A kitchen diamondAlba White Truffle: A Gastronomic Journey to Northern Italy
Its taste is sensational. Due to its rarity, this mushroom is one of the most expensive foods in the world. We go to Piedmont and Lombardy where chefs sublimate this wild product.
Yesterday, the 23rd edition of the Alba International White Truffle Fair was held in the town in Piedmont, located south of Turin. On the site and online, bidders around the world have spent thousands of dollars on these mushrooms (profits are donated to charity), which are among the most expensive foods on Earth.
Piedmont is the birthplace of the culinary diamond and every autumn it is on the menu of the best tables in northern Italy. This is the case in Lombardy, at the Al Lago restaurant of the Hotel Sereno, in Torno, on the shores of Lake Como, which was awarded a star again by the Michelin guide last week. His chef Raffaele Lenzi, a 38-year-old Neapolitan, even participates in the Alba fair (until December 4) where this year he will lead a workshop and a master class.
An explosion of taste
“We supply in two regions: in the Langhe, in Piedmont, and in Acqualagna, in the Marche, in the center of the country, and only from mid-October to the end of November because that’s the best period,” explains Raffaele. Lenzi. Taste is the deciding factor, and as it is a wild product, we cannot control this parameter. Year after year we have to rely on nature. This year, for example, the prices are higher and the quality lower.” Thus, customers who request a four-course menu with 16 to 18 grams of Alba white truffle pay 280 euros (276 francs) per person, a price that varies depending on the market price.
It is precisely thanks to vintages like 2022, in which a professional cannot hide behind the lushness of truffles, that we can evaluate his talent. In the Al Lago restaurant, white is especially represented in two seemingly simple dishes. First, the association with other mushrooms, in this case cardoncelli (oyster mushrooms) or porcini mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, chestnut cream and… coffee! Another suggestion, at first glance more conventional: risotto. This classic is a workout in style. Raffaele Lenzi works with carnaroli rice from the San Massimo reserve, whose crispness contrasts with the creaminess of rabiola di Raoccaverano. This Piedmontese soft cheese is made from three raw milks (cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s). Truffle aromas amazingly complete the explosion of flavors.
From mushroom hunting to tasting
Magnificent to the eye and the palate, the coast between the town of Como and Bellagio is dotted with good addresses of all categories where chefs make Alba white truffles. Certainly not a gastronome like George Clooney, who lives in the villa across the street, who will say otherwise. We can mention, among others, Osteria il Governo 1801 overlooking the lake, L’Aria at Mandarin Oriental, Filo at Hotel Filario. For example, at Mistral, the one-star restaurant in the grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, chef Ettore Bocchia prepares cappelletti (egg pastry) filled with liquid parmesan, beef consommé, chestnut puree and pumpkin, all garnished with slices of the famous mushroom.
Three kilometers away, in the same town, Luigi Gandola, formerly of Villa d’Este, runs Salice Blu. On request, the chef organizes mushroom and black truffle hunting in the area (see video above). After the walk with the dogs, there will be a cooking workshop and then a meal. And if the weather or the mood does not suit it, we will be content with tasting the dishes of this charming restaurant.