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Image 1: It’s hard to believe that it’s 3 years since I was last in Alba. It’s November, and here I am again for what Alba is famous for - white truffle. And, after several meals of local pasta featuring these rare and delicate mushrooms, I decided, as usual, to cap my trip with a visit to Piazza Duomo, one of Italy’s eight Michelin 3-star restaurants.
Image 2: On my previous visit to Piazza Duomo, Chef Enrico promised that, if I returned, he would show me round his farm, which supplies all the vegetables used in the restaurant. It was an offer I wasn’t about to forget, or turn down. So, bright and early (7am) on a Saturday morning, I was there…
Image 3: …and so was he! And despite being busy (collecting all the vegetables that he needed for the evening), he still managed to spare a few minutes for a short chat. Then, he loaded several boxes of freshly-picked ingredients into a van and off he went! Amazing! Here’s a Michelin 3-star chef, who worked past midnight the night before and he still manages to arrive early next morning to gather his ingredients. He told me that it’s too exhausting to do this every single day but he makes sure he does it a few times a week.
Image 4: As for me, after breakfast in the white truffle market and a 5-course white truffle lunch, here I was, back at this striking, bright pink entrance for my dinner. This was my third visit here – my previous experiences were in 2010 and 2013 (see
Image 5: The dining room was just as it was three years ago, and the chef’s signature dishes were still on the tasting menu, though there were a few new dishes. Most things, I’d had already as I always come at the same time of year. So I’ll keep my review on the brief side, as otherwise I’ll be repeating myself.
Image 6: Swiss chard sponge with tuna sauce on top, dusted with caper powder.
Image 7: Foie gras cream on crunchy corn, covered with foam of Gingerino (a local soda drink made of sugar, extracts of citrus fruits, spices and herb). You eat it with the peanut cracker, served on the side.
Image 8: "Fake” olives – the green one is veal tartare, and the black one is langoustine tartare.
Image 9: Wow! Nine – that’s NINE - bowls of antipasti! They are: 1) Brussels sprouts marinated in mustard sauce and fresh mustard leaves. 2) Bok Choy with Japanese Furikake made from dried tuna, sesame and Alga seaweed. 3) Caponette - radicchio leaf filled with caviar, hazelnuts and apples. 4) Buffalo Mozzarella produced locally in the Puglia province. 5) Beetroot Gazpacho, dried cranberries and gogi berries. 6) Marinated pumpkin with pickled hazelnuts. 7) Steamed broccoli with local vinaigrette. 8) Fresh mushrooms. 9) Korean Kimchi.
Image 10: Green anchovies, usually dressed in parsley sauce, are a traditional dish in Alba. Here, the anchovies are dressed in with a mixture of cod, parsley sauce and bread, while the base is a tartare of yellow pepper sauce.
Image 11: Lettuce leaf with Fassone veal tartare, white truffle and a slice of Porcini mushroom.
Image 12: Cotechino – the usual dish of pork sausage and herbs, glazed in lentil puree, together with a slice of black truffle. The liquid is veal broth.
Image 13: Polenta with rabbit ragu.
Image 14: Tigella taco - mayonnaise salad, fresh porcini mushrooms, marinated yolk and seaweed. You eat it like a taco, after removing it from its paper wrapper.
Image 15: Sea bass carpaccio with ficoidea glacial lettuce, dressed with salty lemon and served with juniper, lime zest, lime and green pepper.
Image 16: And now a signature dish: Salad 21, 31, 41… This name was originally given to the dish in 2006 because it contains between 21 and 51 types of vegetables on a single plate. Now, though, with his own farm, chef Enrico can collect as many as 126 varieties of fresh ingredients during the summer season! On this occasion, the dish had over 70. Here are a few of them (take a deep breath. Ready? OK, here we go…):
Image 17: Alga nori, carrots, bak choi, mitsuba, water mint, Virginia bluebells, bergamot mint, ground-ivy, red mustard, white mustard, mizuna rossa, mizuna purple, mizuna scarlett, cerfoglio, parsley, pak choy, tatsoi, thai basil, dark opal basil, anagallis, sarset, stevia, wasabi, perilla, silene, radicchio tardivo, anise, hazelnuts, Pot marigold, phlox, marigold, Jamaican oregano, swiss chard, black kale, nasturtium, oyster leaf, thyme, red leaf lettuce, Oenothera biennis, chocolate mint, shiso, pisum sativum, borage, finger lime…phew! I’ll stop there.
Image 18: Raw scallops, sea urchin cream, Pecorino cheese.
Image 19: This “Lettuce sandwich” was made with mayo, sea urchin and Alga nori with furikake
Image 20: We were served these three items in homage to the Greenhouse. They are: (1) Turnip sandwich - Very thinly sliced turnips that represent the greenhouse itself, while inside the slices are leaves that represent all the vegetables that grow inside the greenhouse.
Image 21: (2) A field of potatoes symbolised by crackers. Inside is veal tartare with barbeque sauce, representing cows on the farm.
Image 22: (3) Whipped cream, turnip gelée and cubes of turnips.
Image 23: Lightly salted cod, cooked sous vide at low temperature, and (during Autumn) served with pumpkin sauce, swiss chard and nasturtiums.
Image 24: Cardoons & White Alba truffle, consisting of cream of hazelnuts, hazelnuts, hazelnut flour and white truffles. The foam is made with milk and anchovies.
Image 25: Under the slice of raw porcini was a veal carpaccio "meatball" with cooked porcini mushrooms.
Image 26: Another signature… soft potato cream with quail egg, marinated in Chinese black tea. Black tea powder was sprinkled on top, and the whole ensemble finished with white truffles!
Image 27: Agnolotti. While usually filled with rabbit, pork and veal, these are a little bigger than the typical serving, and filled with fontina cheese and a touch of butter.
Image 28: Venison with red wine sauce and foie gras cream. There was also venison meatball with black truffle, black cabbage and truffles!
Image 29: Four desserts for us to share: (1) Ricotta tart – a corn biscuit base with ricotta cream, orange sauce and buckwheat.
Image 30: (2) Mount Viso (because it’s - apparently - in the shape of Mount Viso). It consisted of three very soft hazelnut biscuits, each filled with different creams: caramel, coffee gelée and chocolate. Hazelnut ice cream was served on the side.
Image 31: (3) Lemon tart – a cream base soaked in limoncello, with lemon cream, whipped cream, meringue and flowers (made with marzipan/almond paste).
Image 32: (4) Black Forrest - chocolate shortbread, yogurt powder, cranberry powder, cherries, whipped cream and chocolate ganache.
Image 33: And now two petits fours to conclude another long meal: (1) "Truffle Hunting" – an apple cracker filled with whipped cream, chocolate ganache, eclairs, quince and white truffle.
Image 34: (2) Finally, after 4 hours and 10 min… two cinnamon biscuits filled with a ganache of torched Moscavado sugar. They were accompanied by a broth of quince, pears and ginger to drink.