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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lo Scrigno del Duomo (upstairs)

The day: 3rd November 2008, Dinner.
The place: Piazza del Duomo, Trento
The venue: Scrigno del Duomo Osteria and Wine Bar
The food: Simple Fine Italian
The drinks: Short but strong list, Italian based, with several lesser known varieties

We are temporarily in Trento and we are thinking of paying our beloved Franca Merz a visit …but it’s a Monday! I Due Camini, like many other places, is closed. So why not stay in the very centre of town, and try the less formal sister venue of the Michelin starred Scrigno del Duomo? While the formal restaurant is in a basement, this is at ground level. The interior is warm and appealing – it reminds us a bit of the Vinothek in Bad Mergentheim (which also had an associated starred venue).

The menu is short and offers simple but very enticing dishes. First of all, you can just have a selection of Salumi (cured meats) and Cheeses (€8.50 for 5 items and €10.50 for 7). The Cheese section especially would offer you a comprehensive sample of the best of the Trentino production, including of course the fabulous Puzzone di Moena. There is a €33 three course menu. And then there are various individual dishes or salads, such as Spinach ‘sformatino’ with Puzzone cheese and Finferli (i.e. girolles) mushrooms at €9 or Octopus carpaccio with vegetables, oil and lemon at €12.

In the meanwhile, the bread arrives:

A nicely presented ‘basket’, with a small selection of superior bread.

The bread is made out of stone-ground high quality flour and leaven. The result speaks for itself.

For first courses we go for:

- Homemade tagliatelle with roasted duck (€10)

- Val di Gresta potato cream with veal meatballs and braised savoy cabbage (€10)

Well well well these are very nicely presented dishes for an osteria! The potato cream is just slightly gluey, but the potato flavour is striking indeed. The meatballs are larger than we thought and just perfect, moist and fulfilling, obviously made with good raw material. And the olive oil is top notch which, as ever, elevates the dish.

The tagliatelle are good if a bit ‘nervous’. But what amazing taste, here we are at fine dining, not osteria, levels: the reduction is intense and velvety; the aromatic tang of the rosemary tends to dominate but it integrates splendidly with the reduction and with the excellent duck. A pasta dish among the best we’ve had of late.

And the secondi:

- Roman ‘puntarelle’ with tuna morsels and balsamic vinaigrette (€15)

- Warm beef salad with vegetables and Tropea onions (€11).

The puntarellle, a typical vegetable from the Lazio region (of course also in London we sometimes find wonderful version of them here), are pleasantly fresh and crunchy, while the tuna, although slightly overcooked is still tender. The acidic base is apt, with the flaked almonds adding a gentler, sweeter finish.

The beef is boiled, shredded and composed with the finely sliced onions, fennels and small carrots. A moist, light and succulent dish, in which once again the acidic hint adds to the sense of freshness. Very agreeable on the palate.

All in all, with some water and two glasses of wine, the total came to around €60. Good value given the quality.

The service was friendly and correct. We are very happy. We are happy because with all the things that are going wrong in Italy it’s nice at least to come across places who uphold the standards of our cuisine in this way. It does not seem to take much to prepare a simple rewarding Italian dish: excellent, possibly local, ingredients, correct cooking, don’t go too heavy with the fats, and a sprinkle of personal touch – you don’t need to master complex preparations as in French cuisine. Yet so few manage to get it right. They certainly do it at this Osteria. We find it much better value than the starred sister venue downstairs where, despite the presence of a good chef, the experience can be a little hit and miss (the place where to go for fine cuisine in Trento is here). None of it here, where everything, but really everything, was most pleasant and well priced. Try it.

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