I Sognatori

Posted by on Oct 5, 2011 | 0 comments

After sampling a variety of delicious Barbera wines at Alba’s Saturday Farmer’s Market, Marcos and I decided it was about time to find some good food to soak up all of the hearty red wine. We asked the wine vendor if she knew of a good place that served traditional fare, to which she immediately replied with enthusiasm, “I Sognatori (The Dreamers), right over there!”

We walked about a block to find an unassuming pink corner restaurant with grapevines twirling around the awning. The interior decor was filled with old, slightly dusty wooden furniture and gentle natural lighting. We were greeted by a cheerful young waitress who seated us and then got down to business explaining the menu of the day. There was no written menu; this place was legit, Alba-style. We decided to start with a bottle of local Nebbiolo wine and the antipasti sampler, and then reevaluate our appetites from there.

The first plate to arrive was a generous portion of skinny local sausages accompanied by a warm butter-tossed sauerkraut and tomato sauce. The sausages were juicy and tasted as if they had been kissed with a drop of maple syrup. The tomato sauce had a very concentrated sweet tomato flavor, highlighting the sweetness in the sausage, and the crunchy and buttery sauerkraut provided color and texture to the dish.

We had hardly eaten half of the sausages before the second appetizer was casually plopped on our table, raw ground beef drizzled with a deep-green spicy olive oil, salt, and pepper. The idea of eating raw meat might sound strange and even dangerous, but let me tell you this traditional dish is delicious and well worth the minimal risk. (I say minimal because the meat is handled with the utmost care and comes from well-reared, free range, grass-fed cows.) The dish is simple, light, and very satisfying.

The beef was followed by a cheese course. The local tuma–a mild, lactic, and creamy sheep and cows’ milk cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper–was served alongside deep plum-colored juicy and flavorful wine grapes; not your standard table grapes.

As we fought over the last piece of cheese, the fiori di zucca (zucchini flower fritters), the fourth and final appetizer, were presented to us. Often zucchini flowers are stuffed with cheese and anchovies before they are deep-fried, maintaining the flowers’ natural bulbous shape. These zucchini flowers, however, seemed to be crushed before they were fried, and the batter was thick and sweet, giving me the sensation that I was eating fried bananas. The fritters were yummy, however we agreed that the previous rock-star appetizers upstaged them.

Although we were already stuffed and a bit tipsy, we were enjoying ourselves too much to stop eating and decided to share a primo piatto (“first course”; traditionally a starch course in Italy). We chose the homemade malfatti, thick ribbon-like noodles made into various widths and lengths, with pesto. The pesto was bright and extra-garlicky and coated each noodle perfectly. We slurped up the pasta with gusto before leaning back, belly-up, in our rickety wooden chairs. We each made the same hopeless pronouncement we always make after gorging ourselves: that we are so stuffed we will never eat again.

When our waitress returned, she smiled sympathetically at our food-coma state and brought us each a small glass filled with Fernet Branca, a traditional Italian digestive liquor, as we waited for our check–on the house.

When the check finally arrived, we were stunned; all four full-sized appetizers, a bottle of wine, great service, and the malfatti came to 29 euros. Next time we come back to Alba this will be our first stop.

I Sognatori
Via Macrino, 8
12051 – Alba (CN)
Tel: 0173.34043