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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Castel Pergine

The day: 23 April 2009, Dinner.

The place: Via al Castello 10, I-38057 Pergine Valsugana (Trento)

The venue: Ristorante Castel Pergine

The food: pretentious regional

Airport: Verona, Brescia (BA, Ryanair)

The drinks: Mostly local.

Castel Pergine sits on a hill overlooking the Valsugana – the views are simply stunning, with the Brenta dolomites eying you from afar.

But, alas, this view, which we could also enjoy from our table, and the physical environment within the restaurant, will be the only good thing about our visit…

The restaurant itself is housed inside the beautiful castle, and it will take you some time to guess the right door – but eventually you will find yourself in a bar, leading to the main dining room. The interior is elegant but not stuffy, it’s nicely understated and soberly grand, with a wooden ceiling and white ‘rough’ walls. Just a pity that even on a mild Spring evening it was on the coldish side.

The tables are comfortable but absurdly long, so that Man and Woman look at each other from a great distance…

The menu is short but interesting: besides three different set menus of four courses each (on our visit these were the “Menu of the day and the season”, the “Menu trentino” and the “Spring Menu”, all priced at €34, or €45 if including accompanying wines) one can choose among dishes of the day (including e.g. a 70s relic, fresh pasta with lemon, cream and brandy sauce at €9), or the much more interesting barley and cicerchie soup with hop bread crouton at a mere €5 – the cicerchia is an old legume very similar to chickpea.

We opt for the Spring menu.

The bread, in the meanwhile, arrives, giving no forewarning of what the meal will be like…

Not bad, and good variety: white sesame, mixed sesame, sunflower, pumpkin…and served with two good butters, flavoured with cerfoglio (chervil) and aglio orsino (wild garlic), respectively. Interesting ideas. A pity that there is no plate for the bread.

And here’s the starter:

- Poached organic egg from Val dei Mocheni on ‘flowery green’ with local dandelion (tarassaco) and lardons with apple balsamic vinegar

When courses have such complicated names it is often a bad omen…This dish was disconcerting, so salty it was almost inedible. Some lardons were indeed so hard as to be positively inedible. The greens are difficult to eat (they are curly and firm, so that it is impossible to get them in your mouth without a curl fighting to enter your nostrils!) and very bitter. Once the watery egg is broken, the lot truly is an unsavoury mess.

Let’s hope for the better with the first course:

- Orzotto (=barley-otto) mantecato with bruscandoli (=hop shoots), cream of parsley roots and crayfish.

We propose an alternative name for this dish: orzotto drowned in excessive liquid, well overcooked and unpleasantly cheesy, with rubbery crayfish. We also note that one dish contained seven crayfish, the other four (same dimension). Now, if this is not a sign of complete carelessness in the kitchen…

What surprise will the main spring for us?

- Suckling pig leg stuffed with with wild asparagus, on a bed of smoked potatoes, the first shoots of the season and crispy pancetta.

In the context, this is not a bad dish, just a sad dish. This was suckling pig, its meat should have been tender, of the melt-in-your-mouth variety. Pity: not tasting of anything (just look at that watery gravy), the dry and toughish meat at least leaves no bad flavour in the mouth. Except for the pancetta slice which is pure concentrated salt.

We look forward to the end:

- Orange bavaroise in citrus fruit zuppetta with Bronte pistachio ‘croccante’

A rather weird, disconnected dessert, with a very acidic zuppetta on one side and a creamy bavaroise which, though decent, does not taste at all of what it should taste. But the stunning thing is that the advertised pistachio croccante is not there, replaced by pistachio crumbs and an amaretto biscuit in the glass. When we point this out to the waiter, first he tries to convince us that the pistachio croccante was not in our menu. Presented with the crime evidence, he politely apologises and we implore him not to bring any croccante, because we are more than satisfied with what we had… we are itching to get out.

With a bottle of Pinot Nero Pojer e Sandri 2006 (€23), the best part of the meal, and water at €3, the total comes to €94. Not much but far too much when you think you can have accomplished cuisine at €70 (including drinks) on the other side of the Adige valley.

The service is polite, friendly and incompetent (no knowledge of any dish). Not much to say on the food, really: visit Castel Pergine, by all means, a real treasure with wonderful exhibitions and the breathtaking views. But steer as clear as you can from its restaurant. We want to believe that the main chef was not in the kitchen at the time we visited, because we do not think any self-respecting professional would let that sort of food go through the pass. But we wonder how much his presence alone can overturn the desperate situation. A pity, as this could be an absolutely unbeatable venue.



Unknown said...

What a shame. It often seems to be the case with restaurants that have a prime position or beautiful view - they feel that they do not have to worry about the food. How wrong they are!

Man-Woman said...

Great truth, Gourmet Chick - one almost feels like buying up the whole place and hiring a favourite chef!

Anonymous said...

I came across this website while reflecting on my recent vacation to Trentino. I freely admit, I'm no food expert. I am how ever a seasoned traveler that enjoys eclectic, less trodden destinations. We visited, and stayed the night. We dined at the castle enjoying not only the meal but the whole experience. Perhaps us North Americans are less critical than "local" experts when it comes to food; but I doubt it. I think that posts like these about specialized venues can be misleading. Consider, is this a restaurant with a castle attached or a 12th century castle with a restaurant on site. I would argue that few "tourists" travel thousands of miles to critique the meal, they are more likely interested in an experience unavailable on their continent. Your post would deter folks like us who would otherwise be completely satisfied. Bon apetito.

Man-Woman said...

Many thanks for your comment Anonymous, the space for comments is there precisely to provide the reader with a spectrum of opinions.

(beside us having different tastes, there's the possibility that the chef has changed - our post is pretty old).

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