The day: 29 March 2007, Dinner.
The place: Piazza Piedicastello 4-6 Trento, Italy (tel +39 0461 260085)
The venue: Ristorante Enoteca Il Libertino
The food: Superior trattoria
The drinks: Good list, strong on regional wines, several national ones, excellent choice by the glass.
We walked across the bridge on the Adige river to reach its right bank. This is the Piedicastello suburb of Trento, and in the first square sits Libertino, a trattoria and wine bar with some ambition to be a little more…do they succeed?
Inside, one sees the inviting display area with all sorts of hams, salamis and cheese. It develops along three rooms, one of them particularly cosy and intimate, just a pity it is in front of the toilets.
The menu is short but inspiring. Starters and primi come all at €8-8.50, mains at €12-13, and desserts at €5-7. The true bargain is the four course set tasting menu at €30, with an extra €10 for matching wines (four different glasses). We went for two of these, one fish, the other meat based.
In the meantime, the bread arrives: for this price range, a really good offering, with granary, walnuts, with sesame and plain white rolls, served warm.
As starters, the fish menu had rolled swordfish on a bed of polenta from Storo while the ‘land’ menu had warm asparagus and Casolet (local cheese) tart
The tart was very good: a very light and soft pastry (why did they call it brisee’? It definitely was not!) encasing a flavoursome filling with a quiche-like consistency. Delicate and sweet, with a nice acidity provided by the Casolet.
The swordfish was good though less exciting. This is a traditional Sicilian dish where thinly sliced swordfish is filled with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sultanas and grilled. The local version had lemon rind replacing the sultanas, and a fantastic and plentiful polenta bed hosting the fresh fish. What was a bit subdued was the filling. Also, though this is not a fine dining restaurant and the issue of presentation is less crucial, perhaps a little more effort in this direction might improve the dish significantly.
The tart was accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Luisa from Friuli, while the fish came with a glass of “Anthilia” Donnafugata from Sicily.
Next, the primi: orzotto with bruscandoli (hop tops), and Gnocchi with sardines.
The orzotto (barley cooked risotto style), while a tad undercooked for Woman, was good looking and excellent, with the vegetables retaining their original structure and matching the grilled speck on the top very well. All this was rounded off perfectly by the sweet Trentigrana cheese.
The gnocchi were even better by Womans’ standard, whereas Man, the glutton, found that the sauce was on the stingy side. We both agreed that the gnocchi themselves were near perfect, with the springy but soft consistency that we like.
Accompanying wines were Lagrein Kretzer Dorgali for the orzotto, and Gavi di Gavi Broglia for the gnocchi.
Next, the mains. Here Woman asked for a deviation, which was accepted with good grace by the kitchen, which replaced the set deep fried lamb cutlets with beef medallions wrapped in speck. The fish menu had instead ‘Trentino style’ salted cod with polenta.
The beef was simple, correctly cooked and delicious. The accompanying vegetables were also good, but too greasy to our taste.
The salted cod (baccala’) had been cooked in milk, with potatoes, celeriac and anchovies. The resulting cream was good, but the flavours were not very discernible (anchovy, celeriac: were they really there?). Woman found it too rich, and we both agreed that by this time we were a bit tired of polenta… The cod itself left Man underwhelmed (in spite of having been reduced to tiny little bits, it was still ‘woody’, and not very tasty) .
The meat came with a glass of Pinot Noir Carlotto from Alto Adige, while the cod came with a glass of Dolomiti Vin de Molini Pojer and Sandri.
Finally desserts: a ‘torta de fregoloti’ for the meat menu, with a Moscato Rosa Gaierhof from Trentino; and a strawberry mille feuille with ‘Sole d’Autunno’ Maso Martis from the Dolomites.
The torta is a bit like a shortcrust pastry with almonds. Well done in its genre, but after a meal like this it felt a little stodgy. Nice accompanying honey, though.
The millefeuille was light, crispy, tasty. Even the not-yet-in-season strawberries were inexplicably good! Much better than the one we had in Beaune.
All in all, we spend €86 including water (€2) and a €2 cover per head charge.
There is some interesting cooking going on at Libertino. Far from perfect, but overall very satisfying and of good quality. What is really top is the value for money: €40 for what we had is a bargain, and the a la carte dishes are also well-priced. The wine list is extensive (it is an ‘enoteca’), especially concerning the regional wines (meaning from Trentino: those from Alto Adige/Sud Tirol are classified as ‘foreign’…) and you can also go just for a bit of cheese or ham and some nice wines.
The room staff is a bit of an issue here, which we think will have to be resolved for a step-change upwards in the tone of the establishement. The ‘boss’ (a real wine expert) is excessively grumpy and detached and clearly has not well realised that he is in the hospitality business. HOSPITALITY, you understand? This implies among other things that some occasional smile and show of interest in your customer is a necessity: come on, just pretend you care
Apart from this, one can have an excellent time here.