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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fior di Roccia

The day: 2nd February 2007, Dinner.
The place: Via Nazionale 2, Lon di Vezzano (TN), Italy (tel +39 0461 864029)
The venue: Ristorante Fior di Roccia
The food: Fine Italian Dining, with strong regional influence
The drinks: Good list, many regional but also other choices, all prices


A short drive out of Trento (continuously overtaken on the winding road by madmen at the wheel) and we reach this one Michelin star establishment, with chef Walter Miori in command of the kitchen and his charming wife Franca in charge of the front service. The welcome is completely informal, and the room is at the same time homely and elegant, with several pleasant little details.

Sour note at the start: very annoyingly for Woman, the menu for her arrives without prices. This is, sadly, standard in many fine dining restaurants (thankfully not all), but it doesn’t make it any less sexist. Anyway, Man will, for a price of course, reveal the prices to Woman...

The Chef proposes two tasting menus, one with five courses at €43 and a ‘surprise’ one with three courses at €33. A la carte, starters are all at €12, first courses at €11, and mains vary between €15 and €20. Among the starters that tempted us beside our choice were Rotolini di castagne con ricotta affumicata e robiola (smoked ricotta and robiola cheese in a chestnut casing); and soufflé di broccoli alla bagnacauda (broccoli soufflé with anchovies based sauce – this sauce is typical of Piedmont). For ‘primi’ we left our heart for the gorgonzola ravioli on a chestnut sauce; and cabbage and Puzzone cheese ‘canederlotti’ with truffle butter – mmmmh! Canederlotti are a traditional dish from the peasant tradition (stale bread in milk and eggs with a cheese filling). Other regional dishes came as mains (e.g. venison and ‘carne salada’), and we mention the cod with chickpea sauce and sautéed artichockes in rosemary oil, which sounds very interesting.

While musing over the menu, here is the bread;

All rigorously made on the premises, a first rate offer. The star of the basket was the ‘piume’ (feathers) of potato: they are the long orange tongues you see on the left. Crispy, they play the role of grissini, as light as air and unusually shaped.

We went for a starter and a primo, namely Insalata di baccala' su patate viola con pesto di olive Taggiasche (salt cod salad on purple potatoes with Taggiasche olive pesto); and Orzotto alla zucca, amaretti e canella (a barley ‘risotto’ – a barley-otto in other words- with pumpkin, amaretti and cinnamon). While waiting for it, a greeting from the kitchen:

Turkey roll on quinoa and leek soup. Quinoa is reminiscent of a crunchy cous-cous, and it matched very well the texture of the turkey ‘meatball’, the warm soup excellent to wash it down. A delicate and classy start.

Here are the primi:

The pumpkin-amaretti-cinnamon combination is a classic, here very successfully used with the barley-otto. The roll you see is grana cheese, which adds a very slightly sapid note in an overall sweet dish. The creamy orzotto was delightful and perfectly done. An interesting touch were the small toasted grains of buckwheat, which not only add an interesting flavour to lighten the sweetness, but also make the overall texture intriguing to the bite. The same grains were used with similar and successful intent in the cod salad. Now, cod and potato couldn’t be plainer, but look at what Miori does with it. A superb dish, first of all for its presentation. The purple potato are a rarity which the chef re-discovered: they taste like potatoes, but how pleasing to the eye. The tight assemblage of the salad was elegant, sober and very fulfilling, indeed, filling. A pleasant marriage between the yielding softness of the potatoes and the springiness of the cod. To be fair, the contribution of the olives was for us not central to the dish, and we would have welcomed an even more radical minimalism.

For mains we chose Stinco di agnello al forno con polenta di patate (oven cooked lamb shank with potato mash); and Petto di piccione al mosto d’uva e crema di porri (Pigeon breast with wine must and creamed leeks).

The lamb shank is a simple enough dish where much depends on execution. The cooking here was perfect, the meat falling off the bone having lost none of its flavour and texture. A blemish was the excessive saltiness. The pigeon came with unadvertised mash carrots and a ‘spoon’ of liver pate. The match between the cold pate and the hot pigeon was simply fantastic. Man, while in agreement and awed by this combination, found that the size and intensity of the pate portion detracted a little from the centrality of the pigeon in the dish. This is quibbling, though: once on the palate it was a feast.

To conclude, we shared a generous Tortini di cioccolato al cuore morbido con salsa di vaniglia e menta e crema di mascarpone (Chocolate cake with a ‘soft heart’, with vanilla and mint sauce and mascarpone cream), at €9. Man helped this down with a glass of Late harvested Chardonnay (Maso Martis) at €5, suggested by Signora Miori.

The vanilla and mint were great with the chocolate. The tortino itself was as beautiful as chocolate should be, its warm heart spilling out and mixing decadently with the rich mascarpone cream. The Chardonnay had a distinct panettone aroma with a hint of orange. Man was very happy with his choice.

During the meal, we had two half bottles of wine. With the starter/primo, a Pinot Bianco Terlano J. Brigl 2005 (€9 – no joke, there is a HUGE difference between markups on drinks in the UK and in Italy, where people are in general less prepared to overpay for drinks). With the mains, a Teroldego Foradori 2004 (€13) – Teroldego is the star red of the plain north of Trento, if you haven’t tried it you should. It’s dark (packed with anthocyanides) and perfumed (violet and raspberries) . A complimentary chef-made Limoncello (wow, what flavour!) came later for Man, while Woman and the chef were involved in a conversation on the technicalities of natural leaven bread-making (Man is a very lucky man…) . Adding €3 for water and €6 the overall bill came to €108. Even with the tip, once again we easily ended up within our budget. It looks like we are going to have a good time in Italy

This was a very pleasant evening out in a comfortable, relaxed and homely atmosphere with excellent food. The care and love for the ingredients is evident in every dish. Siphons and foams are not the protagonists here: this is a ‘physical’ cuisine where the ‘chewing’ instinct is attended to as much as the taste buds; a cuisine in the spirit of the regional tradition, but where the hearty flavours are assembled with obvious grace and mastery. The location of the restaurant must not be ideal, in a remote village where the spectacular views (admittedly best enjoyed in other seasons) are apparently not enough to attract the locals (on a Friday night there were only four tables occupied, by couples). A pity, because the place deserves a full house. We are told that they will be moving this year to new premises much nearer Trento. Perhaps the business model and the clientele will change a little, given the forthcoming association with a well-known wine producer. To the other starred restaurants in Trento: beware!


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