiting any of these cities, you could definitely make a day trip to this unknown locale. The climate is still Mediterranean, but it is very far inland so you will get hotter summers and colder winters than the Riviera, so take that into consideration. For example, on this trip it was 75-80 degrees when we left Monaco, but easily 95 when we got to the vineyard.

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Why Go 

We are headed to Agricola Brandini, a vineyard famous for producing Barolo! While there are other vineyards nearby, I recommend this one because having been there twice, I can say that you will be amazed at the level of service and the quality of the food and wine that you receive. Truly, after having driven 2.5 hours to get there, the welcome we received was so refreshing that we were astonished. (Oh and the food, views, and wine only rose the bar even higher!)

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What We Ate

Unfortunately, since Brandini is a true believer in farm to table dining, you are going to have to look at these photos as a sample menu because the choices change not only with the season but also with the chef’s findings at all the local farms. However, having been here once in February and once in June, I can say that neither the seasons nor day of the week affect the level of satisfaction that you will feel in every bite.

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We sat in front of floor to ceiling windows overlooking hills going on for miles.

We started with a glass of the “Langhe Bianco DOC ‘Le Coccinelle’”, paired with the BEST steak tartar that we have ever had and some vegetable fritters. The tartar was served with black sea salt and a tiny drizzle of homemade olive oil, the simplicity of the presentation and the perfection of the ingredients made for flavors out of this world. Seriously, that is the best tartar of anything that I have ever had and I would honestly fly back over there right now just for it.

IMG_5705.jpgThe black salt and olive oil enhanced the tartar just so, as it needed no further transformation.

IMG_5710.jpgNext up, antipasti.

Then, when it was time for the primi round, remember we are in Northern Italy, specifically Piedmonte, so filled pastas are big here. So I had to go with the ravioli. Again, simplicity was king; the beef ravioli oozed its own juice, no other garnish needed. I could immediately tell that the fresh pasta was made on site, daily, even before the server made note of that.

 

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Oh and at this point we had moved on to a glass of Dolcetto.

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And for the finale, a local variety of panna cotta. Again, heaven on earth. It was perfectly firm and smooth, just the right hint of vanilla and spices and that crumble on top, a delightful surprise. I honestly can’t give Brandini enough compliments on this meal.

 

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And to top it all off, we had one last glass of wine, Barolo of course, out on the terrace.

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A perfect end to a perfect lunch.

Pro Tips

Don’t let the post-lunch euphoria cause you to forget to stop at the wine shop on the way out. I suggest shipping a box of Barolo and a box of Moscato home. They have excellent prices and will even ship them home in gorgeous wooden crates.

Also, call ahead and let them know you are coming. They should be open most days, but you are in Italy after all and will normally close the kitchen between meals. However, we arrived after 2pm and they kept the kitchen open for us and prepared that heavenly meal.

Finally, look into staying at the vineyard, the views are amazing, they have that beautiful pool and I think we all wouldn’t mind a few more meals like this one in our life. I will definitely be looking into staying at the Agricola Brandini on my next trip to Italy.