Dining in Italy: Piazza Duomo***

In 2010 we ‘discovered’ Piazza Duomo of chef Enrico Crippa in Alba, at that time still relatively unknown (although it already had two Michelin stars), thanks to the Gambero Rosso guide, in which it already had tre forchette. We liked it a lot, and went back the next year when we were travelling in the same region. This year it is the final restaurant in our tour of five tre forchette restaurants and the only one to which it is a return visit.

Piazza Duomo offers three different tasting menus: Evasione e Territorio (11 courses for 200 euros), Tradizione e Innovazione (9 courses for 170 euros) and Degustazione (6 courses for 150 euros). We opted for Evasione e Territorio, but in hindsight 11 courses was perhaps a bit too much (even though portion sizes are not huge).

For the wine there are different percorsi on offer: 4, 5 or 6 glasses, just from Piemonte or also from ‘everywhere else’. With 6 glasses and 11 courses we could foresee a difficult wine pairing, and so we asked the sommelier to see if he could include more different wines for us. There was some misunderstanding, as what he ended up doing was giving us each a different wine in 3 of the 6 cases. This was nice, as we could sip from each other’s glasses to see which one worked better with the food.

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As an aperitif we opted for a sparkling pinot noir from Piemonte that was really nice. There were a lot of amuse bouche, including one with a great almond taste.

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A nice innovation was the crispy spaghetti, served with carbonara flavor as well as two other flavors.

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These fake olives were delicious. They had a very nice olive taste and also the texture was like an olive, but the flavors were much more complex. The green one included veal.

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The plays on eggplant stuffed with ricotta and crispy fish skin were also very good.

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And finally mousse of foie gras and very fluffy ‘bread’ with ‘salami’. The amuse bouche are a great collection of flavors and textures, creative and delicious. 10/10

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The first course, “eggs and egg salad” consisted of several types of lettuce with grated egg yolk, caviar, and sea weed, with a stock on the side that we were instructed to sip in between bites of the salad. Very original dish with great flavors. 10/10

The first wine was a cataratto from Sicily in an oxidized style. The wine was best with the crunchy seaweed.

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The cod in the second course, Almond and Cod, was cooked sous-vide and unbelievably tender without being dry. From personal experience I know that the hardest part of this dish must be to serve the cod without letting it fall apart. The combination with fresh almond was nice. 9/10 The cataratto was a bit too strong for the dish, but otherwise okay as a wine pairing.

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The chef’s take on eggplant parmigiana was delicious: buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano crisps, pesto, and ‘deconstructed’ eggplant, tomato, and bechamel. 10/10

The two wines were a Timorasso and a Chablis. They were both okay with the dish.

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The squid with a roasted pepper soup was very elegant. It is great how chef Crippa incorporates so many vegetables into his dishes. 9/10 Again both the Timorasso and the Chablis were okay with the dish.

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A crispy potato taco stuffed with tender and juicy red mullet, served with four different sauces. Technically very difficult, creative, as well as delicious. 10/10

In this case I preferred the Timorasso. This was the wine that is usually served with all three dishes, and it is clear that it is a comprise that works adequately with all three, but is not a match made in heaven with either of them.

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Sweetbread with chard, a combination that worked very well. The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. 9/10

Both wines served with this, a Cortese and a Malvasia blend from Emilia-Romagna, were aromatic and made in an oxidized style. The Cortese worked slightly better with this dish, as the Malvasia was a bit too strong.

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These spaghetti with parsley, sea-urchin and breadcrumbs were nice, but we were starting to feel a little full and didn’t finish our plates as it tasted mostly of parsley and we could hardly detect the sea-urchin. The waiter noticed this at once and inquired whether we would like a replacement for this dish. Given that we still had four dishes to go, we declined, but in terms of service it was excellent that he noticed and offered. 8/10

Both wines didn’t clash, but were too strong for this dish.

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The ‘cannellone’ was not actually made from pasta dough, but from tomato. It had great depth of tomato flavors, 10/10. Unfortunately the Pommard was too young and did not have the right acidity, and clashed with the dish.

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The pigeon with mustard, corn, and carrots was very nice. Also in this case it was important to taste everything together: together with the crispy corn and the sauce the pigeon was delicious. 9/10 The Barolo from 2007 was unfortunately too young and didn’t work very well with the pigeon. With an aged Barolo this dish would have been awesome.

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The ‘minstra’ of fruit and vegetables with grated white chocolate was a great palate cleanser. 9/10

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The dessert was very original: crispy potato with peanuts and plums. Very original taste, but a bit heavy. 9/10 The pairing with a Moscato Passito was slightly better than with a Sauternes.

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The selection of sweet was very nice, and included ‘milk’ and ‘tomato juice’. As always fresh fruit was included as well, with as the only drawback unripe strawberries.
The food at Piazza Duomo was amazing and the best of our culinary tour of Italy. Chef Grippa combines creativity with technical perfection, beautiful presentation and delicious food that is a pleasure to eat. I’m rating the food 9.9/10.

The service was very attentive and accurate and I’m rating it at 9/10. With so many servers, a bit more of a personal touch would have been nice but it was clear that the serving staff was doing their utmost to show all the guests a great evening.

As for the wine pairings, I expected that using a single wine for multiple courses would be problematic, but in fact those wine pairings were okay. The two reds that were served with a single course each, were not as nice. One wine even clashed, which seems to indicate that the chef and/or sommelier have never actually tasted the combination themselves. The sommelier didn’t seem to be interested in whether we liked the wine pairings or not. Although we’ve been starting to get used to substandard wine pairings in Italy, our experience at Vissani showed that also in Italy it is possible to serve wines that actually complement the food. It was nice though that the sommelier on our request served two different wines that we could compare for half the glasses in the ‘percorso’.

We had a wonderful evening at Piazza Duomo, and enjoyed to see the development since our last visit. The three Michelin stars are definitely accurate. We will be back.

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