Last night, I made baked ziti for dinner. It was purely American style, which means that no Italian would touch it with a ten foot fork. But Bill and I enjoyed it. As we were eating dinner, we reminisced about visiting the Piedmont region of Italy back in May 2008. It was our first trip after we moved to Germany. I kick myself for not taking a trip earlier; we were in Germany for over six months before we went anywhere, unless you count a quick trip over the Swiss border that we took when our dogs were being temperament tested at a dog hotel.
Anyway, we started our trip at a small hotel near Lake Como. We were just over the Swiss border, high in the mountains that overlook the lake. We spent a few peaceful days there, enjoying the beautiful views and good food. It was Bill’s first trip to Italy and he was loving it.
Our trip was to last about ten days, including four nights at Bella Baita, an adorable little B&B in Serre Marchetto, near Pinasca, Italy, and a couple of nights in Thun, Switzerland. While all parts of our trip were fun, we especially enjoyed Bella Baita. I found this little retreat while searching for accommodations near Torino. Bella Baita is maybe 30 miles from Torino, very close to the French border. Owned and operated by Marla and Fabrizio Roncaglia, this place is totally secluded with beautiful views of the French Alps.
But what Bill and I were remembering last night was the wonderful food we ate on that trip. Marla and Fabrizio are chefs and we signed up for a cooking class with them. Bill requested to cook rabbit and Marla and Fabrizio were delighted, since that was a local specialty and almost no one asks to cook rabbit. Frankly, I’m not a fan of rabbit… they are too cute to eat. But Bill is an Arkansan (sort of) and loves game.
Marla took us to the market in Pinerolo, where we purchased all the ingredients for our meal. She knew all the vendors and where the best food was. As I made the ziti with ricotta last night, Bill was reminded that we bought ricotta at the market for a fruit tart we made at Bella Baita. I don’t eat uncooked/unmelted cheese, but Bill tasted it and said it was unlike anything you could ever find in a United States supermarket.
The duomo in Pinerolo…
As he commented about that cheese, I was reminded of a delightful meal we enjoyed in Pinerolo. We were looking for a place for lunch when I stumbled across a brand new restaurant that opened in May 2008 called Perbacco. The owner’s mom came out. The restaurant wasn’t open for lunch, but was open for dinner. She didn’t speak any English, but she gave us a business card and wrote Aperto: 19:00 on it. She made it clear that we should come back for dinner. We did… and boy, was it a great experience.
I remember having this delicious carrot spinach flan there that was nothing like I had ever tasted before. I wish I had taken a photo of it. I wasn’t all that excited about the flan; I picked it by default. It turned out to be amazing. For my main course, I want to say I had steak. But the one thing that really sticks out in my mind was the wine. Bill asked the sommelier what we should have. He made a suggestion and advised us to let it sit for a few minutes. We did and it opened up beautifully.
A table of Italian men sat nearby and they were all enjoying steak. They were loud and obviously having a great time. The sommelier was fascinated to be serving Americans. He wondered what on earth we were doing in Pinerolo when most Americans go to Florence, Rome, and Venice! We told him about Bella Baita. It wasn’t until last year that Bill and I did the so-called “Holy Trinity”.
When we got back to Bella Baita, we told Marla and Fabrizio about the new restaurant and showed them our bill. Marla, who is an American, commented that the food was cheap and they must be trying to build up a clientele. She told us that Italians won’t pay a lot for untested cuisine. She assured us the prices would eventually go up and we were lucky to visit when we did. She also noted that the table of men were there enjoying beef because the prices were so good. We encouraged her to go there with Fabrizio and check it out. We still talk about that meal six years later!
Another great meal we had was at the tiny restaurant next to Bella Baita. I’m not sure if the place is still open, since during our visit, Marla commented that they didn’t get much business. She said the place was called (in Italian) The Ant and the Giant, because the husband/wife owners were respectively very large and very tiny.
When Bill and I dined there, we were one of two couples. The restaurant was very charming and the food was exquisite. Bill ordered branzino, which is a delicious fish that has a lot of bones in it. The chef brought it to our table and deboned it for him. It was one of the more memorable experiences we had on our trip.
Of course, Italy has been the site of many a wonderful culinary experience. Last year, when we went to Italy and Greece, we enjoyed an amazing meal at a small restaurant near our secluded inn. Half the staff did not speak English, but they brought out the most amazing food. And one waiter spoke English, Italian, French, and German flawlessly.
*Sigh*… I wish I could live in Europe again. For now, I’ll keep making my American style baked ziti.
An old review I wrote about Bella Baita…
Beautiful views and blissful times at Bella Baita in Pinasca, Italy…
May 28, 2008 (Updated Jul 22, 2008)
Review by knotheadusc