The atmosphere around Alba was playing up again; the fog or “nebbia” was hanging about too long, and this happy Australian wine explorer was keen to go tasting.
The “nebbia” fog of course is the basis of the naming of the local famous grape variety-nebbiolo, several centuries ago. There is no parallel to this variety elsewhere and it has very distinctive textural characters along the tannic side.
And after tasting comes lunch, the most important activity of an Italian’s day; that starts at 1:00pm and stretches until 4pm when businesses re-open. If you want something to purchase in a hurry, well too bad, even super-markets.
The truffle festival brings out some strange activities amongst the Albanese; and the most peculiar one is to see the locals fishing for bottles of barbera in the piazza; nobody ever catches a bottle because the circular ring is nigh impossible to snare a shiny full glass bottle.
And it’s all done for charity anyway-barbera catching!
On this Piazza Risorgimento 4, is La Poila, a sort of up-market pizza and pasta joint which was always full, and frustratingly difficult to find a table, and if one can make the queue, this proved to be the one ristorante on this visit that ran the seating part at snails’ pace.
Upstairs, and above this place was the sister ristorante, Piazza Duomo, a two star Michelin rated establishment which had some rather strange guest entry processes.
Unlike Australian restaurants where you can see the entrance and walk through to be greeted, this place is just a locked door at the downstairs level, and entry only happens when one pushes the buzzer to be “inspected” from above.
Hardly welcoming and obviously expecting the door to keep out the under-privileged. And I never got around to returning to try the fare.
At La Piola (tel 0173 442 800) the menu was pretty standard, but the service was shocking, and now we could see why the guests wishing to enter the ristorante would be frustratingly slow to be seated. There was an eating pileup too. The who cares principle was employed here.
We had pizza; great little green olives and anchovies (really big devils too) sitting on a savoury tomato base on the thinnest of crusts. Yum. Unlike Australian pizza where tons of different flavour/fillings are piled on to the one base, this pizza was just plain, simple and flavoursome.
And by the way, pizza making is a southern Italian kitchen practice (started in Napoli), so finding it in Alba is quite a recent activity.
I explored for wines-by-the-glass and they both had to be Barolo with pizza of course! What else? Barbera or dolcetto I guess.
Ceretto Nebbiolo d’Alba Berdardia 2007 14% (88) USD 6.50 per glass was great value, bright cherry fruit, great drinkability which wines of this denomination are expected to show, a lot easier than mainstream Barolo or Barbaresco. The company hq is on the outskirts of Alba town, but four wineries and a distillery are operated (Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Asti).
Ceretto’s other wine was Zonchera Barolo 2006 14% (91) USD 9.50 per glass, a thumper, young, deep violets, heady spice and tar aromas, then a silky palate which just sets off a mouthful of rustic pizza.