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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Al Trivio

The day: 1st June 2008, Dinner.
The place: Campiello del Trivio, 11, Rovereto(TN), Italy (+39 0464 436414)
The venue: Al Trivio Restaurant
The food: Modern take on regional Italian
The drinks: short list, but strong on local wines and in general some interesting choices.

This is one of those Italian rarities, a restaurant/trattoria with a working webpage, where you can even find online menus together with prices. This alone would have made a visit imperative. But the dishes were enticing enough to make us eager for this trip to the centre of Rovereto, a nice town some 20km south of Trento.

A pleasant June evening, how could we not dine al fresco? So for you we have this picture of the exterior:

The menu, then. You could go for a five course tasting menu at €32 (mmh, but wasn’t this advertised as €30 on their webpage?), or for a small (three course) fish menu for €25, (aha, that was €24 on their webpage) or – at lunchtime only-, a one course lunch special at €14. Moving on to the a la carte section, starters are all €8.50, and include Sea Moscardini with polenta bites*. Primi go from the €7.50 of the classic Strangolapreti Trentino style with Trentingrana and butter, to the €8.50 of Lucanica (local sausage) bites and mixed wild mushrooms maccheroncini*. Mains are all at €14, apart from the cheese platter at €13, and include Pork fillet wrapped in ham cooked at low temperature and served with warm vegetables caponatina*. Desserts are all priced at €6.

Now the menu still looks enticing, though that string of asterisks is a bit of a let down: at the bottom of the page the ‘legend’ reads “if fresh produce is unavailable, it may be replaced by frozen ingredients”. Of course we know this happens in the best of kitchens, but having this in a place that prides itself (well yes, on their website) of fish dishes, and seeing so many asterisks in the fish dishes, is a bit of a slap in the face.

But fish they advertise, so fish it’ll be, we’ll have one fish set menu, and sample the rest from the a la carte.

A glass of bubbly to open the dances is complimentary, but to be fair that you are expected to pay €2.50 (wasn’t it advertised as €2 on the webpage?) as cover charge. The latter also includes bread, of course, and here it is:

Sesame rolls, poppy seed rolls, and focaccia, not bad at all.

For primi, we have:

- Chickpea and Val di Gresta potato dumplings with cherry tomatoes, shelled prawns, black olives and rocket* (from the set menu, but also available a la carte at €8.50)

- Egg maltagliati with sea mullet and steamed green beans* (€8.50)

The maltagliati came spreading their intense sea perfume all around: but the taste did not live up to the raised expectations, especially for Woman, Man being more indulgent, Woman being unable to stand the fact that the bits of mullet were small, few and far between. The steamed green beans were rather stringy, too. The maltagliati themselves were really well made and well cooked. Overall, though, a pass mark.

The gnocchi themselves were also very good (although, yet again, not properly ‘ribbed’), and the flavours in the dish were satisfying, although the rocket was a bit of an off note, and the prawns themselves had lost much of their soul to the rest of the dish.

For mains, we had:

- Sea bream fillets in bread crust on mussel sauce and champignon cake (from the set menu, at €14 if a la carte)

- Roasted rabbit roll with spinach and pine-nuts filling, served with polenta, potatoes and its sauce (€14)

With the bream we definitely rise: the fish itself is of high quality, its cooking well executed, and how appetizing those herbs, the oil and the nice aroma they spread. Perhaps the sauce a bit too salty and rich, and too 'puddly', but overall a satisfying dish, including the mushroom cake. And, as a bonus, well presented, and in size.

The rabbit was also good, well presented and cooked, well stuffed (indeed very well stuffed, so much so that there wasn’t much rabbit to talk about!). The thyme lent a fitting aroma, together with the pine nuts, delicately in the foreground, including in the accompanying polenta. Again, the reduction (well, more than a reduction it was a thickened sauce, somewhat old fashioned) on the salty side, but overall this dish left us again quite content.

We concluded with these:

- White peach bavarois with yogurth sauce (€6)

- Warm carrot cake with vanilla sauce and fior di latte ice cream (€6)

The carrot cake had coarsely ground almonds, and nears the league of (but does not beat) other versions we had. So a good cake, itself moist enough, but well helped by the excellent vanilla sauce and by the icecream, lending a nice contrast in temperature as well as texture.

The peach bavarois was terrific, very intense peach flavour, with crunchy bits at the bottom for extra ‘munchiness’. The yogurt sauce had been lightly whipped. Really good. So much for Woman. Man, destroyed by a previous hiking fatigue, and above all by aromatic white wine, just mechanically nods in agreement, eyes semi-closed).

With a 0.75 litre bottle of water at very honest €2.50 and a bottle of 2005 Manna by Franz Haas at €26 (a powerful and intriguing cuvee) our total bill came to €87.

Service is prompt, competent and courteous without being obtrusive. As for food, that star filled menu first: not only, as we said already, this deflates you even before you start, but the fact that they appear even elsewhere than on the usual suspects – for the maccheroncini dish what is it? It must be the mushrooms, but why, if they serve them fresh and local and wonderful now a few chilometers further North) – this gives you the (hopefully wrong) impression that here eating something fresh can happen only by chance. And the hike in price: c’mon guys, the one on the webpage is dated April 2008, do you really want us to think that at your place prices go up €1 a month? That is some inflation…

Another department where ‘marketing’ produces the opposite effect to that intended (at least this is what we hope) is this overlong description of the dish: difficult to pin down where it goes wrong, probably just its length, but anyhow it is that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that sounds of pretentiousness and pomposity that ill fit the modern take on tradition that this menu so obviously tries hard to achieve. For instance, take the “bread crust” of the sea bream: if what you get is something very akin to a lightly breaded fish, why just not say that?

But, in spite of a few glitches here and there (a chipped glass, having to ask for a wine chiller on a warm night for our white), and in spite of our negative remarks on the menu, this was overall a pleasant evening, and in fact, passed the primi, it was even more than pleasant. There is a cook of good skills behind those stoves. Al Trivio, though well-priced, is a touch dearer than other establishments we have visited of roughly similar or better quality, and perhaps not worth a drive on purpose, but if you pass by Rovereto, it is well worth a stop (with only one go in Rovereto, however, we'd opt for La Cruna dell' ago.)



Guido said...

Good morning Signore e Signori,
First, sorry, for the mistakes, I will surely commit, but my English is quite out of shape. Then, thank you for visiting our Restaurant. We do really appreciate your precise and competent report (even with nice snapshots!) and, above all, that you thought it would have been of some worth to spend your precious time to publish it on the web. These reviews are extremely useful for us, since they help us to improve.
Well, let us start (and end) with the “few glitches here and there” and your remarks.
1. Our website is not properly up-to-date. I will take the blame: we could have easily avoided your observations about prices promptly updating the site. Now let me say you have improperly deduced our inflation rate is about 40% a year [1€/30€ (Medium menu price but wines) * 12]. You should come back and visit us in one-month time (let us hope it will happen!) and check if prices have grown up of another Euro. Our Prices actually have been unchanged (please believe me) for two years and more, so you have been just a bit unlucky! 
2. The “stars”. Unfortunately, we have to put them inside the menu: that is the law even they are “a bit of a slap in the face”! Our raw materials are 99% fresh (you said the Bream was excellent), but there is that 1% (usually due to courier strikes or delays) we cannot avoid.  Anyway, we will find a better way to respect the law and Customers’ eyes as well. After all, we are Italians, well known for our cleverness, don’t we?
3. Please say sorry to the “less indulgent” Woman (God bless indulgent Men!). The right balance of a dish is sometimes a matter of nothing and, keeping within the proper bounds, subjective. Let us say the cook deserve another chance! 
4. What to say about “Gnocchi”? Nothing, actually. You did not like our matches (prawns, rocket etc.) Ancient Latin would say: “De gustibus non disputandum (est)”.
5. Very happy you liked our Dessert (and wines)!
6. Overlong dishes description: once again, my foul. As I said, my English is rusty! I have learned that “Bread crust” translates with” lightly breaded” and many other things, e.g. Italian Customers are very curios and they always want to know exactly what’s inside the dish. Foreign Customers are more pragmatic (and often more competent!).
7. chipped glass and wine chiller: earful to our (prompt, competent and courteous without being obtrusive) waiters: done it!
8. “There is someone of good skills behind those stoves”. I will surely report to the cooks (May I define them Chefs?) your opinion! I think he (and she) will be very happy!
Best Regards form Italy.
Guido and the young Trivio’s Staff (

Man-Woman said...

Dear Guido & young Trivio staff,

many thanks for your message and for the civility and positive spirit with which you have taken our criticisms. It seems to us that with this attitude, no less than for your cuisine, you already stand above many restaurateurs in Italy, and we sincerely wish you a great success and progress with your restaurant, in which you obviously put a lot of passion.

As for your English, it sounds more than OK to us, but we are the last ones to be able to judge, as we are Italian ourselves, though living abroad - and maybe for this reason we both want to know what is in the plate and are 'pragmatic'...:-)

We are about to leave Trento, so we won't see you again this year, but we certainly will be back next year!


Guido said...

I do thank you for your answer!
Well, have a nice return-trip and see you next year! Hope we will not let you down!

Anonymous said...

Ispirato al noto artista Riccardo Schweizer il locale ha calorosamente accolto me e la mia compagna.
Il cordiale servizio si è immediatamente premurato di versare nei nostri calici dell'ottimo prosecco come aperitivo.
Il primo piatto tipico trentino (strangolapreti) è stato a dir poco delizioso!
La raffinatezza della cucina si sposava perfettamente con l'ambiente reso rilassante da una piacevole musica di fondo.
I secondi (tagliata con patate saltate e filetto di maiale su vellutata di porri), curati nella preparazione e deliziosi al palato resteranno un ottimo ricordo di questa graziosa Rovereto tutta da assaporare.
Il vino Marzemino ha accompagnato il tutto con superbia.
Il Gestore del locale è venuto al tavolo a salutare e a farci gli onori di casa con spiccata simpatia e cordialità.
Il tortino di cioccolato e castagne con gelato alla panna e crema di vaniglia non poteva che chiudere la cena in modo migliore con il suo caldo cuore fumante in contrasto con l'ottima vaniglia d'accompagnamento.
I nostri complimenti, oltre che al simpatico Gestore Guido, vanno ai ragazzi che si sono dedicati al nostro servizio.
Lode alla cucina che con raffinatezza ha saputo presentare piatti, opere d'arte in mezzo alle tante oper d'arte del noto Riccardo.
Consigliamo a chiunque passi dalle parti di Rovereto di fare una sosta al ristorante "Al Trivio"
siamo convinti che non ve ne dimenticherete...
Andrea e Patrizia

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