Boccondivino: A Slow Food Staple in Bra
I can now confirm that I am indeed a glutton. Tell me there’s truffles and I will follow. Promise me good eats and there’s no need for you to say more. I trust you. I believe you. Let’s go, I’m hungry!
After a strenuous morning of researching hazelnut production at Azienda Agricola Fratelli Durando in Monferrato (and tasting some delicious products in the process!), my classmates and I decided to reward ourselves with a lunch at l’Osteria del Boccondivino.
Affectionately referred to as Boccondivino, this restaurant began serving masterfully-crafted dishes in 1984. Rooted in the rich culinary traditions of Piemonte, specifically the Langhe and Roero regions, it’s no surprise that Boccondivino is located inside the courtyard where Slow Food headquarters resides.
To begin our luxurious lunch we ordered a beautiful bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba D.o.c. Roussot by Francesco Rinaldi. Typically characterized as dry, fruity and best consumed shortly after release, Dolcetto tends to pair well with pastas and pizza. This particular Dolcetto had stunning mauve hue and smelled of both black cherries and blackberries and had just a subtle but lovely almond flavour.
As we sipped our wine and looked through the menu, immediately tajarin with white truffles grabbed my attention. I am Little Miss Honey & Truffles, after all.
A Piemonte specialty, tajarin are like a much narrower and thinner version of tagliatelle. A gorgeous golden hue, this pasta is made with an abundance of fresh egg yolks—40 in this Boccondivino’s case!
Interestingly, according to a famous legend perpetuated by the first travel and food writer of the 20th century Paolo Monelli, a special technique is required to ensure the smooth texture of tajarin. Monelli explains that only the best tajarin were made by women who used, not rolling pins, but their booties to roll out the pasta sheets before slicing them. Only the Italians could make food so sexy...
Originating in the Langhe region, tajarin are often dressed up with local ingredients like fresh porcini mushrooms, salsiccia di Bra or my favourite, truffles from Alba!
Needless to say, when my plate arrived, it was extremely impressive to look at given the unreal amount of shaved white truffle covering my pasta. In fact, I could barely see the tajarin underneath! Coated in a light butter sauce, the rich and earthy white truffles were really the star of this dish. Though it may have hurt my wallet a bit, my taste buds certainly sang!
A more budget-friendly option, tajarin with porcini mushrooms was another great dish that my classmate Shiho picked for her main. Again, with beautiful golden tajarin and flavourful, meaty mushrooms, this dish was a hit. Though I am happy with my choice of truffled tajarin, I definitely would love to try this dish or the tajarin with a salsiccia di Bra!
Jasmine, after delighting in her raw meat craving, chose the brasato di vitello al Barolo as a main. Because I was kind enough to share some truffle shaving to top her carne cruda, I was offered a piece of Barolo-braised veal. Let me tell you, that was a whole other experience. So flaky and tender, you could taste the pepperiness and bold berry flavours of the wine in each savoury bite of veal!
As for dessert...surprise, surprise, the decadence continued. While Jasmine and Shiho both were enticed by Boccondivino’s famous panna cotta, I went a little rogue and tried zuccotto. What is zuccotto? Good question!
A semi-frozen dessert made with cake and ice cream, zuccotto translates into little pumpkin. This is why the Florentine dessert often has a dome-like appearance, which also mimics the duomo. Unlike a traditional zuccotto, Boccondivino offers guests a rectangular slice of zuccotto that’s half sponge cake and half panna cotta cream, with an interior stuffed with marrons glacés, also known as candied chestnuts.
Let me explain why this zuccotto was so incredible for two reasons. First, the semifreddo panna cotta layer is a godly experience. Because it’s made without gelatine, the panna cotta is pure dairy creaminess. Soft and delicate, the dessert gives way under the gentle pressure of a dessert spoon.
Secondly, the addition of marrons glacés is ridiculous. They add not only a sugary element, but also a velvety texture on the palate. A popular dessert in both France and Northern Italy, I remember discovering marrons glacés the last time I visited Debora in Torino and naturally I fell in love with the warm, spiced sweetness of these syrupy, candied chestnuts. Since I’ve been in Piedmont, I’ve already purchased a spreadable marrons glacés confection for snacking!
Consequently, when you mix a velvety panna cotta together with sweet chestnuts, you have a winning dessert. And who would have known how fabulous a zuccotto would be? Just goes to show you that sometimes it pays to pick blindly off the menu!
Overall, moral of the story, if you happen to find yourself in Bra, you must dine at Boccondivino. At the hub of Slow Food, this osteria is simple in its fare but anything but basic. The dishes and wine being offered will challenge how you view traditional fare. Simple in its nature but elite in its delivery, Boccondivino’s dedication to their culinary roots is unmatched. I can’t wait to bring my friends and family here when they finally visit!