Category Archives: italy

Ristorante Bovio, La Morra, Alba

P1110358Chef: Marco     Website:    Cuisine: Piedmontese/Truffle in season

As part of out first trip to the annual Alba White Truffle Festival, we surely could not leave the region without indulging ourselves in an extravagant white truffle tasting menu!

P1110347Coming in at 200 euros a head, the tasting menu was a bargain, particularly given the quality and quantity received for each course.

P1110250We decided to have a delicious bottle of Italian Spumanti 2005, Alta Langa “Zero” Enrico Serafino which had a complex and elegant fragrance of lime blossom and honey.  It had a good acidity and aroma of flowers and fruit with a long mineral finish.

P1110268We started off with an amuse bouche of deep-fried zucchini flower. It had a lovely crunchy texture whilst trapping all the juice maintaining a moist centre that consisted of veal, spinach, parmesan and egg.  A good start.

P1110277The beauty of Ristorante Bovio is that they give you a generous serving of top quality Alba white truffle with every course and shave the truffle at your table.

P1110272The first course was La battuta di fassone piemontese con tartufo bianco which was essentially a tartare made from a high quality regional veal (fassone), which is only reared in Piedmont, with shavings of white truffle. The meat is prized for it’s tenderness and leanness, making it ideal to consume raw, and the flavour of the truffle really came out. A great first course and certainly one of my favourite dishes of the meal.

P1110289Uovo in pasta alla Bergese con tartufo bianco.

P1110294It was an egg ravioli with a filling of spinach and egg yolk with a small amount of parmesan, and of course a generous shaving of white truffle! It had a lovely creamy texture and a good balance of bitterness and fruitiness from the virgin olive oil. The parmesan overpowered the truffle slightly, but produced a lovely aftertaste.

P1110295How could we continue our meal without having some of the superb local wine of Barolo?  The sommelier recommended a bottle of Elio Altare Barolo 2005, which had a medium ruby red color with a soft floral bouquet of rose with herbal notes. It was fine yet firm, with an intense palate of sweet cherry essence and awash with fine grain tannins.

P1110303Funghi porcini ala rosmarino con fonduta e tartufo bianco. Porcini sauteed with rosemary and garlic, laid on a fonduta base made from Raschera, a local Piedmontese cheese, with milk, butter and egg yolk, with more shavings of white truffle. The earthy flavour of the porcini was amplified by the white truffle and the saltiness of the cheese.

P1110310Tagliolini ai trenta rossi con tartufo bianco.

P1110311This dish was all about the white truffle! A simple thin cut tagliolini pasta made with a high egg-to-flour ratio mixture. The flavour and aroma of the white truffle really came through.

P1110319Filetto di vitella con tartufo bianco. This was perhaps my least favourite dish for a several reasons. Primarily, the cheese on the veal loin dominated the palate and I could hardly taste the white truffle. The veal loin was a little dry and I could only pick up a part of the flavour; overall I thought the addition of the filo pastry and asparagus with bacon was just too much.

P1110326La Panna cotta e miele di acacia con tartufo bianco. After a disappointing end to the main act of the meal, the chef managed to redeem himself with this beautiful simple dessert. The sugar work was very sticky and brittle, providing a nice contrasting texture to the Panna cotta. The Acacia honey added a floral note with a hint of vanilla. What amazed me was how well the white truffle married with the Panna cotta itself. This was the second time I had white truffle for dessert and it was yet again superb!

P1110331My partner opted for the Selexione di robiole con tartufo bianco, which was a selection of soft ripened cheese from the Langhe region made with varying proportions of cow, goat and sheep’s  milk. It was fresh and creamy, and admittedly I wished I could have had both the dessert and the cheese.

P1110339Some local petit fours finished off the meal with a glass of honey grappa. I was quite full at this point but much to my partner’s disapproving sigh, I couldn’t resist having a few of the baci di dama; another great discovery from my trip.


This was by far the best white truffle feast I’ve ever had – both in terms of quantity and quality. The produce was far superior to the other truffle tasting menu we had during our stay. If you are lucky enough or book in advance, I strongly recommend you asking for the window seat as the view from our table was stunning. I’d definitely come back, but next time I will order a la carte and purchase the truffle separately in order to avoid some of the dishes I didn’t particularly like.

La Pergola, Rome

Main outdoor poolChef: Heinz Beck      Website:       Cuisine: Italian

Occupying the top floor of the luxurious art-gallery hotel of Waldorf Astoria, La Pergola is no ordinary restaurant. For one, the interior décor of the restaurant is very bold but elegant.

(Photo courtesy of Roma Cavalieri Hotel)

La Pergola ViewThe view over the city of Rome is nothing but mesmerising, with St Peter’s Basilica lit up as your backdrop in the evening. It’s not hard to understand why Beck decided to stay after first arriving in 1994. It was certainly the most spectacular view of Rome that I have ever seen.

(Photo courtesy of Roma Cavalieri Hotel)


An amuse bouche of Mussels and chickpea puree with pecorino foam. The saltiness and crunchy texture of the parmesan was very appetising and went perfectly with our glass of Dom Perignon 2003.


First course of Amberjack marinated in white balsamic vinegar with pomegranate snow. The subtle sweetness of the pomegranate married well with the aromatic amberjack carpaccio, and slight touch of acidity from the balsamic vinegar, overall resulting in a very well balanced dish. I particularly enjoyed the cold component to the dish and the textural contrast created by the crispy violet potato garnish. Accompanying wine was a Planeta Caricante 2010, a mineral driven acidic wine that was refreshing.

P1110816A plate with three different types of sea salts. The yellow Norwegian salt was by far my favourite with a distinct smoky flavour. In contrast, the pinkish-brown volcanic Alaea salt from Hawaii was much more mellow in flavour whereas the white Italian salt from Trapani was rich in minerals. It was delightful to soak our bread in the light Trentino olive oil before dipping into the salt, allowing us to compare and contrast the dramatically varying flavours.


His Grilled “La Perle Blanche” oyster on pumpkin cream with parsley puff was a much heartier dish. Despite my initial reservation over the parsley “foam”(as many chef’s have tendencies to add them for aesthetic reasons only) I must admit, that in this case, it added a lovely fragrance and freshness to the sweet and smoky pumpkin soup. I particularly enjoyed the natural seasoning from the grilled oyster, bringing all the components of the dish together in harmony.


The Earth flavours consisting of a lovely canvass of mushroom powder, meat mushroom and cream of sweet foie gras. The parsley chlorophyll sponge and asparagus refreshingly lifted the dish, and the crunchy and wafer thing bread was critical in adding texture to what would have been a one dimensional dish. The glass of Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva 2010 revealed a hint of jasmine, orange blossoms, ripe apricots, a hint of fig and subtle toasted oak in a layered, with a smooth finish.


The highlight of the meal, and that which was responsible for leading me here in the first place, undoubtedly was Beck’s signature dish, Fagotelli “La Pergola”. The visual simplicity of this dish was deceptive as the skills required for perfecting the remarkably thin and light parcels of pasta containing carbonara sauce, garnished with specks of crunchy bacon and zucchini, was truly remarkable. I was impressed with Beck’s ability to refine a traditional Roman dish and transform the humble pasta into a sophisticated dish, worthy of a place in a fine dining restaurant.


It was difficult to follow the previous dish and I must admit I found the King prawns in tempura on puree of fried squids a little sweet for my liking. However, the celery did add some sharpness to this rich dish and the deep flavour of the fish and squid consomme cream was enjoyable.


The Black cod with celery sauce and curry crust was the most aromatic fish course I’ve ever had. The delicate cod with perfectly seasoned potatoes had a lovely hint of lime and verbena but interestingly took the fishiness of the fish away, and the sweetness of the celery balanced the dish. Superb!


The Venison in pistachio crust with chestnut puree and persimmon jam was a welcomed progression to a richer dish. The venison was cooked perfectly pink and the chestnut puree added a smoky and earthy flavour to the sweet pistachio, topped off with a thick jus. You could just about pick up the sweetness from the persimmon jam although it was possibly too delicate a component to this rich dish. The woodsmoke chocolate note from the Rivera Il Falcone 2007 was a perfect marriage.


Of course we couldn’t say no to the cheese trolley! Of particular interest was the Bitto cheese from Lombardy that was produced from whole cow milk produced only in the summer months and aged for over 10 years. It was definitely something different and resembled closest to a very matured parmesan.


After a quick napkin change we were served with one of the most memorable dessert from 2012. The Iced sphere of pomegranate on gianduia cream and cannelloni filled with salty pine-seed Chantillywas the best surprise of the night! I thought I had misheard pomegranate for cherry because the depth of sweetness from the sorbet sphere did not resemble that of any pomegranate I knew. Beck later explained that the sweet juice was extracted by delicately squeezing only the outer flesh of each seed, resulting in a concentrated sweet flavour similar but superior to that of cherry in season. It was a superb finish to a memorable meal.


Obviously we thought it would be rude to turn down the lemon and lime macaron, lemon mousse on short biscuit with crunchy chocolate drop, Tiramisu cupcake and raspberry jam as they looked so pretty. The flavours yet again were clean and fresh, and we could have easily managed another round.


Luckily for us there was a final treat of hazelnut & mango ice cream to go with our espressos before partaking in the Cuban delights in their designated cigar tasting room!

HB Toscani

I never thought that classic Italian dishes like a plate of pasta could be elevated to such a sophisticated level. Achieving such feat is no ordinary matter and we could easily overlook the tremendous amount of determination, skills and hard work that went into refining every dish. I also appreciated Beck’s extra attention to detail to his dishes, ensuring his diners have a light and healthy meal whilst delivering high notes on the all-important flavours.

(Photo courtesy of Oliviero Toscani)