Boccondivino – Piedmont, Italy
April 29, 2009
Lack of sleep can really hamper one’s presence of mind. It was almost 2am when we got back to the hotel following our dinner at Combal Zero. Today, we’re groggy and listless as we head towards the town of Bra, birthplace of the Slow Food movement, and Osteria Boccondivino, its flagship restaurant. We make many mistakes, repeatedly misspelling our destination on the GPS and missing multiple turns that prompt the device to constantly recalculate our route. The scenery isn’t particularly inspiring. We mostly see factories and warehouses along the way. When we get to Bra, it’s a larger town than I expected, and we actually encounter traffic as we search for street parking.
The restaurant itself is set back from the street by a small courtyard. It looks a little worn on the outside, but is much more charming when we step inside. The walls are covered with venetian plaster in a cheery egg yolk yellow, and on one side, there are floor to ceiling dark wood and glass cabinets housing an extensive collection of the region’s wines.
We’re here because I’m curious as to what traditional fare the official Slow Food restaurant serves. When we glance at the lunch menu, it’s not that much different from Marsupino’s, except that the prices are slightly gentler. Nothing is over €12.
I’m afraid sleep deprivation and the snails on the menu (the Slow Food symbol denoting a specialty) cloud my judgement. Lardo, salsiccia di Bra e carne cruda battuta al coltello. Why do I equate this with cold cuts when an entry for salumi is right above it? Anyway, the deed is done and it is only afterwards that I spy a table with two gentlemen heartily tucking into plates of raw meat. Uh oh.
When the waitress sets the plate before us, my husband looks at me and I look at him. On the plate are: one uninterrupted shaving of white and opaque cured pig’s fat (lardo), one sausage with dull pink ground meat peeking out of its casing (salsiccia di Bra), and strips of raw veal coiled around each other in a little mound (carne cruda).
I don’t consider myself a fussy eater. I’m not averse to any form of sushi (especially uni, which is my favorite). I’ve had snake soup at a night market in Hong Kong when I was a teen and fried crickets on a recent trip to Manila. I enjoy balut, hairy duck embryo and all. But, somehow, my mind shuts down at the thought of eating this. The logical part of me knows that this is a popular local specialty, but years of “Thou shalt not eat raw meat” ingrained into my subconscious just cannot be ignored. In the end, I’m defeated by my food bias. Maybe next time.
Thankfully, our waitress is very understanding and allows us to exchange this for tonno di cappone all’aceto balsamico, neutered rooster tuna, most likely slow cooked for days in the same manner as the rabbit tuna from Combal Zero. No, we’re not overcompensating for the cruda.
The rest of the meal proceeds rather uneventfully.
Carciofi con robiola di Roccaverano. Shredded artichokes with a soft white cheese that has a mild flavor.
Tajarin al sugo di Salsiccia di Bra. It’s a bigger portion than what we had at Marsupino, so I’m able to get my fill of this pasta.
Brasato di vitello al Barolo. Braised veal in Barolo wine.
For dessert, budino al torrone e miele and panna cotta. Panna cotta is my default dessert, meaning that anytime it’s on the menu, I go for it without fail. I love how uncomplicated yet versatile it is, like a black cocktail dress. It’s equally good sitting on a pool of coulis dressed up with red fruits or served plain with just specks of vanilla bean. Boccondivino’s version veers towards the latter, with only a drizzle of honey underneath. It’s like eating solid fresh milk.
The food here is decent and very good value, but what I’ll remember most about Boccondivino is not what we ate but what we didn’t.
Prev: Combal Zero
Next: All’ Enoteca