I think I may have just had the best meal of my life. It happened in a one of the northern-most parts of Italy, truly on the Swiss border, in a town called Domodossola, at La Stella Ristorante. This place is tucked off a mountain road, seemingly in the middle of a forest on the side of a hill. Thanks to Chef Stefano Allegranza, world-class cuisine can be found in such a wildly remote place. Thanks to his wife, Marika Manzini so can world-class wine lists!Chef Stefano’s philosophy merges Mediterranean and lake fish, available from all over Italy’s peninsula, with the local ingredients of his valley. It’s an ambitious concept, but one that he exceeds in delivering.
The first dish was a taste of various fish, paired with several seasonal ingredients, including wild figs, fresh grapes (we are in the middle of harvest, aren’t we!?), and other local produce. Somehow he manages to weave a locally appropriate flavor profile around these fresh fish ingredients. Spectacular little bites.
Here we have the most perfectly seared scallop, paired with a puree of sweet potato, local chestnut and crisped local prosciutto. Perhaps the best thing I have ever eaten. Sweet, meets salty, meets savory…
Local Foie Gras, local purple potatoes, toast, balsamic vinegar, candied hot peppers. Classic, and yet re-invented. Re-imagined for Domodossola’s colorful palate.
Of course with all of this we had an array of local wines, thanks to Mario Garrone and his beautiful winery, Cantina Garrone. What better to pair with the local flavors than the terroir of this Valley?
Typical, astounding Piemontese raw beef (carne cruda) topped with a lightly breaded, fried egg yolk that when split, spilled out over the beef and the delicate puree of potatoes. Simply decadent. Simply Piemonte.
An ode to the Chef’s grandmother, Baccalà Mantecato over polenta. Divine. Fluffy and perfectly savory. Deceptively rich. If you think you don’t like codfish, think again.
A sampling of 6 local cheese, all in various stages of ripeness? Why not?!
I cannot express how impressed I was with the people in Domodossola. Mountain people for sure- quite restrained, not entirely warm (although cautiously friendly), but genuinely interested in teaching me about their local history, food, wine, history. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity. I also know that any other foreigner who makes their way to your little valley will find the same stoic hospitality, and the same wild, untamed magic.