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The Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 25, 2007 3:54am ET

I finally arrived in La Morra, in Barolo, Friday evening. It was a long trip and mostly uneventful, although the drive from Milan’s Malpensa airport took a little longer than I had expected.

By the time I took the Asti exit in the direction of Alba, it was getting dark. And it was raining. Let’s just say that I’m used to better signage, yet I managed to find the hilltop village of La Morra without any problem.

I could tell by the lights that La Morra commands a beautiful scenic view of the valley below. But that will have to wait for another day.

I ate at Ristorante Belvedere in La Morra. Bruno Viberti, the owner of Corte Gondina hotel, said he had better call ahead on my behalf for a table.

When I arrived at 7:45, I wondered why? There were only two other tables occupied in one of the two large dining rooms. But by 9:00 pm, it was packed.

I ordered vitello tonnato alla vecchia maniera (no mayo, just veal, anchovy paste and capers), tajarin al ragù di salsiccia di Bra and lepre di caccia al civet con polenta integrale sei file.

The hare was marinated in Barolo and vegetables, then drained and braised for several hours in more Barolo. It was authentic too. I found a piece of shot embedded in the meat.

I washed everything down with the Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco Conca 1998. A bit shy initially, it needed air to reveal dried black cherry, licorice, tar and leather aromas and flavors. It was dense, yet supple, with well-integrated tannins and ready to drink, though there is no hurry.

During the evening, bowls of local white truffles were paraded out to tables and shaved generously over pastas and risottos.

At about 10:00 pm, a burly man poked his head in the door, then retreated, reluctant to enter. When the proprietor came by, he walked in and produced a bag. They disappeared, returned, a calculator was produced and a few minutes later bills were exchanged. The “mountain man” disappeared.

If I wasn’t mistaken, I had just witnessed a truffle transaction.

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