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Where the Locals Go - Il Baluardo
The town of Mondovì is located in the heart of Cuneo Province in southwestern Piemonte. Here the rolling hills of the famous Langhe wine country meet the pristine green valleys of the pre-Alps. This generous land is known for its fine wines, artisanal alpine cheeses, white truffles, porcini mushrooms, grass-fed Piemontese breed beef, organic pork and lamb, and a wide array of heirloom fruits and vegetables. Blessed with a bounty such as this, it is no wonder that Chef Marc Lantieri chose Mondovì as the location for his restaurant, Il Baluardo. Marc, together with his wife and sommelière, Amy Bellotti, have created a beautiful and elegant restaurant in the historic center of Mondovì.
Originally from nearby Tenda, France, Chef Lantieri has an impressive resumé which includes working with such culinary luminaries as Alain Ducasse in Paris and Ezio Santin and Annie Féolde in Italy. Marc's talent was recognized by a Michelin star in 2004 while he was executive chef at the Ristorante delle Antiche Contrade in Cuneo. Amy Bellotti is originally from Collbran, Colorado and met Marc while obtaining her Master Chef certification at the Istituto Culinario Internazionale per Stranieri di Costigliole d'Asti. Amy is also a member of the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. In addition to her duties as professional sommelière, Amy manages the front of house at the restaurant. Marc's mastery in the kitchen coupled with Amy's expertise in pairing local wines with her husband's menu earned Il Baluardo a prestigious Michelin star only two years after the restaurant opened.
Il Baluardo - Ristorante di Marc Lantieri - Mondovì
The name Il Baluardo means "the bastion" and refers to the restaurant's location near Mondovì's medieval wall built by Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia in 1573. The architecture of the ancient building contrasts beautifully with the restaurant's modern interior spaces. Amy and Marc have created a comfortable yet elegant atmosphere in a quiet corner of the old town. A glass wall separates the dining room from the kitchen so diners can see the chef in action. There are three set menus as well as selections à la carte. They offer a lunch menu, "sur le pouce" (€22), a four-course menu, "del territorio" (€47) and a five-course menu, "gusto & charme" (€59), all of which are great values taking into account the exquisite food from a Michelin star chef. Amy's wine list naturally emphasizes the abundance of outstanding local wines and at very good prices.
Chef Marc Lantieri and Amy Bellotti at work
On my first visit to Il Baluardo everyone at my table decided to try a wine that was as local as possible, so we chose a bottle of 2009 Bricco Mollea - Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi DOC produced by well-respected winemaker, Massimo Martinelli (€12). I ordered à la carte and started with Torta Verde, a small savory pastry filled with Ortiche, sauteed wild nettles. The tender tart was served with Bagnet Verd, a classic Piemontese sauce of parsley and garlic. Accompanying the Torta Verde was the chef's version of Giardiniera Piemontese, a mixture of garden vegetables cooked in a tomatoey, sweet and sour sauce. Marc's is one of the best Giardiniera Piemontese I have ever eaten.
For my primo I ordered Agnolotti del Plin, a classic local pasta dish. In Piemontese plin means "pinch" and the name refers to the technique used for making these tiny ravioli. Marc's Plin were filled with veal, herbs and spinach and were served with a traditional Sugo d'Arrosto, made from the pan juices of a veal roast. The Plin reminded me of a dish made with lots of love by my nonna. The chef's connection to the products and traditional cooking of the Monregalese and the Langhe is evident in dishes such as this.
My secondo was Scamone di Vitello, a veal steak from Marco Martini, who Amy explained is a highly respected purveyor of meats from nearby Boves. I did some research later and discovered that the Martini firm is 80 years old and they butcher only local animals from small producers who guarantee their animals have been raised on natural and organic foodstuffs. The melt in your mouth tender veal was perfectly cooked and was served with potatoes and Ratatuja, a Piemontese version of the famous dish from across the Alps, Ratatouille. Marc's version let the fresh flavors of the summer vegetables shine through, especially the intensely flavored local Cuneo peppers.
Scamone di Vitello
The daily four-course Menu del Territorio features seasonal, local ingredients from the Monregalese and Langhe and demonstrates the chef's commitment to the Slow Food philisophy. Some examples of local specialties from past menus include: Bue Grasso, a beef delicacy from nearby Carrù; Fonduta di Sola d'Alpeggio, a fondue made from Sola, a local artisanal cheese made from both sheep's and goat's milk; Agnello della Bisalta, organic lamb from nearby Mt. Bisalta; and Cappone di Morozzo, a flavorful free-range, organic capon from one of seven towns located between Mondovì and Morozzo. The Cappone di Morozzo is one of several local specialties on the Slow Food Presidio list of traditional foods in danger of disappearing.
Marc and Amy's respect for local foods and traditions is evident in the restaurant's great success. Thanks to their talent and commitment to the highest quality, local ingredients, Il Baluardo deserves to be added to the list of culinary treasures of the Monregalese.
Piazza d’armi, 2 12080 Mondovì (CN)
Il Baluardo www.marclanteri.it
Martini Meats www.martinicarni.it
Slow Food Presidio www.presidislowfood.it
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