One of my favorite quirks of Piemonte is the Piemontese fondest towards sparkling wine. I believe you can find better Champagne lists in Piemonte than almost anywhere else in the world. And even more exciting- the artisanal Franciacorta wines you can discover, which are even harder to find outside of Europe…
At the Osteria degli Acrobati in Arona on Lago Maggiore I was introduced to Franciacorta’s Antica Fratta winery. Antica Fratta’s Rosé was stunning- elegant and crisp. Made with a typical blend of 60% Chardonnay grapes and 40% Pinot Nero grapes, the wine was beautiful in the glass- a pale salmon pink with lovely, tiny bubbles. The nose was so aromatic- reminding me of an afternoon walk through the local woods. This wine was magic- recalling quite perfectly the day’s last rays of sunlight on the leaves filtering down to the forest floor.
We enjoyed the wine with a couple of local appetizers, hand-crafted by the lovely Zia, Osteria degli Acrobati’s chef and everyone’s Auntie. All I can say is, I love a nice big piece of Cotechino. My Piemontese friends will love that.
In all seriousness though, Zia’s Cotechino was superb- with that rich, oily mouthfeel combined with a creamy, slightly chewy texture that was perfect against the bracing cold of the wine. She served us a few peices with a heavenly dollop of puree di patate (Italy’s more refined version of the mashed potato), and accompanied by a totally balanced, refreshing swipe of salsa verde (parsely, lemon, garlic). And her fritatta? Light and fluffier than any quiche you’ve ever tasted, studded with pancetta and heavy with cream, butter and some kind of sharp, flavorful cheese.
I am telling you. This woman would be a Michelin-starred chef in Los Angeles.
Another standout was the local prosciutto cotto- think of the regular air-dried prosciutto we have in the US, but instead of being cured completely, it is boiled and then sliced. This process transforms the meat into a rich, luxurious silky slice of perfection. The meat and fat blend seamlessly into each other and the whole thing begins to melt the second it hits your tongue.
The food and wine at the Osteria degli Acrobati were sublime, but the company was even better. I sincerely thank all the lovely people of Arona and the rest of Alta Piemonte for being so welcoming and generous with me. You will always be in my heart!