(Visited January 2012 – and many times before)
If you pass through Trento, we recommend you take an energetic stroll on the Altopiano di Pine’ (1000m above sea level) and then head straight for Franca Merz’s cuisine at her warm joint
Man in particular goes crazy for her Rufioi, a traditional cabbage-stuffed ravioli original of the Valle dei Mocheni, livened up with sweet spices and doused with excellent butter and hard cheese (the local Trentingrana).
But for those more inclined to meat than vegetables, also the polenta gnocchi with Lucanica sausage (there are variations all over the North East called with similar names, ‘luganega’, ‘luganeca’ etc.) and porcini mushrooms, again with butter and cheese, are just that kind of harmonious comfort food that makes you hhmm with pleasure and call for more.
We also tried a novelty, the ‘farinoi’, a recipe strongly based on terroir. Made with polenta flour, filled with cabbage, potato and local cheese, and topped with smoked ricotta and cumin. Quite a flavour feast in such a simple looking dish!
So far a triumph of primi. Just to demonstrate how enticing the mains were, after recovering from the shock of the beloved stuffed rabbit not being on the menu, we just plunged into our plates forgetting to take any pictures…Anyway, they were a venison, mildly flavoured, cooked to great tenderness, and aromatised with a juniper sauce and berries; and a totally delicious pork in mustard crust.
We had to drown our sorrow for the forgotten photographs by taking a deep sip of this very well crafted Lagrein from Alto Adige (Franca will well advise you on wines)
But certainly we are not forgoing desserts, a hard hike awaits us the day after. A gelato alla crema di latte (oh, don’t ask us for an awkward translation) with chestnut twirls has an intensity of the primary flavours that many a dish in fine-dining venues fail to achieve – just imagine concentrated chestnut on cream:
And to conclude, the eternal chocolate torte
the soft core always a winner in our hearts.
This is true home cooking, local cuisine with a highly personal style and, crucially, based on ingredients sourced with great care. No great culinary innovations or fancy presentations here: just damn good, rich, clear flavours.
This fare fueled us to this peak the day after, a steep walk with 1000 metre ascent which Man is sure he would never have made without the Rufioi and all the rest: thanks Franca!