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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Da Pino

The day: 8th April 2009, Dinner.

The place: Via Postal 39, Grumo, San Michele all’ Adige, Trento (IT) (0461 650 435)

The venue: Ristorante Da Pino

The food: Regional and fish

Airport: Verona, Brescia (BA, Ryanair)

The drinks: Mostly from Trentino-Alto Adige, very wide selection (in the high hundrdes of labels)

We thought by now we knew all the interesting choices within 10 miles of Trento. Well, life is full of surprises: how presumptuous of us! Driving along the Adige valley, in Teroldego wine country, this spacious restaurant appears in the tiny village of Grumo, with claims to honest, wholesome cuisine and boasting appealing prices.

The interior is spacious, welcoming, light, neat if a bit eccentric, with a gentle touch of formality that one might not expect. We learn later that the restaurant caters for large parties and functions. Anyway, on the night, luckily for us there are only a dozen customer beside us.

On the menu, many local, trattoria style dishes, but what catches our attention is a copious presence of seafood offerings. We call the waiter and try to glean some information (we are in the middle of mountains and to eat good seafood one really must go to the right places: Man’s disgusted grimace at Woman’s proposal to go for fish says it all…). The waiter is convincing. Woman eggs on. And we are encouraged by the information that all seafood here is supplied by a well-known fishmonger nearby, a fishmonger that serves some of the best restaurants in Trento. We go for it. (Next time we might try the Trentino tasting menu at €32, with enticing items such as Local apple risotto with cinnamon or Seared venison loin with pan-fried apples, juniper and Polenta di Storo).

The bread arrives:

Not a bad offering, indeed the variety is very surprising: walnut bread ‘taralli’, standard white, grissini, rye. The usual thought strikes us: a restaurant that shows such care for the bread basket must show a similar care for food.

Both our primi are seafood:

- Thyme tonnarelli with Scampi (aka Dublin bay prawns) tails and asparagus (€10)

- ‘Fazzoletto’ al nero (squid-ink) with seabass filling and langoustine sauce (€10)

The fazzoletto (a large pasta slice, lasagna style, but folded) looks impressive, its elegant black dress provocatively offering a glimpse of the filling. It’s a balanced explosion of Mediterranean flavours, the fish fresh, tasty, light, and generous. The pasta is very good: the restaurant buys it in from a trusted supplier, who formerly worked on the premises. Always suspicious of bought in materials, for this reason alone we had not wanted to try this dish (Woman’s disgusted grimace at Man’s proposal to go for it says it all…), but when we expressed our perplexity to the waiter he vouched so energetically for the quality of the pasta, egged on by Man, that we capitulated. And once again he was convincing…

The tonnarelli are sligthly salty. But the fish once again cannot be faulted for freshness and flavour, nor its quantity for lack of generosity. The asparagus comes in both white and green variety, a nice touch, and the always present tomatoes add moisture. All is bound by very good quality olive oil, leaving an impression of richness and lightness at the same time.

For mains, we both go for the same choice:

- Roasted seabass (€15)

For the joy of the waiter we insisted on boning the large portions of fish ourselves (which –we noticed- wasn’t the case at the other tables: what is the world coming to?).

It does not take that long to produce this:

When eating fresh fish, the process, slowing you down, actually increases your pleasure and satisfaction, don’t you agree? And this was truly fresh, full of flavour. What more to say? Well, maybe that it was a little overcooked, though mercifully just so and definitely not to the point of spoiling the experience. The roast tomatoes with capers, herbs and olives, in true ‘southern’ style (at the foot of the Alps!), were a delicious accompaniment (but very rich!).

We are in the mood for dessert.

- Raspberry cake (‘tortino’) (€5)

- Sweet fantasia (€6.50)

The tortino is correctly made and carries an intense, authentic raspberry whiff, but is slightly dry, so the accompanying custard, quite OK, is very welcome.

The fantasia presents us with a strawberry parfait (a little ‘brittle’), a ‘crostata’ (slightly dry), panettone-like (OK), blueberry buckwheat cake (excellent, intense, and strudel (OK, but made with puff pastry and therefore neither truly traditional nor fully successful).

With a bottle of Chardonnay LongarivaPraistel 2000 at €28 and 1 litre of H2O at €2.50 the total damage comes to €95,30. This is extremely reasonable for a seafood dinner of such quality and quantity.

What a nice little place (well, actually not so little) this one. The service is friendly with varying levels of professionalism (one knowledgeable and very passionate waiter, another less interested in the dishes he was selling us), but always attentive. As for the cuisine, it expresses a rewarding feeling of generosity, of care, both in the choice of materials and in the process of cooking itself. Despite the formality this is essentially a (superior) trattoria: you will not find highly sophisticated creations here, but plainly good food, with some touches of originality with respect to the classics, some attention to presentation, and some assuredness of touch. So, congratulations to the head chef Beppe Principe and to the family who runs this operation with such honesty and integrity (it reminds us a bit of Da Barbara in Sardinia). We will probably be back, and we invite you to try it, too!



Unknown said...

The plate in the second shot is hilarious and the decor looks a bit dated but that fish does look good.

Man-Woman said...

Yes, this is the sort of unreconstructed place which abounds around here - it's not easy to tell the good ones from the bad until after the event! (But modern swanky places can disappoint: see Mas de la Fam...).

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