As I mentioned when writing about the Hotel Gembro, it's more a restaurant with rooms than a hotel with a restaurant. So our first night in Sondrio, we opted to dine at the restaurant (and honestly as I sit and type this the next morning, we'll probably dine there our second night too).
We made the reservation for 7:30, on the early side, in deference to our jet-lagged companions who we were trying to keep awake until 9:30 (Chris made it until about 8:50, Jen until about 9:20 - not bad). We arrived right on time, after our passegiatta where we visited a couple of bars along the way (perhaps another entry). Seated promptly we perused the menu while Roberto, the owner, took Shannon to examine the wines.
When she returned, she explained to us that they grow the Nebbiolo grape in the area, the same grape used in the king of Italian wines Barolo, and his cousin, Barbaresco, only because it's grown in this region instead of in a specific area of Piemonte, it's called something else (as well as tastes differently and feels differently - can you say terroir?). Not realizing or even imagining that this mountain climate produced anything but white wines (I honestly expected to be drinking a lot of pinot grigio) the Grumello Valtellino Superior was a pleasant surprise and broke the bad streak of wine drinking we'd been experienced since my arrival (okay, really a wine Shannon served during our "picnic" was really good too but I don't recall what it was - a Barbera from Piemonte perhaps?). Anyway, the Grumello was flavorful but light in body and not overpowering like the alcohol bombs that seem to be coming out of California lately (13.5% versus the 15+% I've been seeing lately). Yet, it held up well to the food we enjoyed.
We started with an Antipasti Valtellinesi, a combination of salumi (three types), a fried cheese, and a relish tray of pickled eggplant, tiny onions (cippolini), and large green olives. In deference to Jen's vegetarian leanings, there was also some eggplant parmegiana and her plate contained only fried cheese. Now here was another miscommunication, we should have specified due per quattro (two to share for the four of us), instead we each got an individual plate (that probably would have been dinner for my mother). I still am not sure if we received four portions, or if they divided the two portions into four in the kitchen for us because we have yet to receive a bill (we'll pay all at once when we check out).
After our antipasti, was each ordered pasta. I think Shannon was the winner last night with a plate of fresh tagliolini and the richest, meatiest porcini mushrooms I've ever tasted. I had a local specialty (name escapes me at he moment) which is a whole wheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, sage and lots of cheese - very good - ah pizzocheri valtellinesi. Chris had penne with prawns, tomatoes and arugula and Jen had potato gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce and sausage that she picked out. Everything was very good and very filling.
My Pasta Dish
At some point during the meal, we also opened another bottle of wine, same type Valtellino Superiore, but I do not remember the maker. We didn't finish it, so Shannon took the bottle back to her room. Perhaps I'll get the name from her before this entry publishes. No dessert or cafe for us as Shannon and I were the last to leave the table about 9:40pm.