The latest edition of Bon Appetit (August 2010) includes a neat little feature on traveling to — and eating and drinking in — Piemonte. Included among its short list of eight highlights, I was very pleased to see two places that I visited on my most recent trip to the Langhe. The first of the two, staking down the second spot on the list, was Centro Storico, a place I'd like to see replicated, at least in spirit, in every town I have occasion to visit. It's that solid a recipe: great wine (and really great Champagne!), comforting food, no nonsense service and a friendly, makes-you-want-to-stay-there-all-day kind of vibe.
When you go... notice I say "when," not if, and use "you" in the universally inclusive sense, not in the one-or-two-folks-who-I-know-are going-to-go-anyway sense. When you go... it'll be fine if you mention the Bon Appetit spot to Alessio, but make sure to tell him you read about it here first! I really do love that place.
Anchoring the B.A. list in the #8 spot is a restaurant of another sort, one that I couldn't imagine succeeding, if duplicated exactly as is, in any city in the United States. And yet, set just off the corner of a beautiful old square in Pollenzo, on the grounds of Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences, it seemed perfectly at home (aside, perhaps, from the gate at which guests have to be buzzed in to gain admittance).
That place is Ristorante Guido. It may be a Michelin one-star, with the white tablecloths, polished service and the ambition to prove it, but one dish in particular that I ate there was among the simplest expressions of the beauty of Piemontese cuisine that I encountered on the entire trip.
I wish I'd taken notes that night, or asked for a copy of the menu, so that I could tell you the "official" name of the dish; agnolotti al tovagliolo will have to suffice. Meat filled agnolotti. No sauce whatsoever. Nestled in a folded over napkin to absorb any excess moisture and keep the pasta firm. Revealed table-side. And relished for their unabashed, unadorned, purely simple delivery of the art of deliciousness.
To the first: go and go often. To the second: go, it's worth the splurge.