There are great meals and then there are the ones so remarkable that they become permanently etched in your sensory memory. The languidly paced, multi-course wonder I was treated to last month at “da Cesare” in Albaretto, a hilltop town in Italy’s Piedmont region accessible via many narrow, winding, tummy-twisting roads, falls squarely into […]
There are great meals and then there are the ones so remarkable that they become permanently etched in your sensory memory. The languidly paced, multi-course wonder I was treated to last month at “da Cesare” in Albaretto, a hilltop town in Italy’s Piedmont region accessible via many narrow, winding, tummy-twisting roads, falls squarely into the latter category. The titular Cesare is chef Cesare Giaccone who, in the 1980s and 1990s, earned widespread acclaim showing up on Italian television and being awarded a place on world’s best chef lists alongside food world luminaries like Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse. But the perch from which Cesare has long chosen to showcase his culinary stylings to those intrepid enough to find their way is far more modest than those of his counterparts: his tiny—literally, there is only room for a couple of tables, and on the night I visited only ours was occupied—countryside restaurant is harnessed by a rustic fireplace in which a spit skewered with goat is usually rotating over the burning embers below. With his formidable talents, Cesare certainly could have built a splashy empire of his own, but the concept of cooking as commerce (perhaps thanks in part to the fact that he’s an avowed anarchist) was something he never fully embraced. No matter; as long as he continues to cook for the chosen few at his spot in Alberetto that is enough. On the night I went, the menu, which Cesare, who is also an artist, paints by hand every evening started with anchovies fried in a dry, light-as-air batter then a duck salad with a whipped egg yolk sauce. Next a soft mound of cauliflower arrived swimming in a creamy Castelmagno cheese sauce speckled with black truffles, begging to be sopped up with bread, followed by a surprising salad pairing of peaches and locally foraged porcini mushrooms, and his signature risotto “vecchia langa” with a delicate combination of tomatoes and onions. Our stomachs were granted a moment of pause with a palate-cleansing sorbet of rosemary and prosecco, before a double serving of meats (goat and steak) both cooked on the hearth. The final chapter appeared with gusto: a mountain of homemade ice cream tucked under a meringue shell and set aflame as it was brought to the table. A memorable end to a memorable meal. FIORELLA V.
Da Cesare, Via Umberto, 12, 12050 Albaretto della Torre Cuneo, Italy, +39 0173 520141; cesaregiaccone.it