A couple of hours of touring the town of Barolo and a taste or two of the local vino put us in the mood for a little lunch. Upon our request for a simple trattoria in the area, my father recommended Locanda nel Borgo Antico. We did not look at the website before going and so were unprepared for the implications of my dad’s very liberal definition of what constitutes “simple”. We had previously google mapped the directions from Barolo so we confidently headed out of town. Unfortunately for us, google directions for Italy have been designed by some programmers with a very annoying sense of humor. In our mercedes sedan rental we were sent down a series of increasingly narrow dirt roads that traversed the many vineyards in the area. As the edges of the road became less and less defined, slowly blending into the tall grass around us, my confidence in our directions waned, and I had to veto Liz’s desire to press on and retrace our steps. Luckily for us we spotted and beckoned to a woman who shot us a knowing glance, suggesting that she had seen such idiocy before. Locanda nel Borgo Antico? Of course she heard of it! It was in the complete opposite direction and right off the main road. Eventually we made our way to the restaurant and realized that had we followed the dirt road for several winding miles through the vineyards we would have gotten there. So google maps was technically correct but clearly the technology has not progressed sufficiently to take into consideration the quality of the roads that it directs you down. Anyhow, there it was:

Locanda nel Borgo Antico

Locanda nel Borgo Antico

It looks like a quaint little farmhouse in the countryside from here, but the inside was like a trendy lower Manhattan bistro. Quite bizarre. There were large windows on the first and second floors of the restaurant and as we got out of the car we noticed a well-dressed man standing in each, staring at us. They scurried away shortly after. The front door was locked, and a third well-dressed man, apparently the gate-keeper, unlocked it as we approached, let us in, locked it behind us, and resumed his post. Intrigued by all this, we took our seats in the dining room wondering what had happened to our plans for a simple lunch. Here’s what came next:

fried smelt, gazpacho w/mussel, tuna mousse wrapped in roasted pepper

fried smelt, gazpacho w/mussel, tuna mousse wrapped in roasted pepper

potato leek soup w/ corn and clams

potato leek soup w/ corn and clams

bigoli w/ fava beans, mixed seafood, bread crumbs

bigoli w/ fava beans, mixed seafood, bread crumbs

seared w/barolo reduction, over candied pear

foie gras 2 ways: seared w/barolo reduction, over candied pear

gnocchi w/clams peas and tomato

gnocchi w/clams peas and tomato

zucchini stuffed ravioli

zucchini stuffed ravioli

hazelnut cake

hazelnut cake

various chocolates

various chocolates

The foie gras was hands down the best we’ve ever had. We couldn’t believe how good it was. Normally there’s a little bit of guilt knowing what the little fellas had to go through to be turned into foie gras, but not when this is the result. John Stuart Mill himself would agree that the utility created by the intense pleasure of eating this food far surpassed the harm caused to the geese. I’m sure the likelihood of me acting prosocially skyrocketed after this buttery and savory deliciousness slid down my throat. Of course, we spent the rest of the day driving from winery to winery buying bottles but that could be construed as contributing to the economic prosperity of the region and its individuals, right? Right?? The benefits outweigh the costs here don’t they??? Bah. We’re bad people.

The rest of the meal was good, but not great. Two of the pasta dishes suffered from being way too busy. My bigoli would have been better with just one of the three accompanying ingredients and the gnocchi got lost a bit in the almost porridge like sauce they came in. The ravioli, on the other hand, were light and delightful. After the meal we were a bit tipsy, thanks to this:

Flavio Roddolo Barolo 2001

Flavio Roddolo Barolo 2001

and we headed off rather aimlessly into the hills looking to score some tasty barolo’s and barbaresco’s for our suitcases. Piemonte Day 2 to be continued…