We can’t believe it was so long ago when we made our first visit to Cesare, it all started 17 years ago. In my early twenties I began searching truffles but only experienced them in city restaurants, and I always dreamed to go to the source but never had the chance. Finally one day after eating incredible white truffles, I couldn’t wait any longer. I opened the Michelin and off I was to Alba. I raced to Alba to find it touristic and disappointing, I quickly changed my mind and returned to Zürich feeling tired.
Years later my wife was reading an article by Jeffery Steingarten, a known writer specializing in food. He named Cesare as an experience to remember and not to miss, so we were off together this time. In our station wagon off we went directly to Cesare’s restaurant some 500 kilometers away. When we arrived to Albaretto, the restaurant seemed closed, the lights were dim, it seemed that they were preparing for dinner. Without any hesitation I entered to be greeted by Cesare, he who opened his arms and invited us in. Within minutes we were drinking some bubbles and he was shaving white truffles over warmed bread.
Nowadays his restaurant has transformed from what it used to be, which was a place where it was booked out months in advance, to a place now where he works mostly by himself and opens when guests reserve. The restaurant is still a hard seat to get without advance planning, but it misses the soft touch of Filippo who now runs his own business nearby. Sadly we miss the dynamics of Filippo and Cesare, the service and elegance, the family passion it once had, now is a memory.
Tonight I am invited to Cesare, so I arrive in advance of our guests to spend a few minutes in his kitchen. His cuisine is unique, his flavors are wonderful, aromas of fresh herbs, locally foraged raw materials he was and is a pioneer in the Langhe.
Technically he keeps it simple by using recipes that preserve the integrity of the land and its beauty. He incorporates selected hand-picked raw materials such as, porcini, or ovoli one of our favorite mushrooms eaten raw. The “ovolo buono” is the most incredible small mushroom, it has a distinctive orange cap, yellow gills and white stem. The name of this mushroom is Amanita Caesarea, is named after Roman emperor Caesar, but this family of mushrooms are some of the most toxic known mushrooms found worldwide.
After a few glasses of local bubbles, a tradition, we are huddled in the kitchen tasting some Fassone crudo, a touch of rock salt, I smash it a bit on the counter to get it more fine, and add some virgin olive oil, but not too much. Life begins @ Cesare.
To be continued…..