Coming from New York, Sunday lunch is a bit of a phenomenon for me. Where are the mimosas, eggs and fancy pastry baskets? As far as I’ve always know, Sunday is for brunch, not lunch. Here in Italy, however, lunch dominates. The mid-day meal is relished on Sunday and lingered over for a few too many hours. While lunching with friends in a cramped apartment or at a nearby trattoria is more typical of my student budget, I recently had the chance to join friends for a bit of a classier affair at Michelin-starred Guido Ristorante.
Since 2004, the restaurant was located right on the campus of my university, in the beautiful medieval building that now houses our university canteen. In the early part of this year it moved just 20 minutes away to the stunning landscape of the Fontanafredda Estate in Serralunga d’Alba. Now set on the first floor of the ornate Royal Villa, the restaurant overlooks the Estate’s famous vineyards and gardens.
With its high ceilings and neutral tones, the dining room manages to feel of a different era while remaining modern. The level of service matches the stunning atmosphere, while the food and wine meet every expectation the atmosphere gives you.
After ordering a bottle of crisp white wine from the surrounding region, we began with two amuse-bouche – a profiterole filled with salt cod and cardoon (a vegetable in the artichoke family that tastes of artichoke but looks awfully similar to celery) topped with hazelnut granola, hazelnut cream and shaved black truffle. My primi was the house specialty – agnolotti stuffed with veal in a light sugo d’arrosto, which is the drippings of the roasted meat. It was near perfection and the first pasta I’ve tasted during my brief time here in Italy that surprised me by how flavorful yet simple it was.
My secondi of steamed cod with porcini mushrooms was also quite surprising. The woodsy flavor of the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms was an interesting contrast to the light, flakey fish, which was served atop a simple potato puree. It was a refreshing change from the heavy Piedmontese food I’ve been indulging in over the past couple of months.
While we digested our two courses, we were brought out a few plates of cheeses to sample and to wet our palate for dessert. Almost too full, we couldn’t help but order a few plates to share. The first was another house speciality, which we had eyed across the room at a neighboring table when we first arrived. A towering mass of fior di latte gelato, it was churned to order and served simply on its own in order to appreciate its delicate flavor. We also chose profiteroles filled with hazelnut cream and chocolate and oven-roasted pears with chocolate and shaved black truffle. Enjoyed with a bottled of Fontanafredda’s slightly sweet Moscato d’Asti, it was an indulgent end to an equally indulgent lunch.