After three straight days of plodding through buffet lunches in a subterranean cafeteria following the morning tastings at Nebbiolo Prima, time for the post-tasting repast on the ultimate day of the event absolutely called for a break-out. With one of Alba's main squares only a short walk from the event headquarters and with the sun shining brightly on a late spring afternoon, al fresco dining seemed like just the thing. And my co-conspirators and I knew just the place.
We'd already stopped at Enoclub, located on the south side of Alba's Piazza Savona along with its sister restaurant/enoteca Caffè Umberto, for late night refreshments earlier in the trip. Enoclub's cafe tables, its eclectic, reasonably priced wine list and the promise of a satisfying lunch beckoned our return. Boy, am I glad we heeded the call.
As I've mentioned here before, I'm a fan of the traditional Piemontese dish, carne cruda. The rendition served at Enoclub is off-the-charts good. The full name of the dish on the menu at Enoclub is Carne cruda di vitello Fassone (macelleria Oberto di Alba). That's raw veal — Fassone is the famed Piemontese breed of cattle — from the butcher Oberto. I don't doubt that there are others, but Enoclub is the only restaurant I've visited in Piedmont that identifies the source of the meat they serve directly on their menu. I take that as a point of pride, pride that showed through in the incredible freshness and succulence of their carne cruda.
If you haven't tried carne cruda you might expect it to be rich and heavy. When done right, though, it's actually refreshingly bright and easy on the constitution. A little squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of good olive oil and man was it good. Writing about it now, I can't help dreaming of going back for seconds.
But what to drink? As much as I love Nebbiolo, I must say that after four days spent tasting 320+ examples of Nebbiolo from Roero, Barbaresco and Barolo (and that's just the morning tastings), I was ready for something of a different nature. When my companions and I spotted Movia's 2001 Puro Rosé on the list, we needed look no further.
At nine years of age, the pinkness of this bottle of Puro Rosé was much more apparent in its disgorgement bath (see the third shot in the series above) than in the glass, but it was still fresh as a daisy on the palate. Its medium sparkle and crunchy texture proved a fantastic foil to the meaty savor of the carne cruda and seemed to work quite well with the rest of the plates on our table, too.
Those other plates were no slouches. The Tartare di Baccalà (at left) and Tajarin served at Enoclub were both fantastic.
While I started with carne cruda then moved on to a theoretically lighter plate of pasta with pesto and shrimp, my buddy and fellow Nebbiolo Prima attendee, Wolfgang Weber, took the opposite approach. That's him above, caught munching on a piece of focaccia (even the bread was good). Wolfgang's starter of salt cod tartare was right on, a very nice opener to his second act, an absolutely killer plate of Tajarin. A fresh, thin-cut, egg yolk-rich pasta, Tajarin is another Piemontese specialty. The rendition at Enoclub, dressed with just the right proportion of meat ragu, had me wishing I'd gone the meat and more meat route when ordering.
The new bar and ground-floor dining room at Umberto/Enoclub is quite nice, contemporary in design, bright and inviting. I'm told the original restaurant, located downstairs, is stunning, but it was closed on both of my visits. No matter, though. On this visit, eating and drinking under the sun and sky was just right.
Caffè Umberto Enoteca Ristorante
Piazza Savona, 4
Alba (CN) ITALY
+39 0173 33994