Le Merende Sinoire
Vineria Trattoria - via Piancroesio 64, Paesana (Cuneo)
I wish we had these types of eateries in Lombardia. Merenda [singular] means a snack taken mid-morning/mid-afternoon. Add to this the word sinoira [pl. sinoire] and what you've got is a late-afternoon reason for skipping dinner altogether. In the Po Valley we saw at least 3 of these wine/snackbar establishments with signs out on the roadside, and just like the leafy frasca in Friuli, we couldn't miss out on the region's local flair. Typically, the merenda sinoira begins at around 5pm, but according to the woman who runs Vineria Trattoria, customers can expect to be served meat, cheese and whatever else on the menu any time during opening hours. I like the casual ease of places like this since you don't have to dress up. People come in for an espresso or a glass of wine and a quick chat before heading off their merry way.
The dialect of this area was mainly undecipherable by the MotH, but it was enough to know that like anywhere else in this great big world, the local hangout is where you share your ups and downs with the regulars. I only wish that I had thought to ask one simple question of the man sitting next to us: 'Scuse me, but could you tell us where's the best place to eat dinner?
A selection of locally cured meats: salame, prosciutto, lardo, mortadella, roasted pork. Meat plays a large role in piemontese cuisine. Fried, boiled or stuffed into pasta, they are all delicious but it left me hungering for fresh, leafy greens when we got back.
Not for bland palates. This dish of cured anchovies on toast doused in a potent garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce (salsa verde) was heavy on the salty side. I enjoyed it but only between sips of red wine to wash it all down. If we had ordered cheese and whatever else on the menu, it would have been just too much for the arteries and blood pressure. Still, I'd do this all over again. For less than 24 euros we avoided having to go out again for dinner. The following are just some reviews on a couple of other restaurants we went to in the area.
La Torrevia Villa, 35
Where or where did I go wrong? How is it okay to be kept waiting almost 40 minutes for each dish? I chose this restaurant out of the Slow Food guide because it was noted for having an excellent choice of cheese. I guess we'll never know because in the end, the 'mouse' in me squeaked, "Let's blow this joint because no stinky cheese is worth sitting it out for 2 hours." End of story. I'll refrain from giving this place a bad mark since the pastas, duck and lamb were fairly decent, albeit lukewarm. The owner needs to realize that timing is essential. Even if you don't use "pre-cooked foods" (he actually said that), Slow Food does not mean operating at a snail's pace. Regrettable, rude and boorish.
Ristorante Sarvanotvia Maestra n°3
This is just the sort of place where locals in-the-know go for a satisfying, unfussy meal. I regret not having amazing food pics to share, but it would only disappoint those who fancy form over function. We will definitely return here the next time we visit Po Valley, and believe me, for 22 euros pp, the degustazione (tasting menu) of 3 antipasti, 2 pasta dishes and a secondo (meat) was filling! This included an old-fashioned apple cake with gelato, every bite confirming that the food here is definitely made from scratch. The service was welcoming but discreet, and the atmosphere was that warm, comfy, italian style where everything is in polished wood and pale, crisp linens. The name of the restaurant, if you haven't noticed, is the same name for those woodland creatures that I had written about previously. We didn't go so far as to ask why Sarvanot because something else caught our attention on a poster outside. On the first 2 Sundays of May, a Festa degli Spaventapasseri (celebration of the scarecrows) is held in the village. Our restaurant host explained that it was a great family event for kids, with scarecrows (they look quite cheerful in the photos!) all around and activities for the little ones.