We had been looking forward to going back to Laite again, because we had good memories of our first dinner there in 2010. It is located in Sappada, a mountain town in the far North East of Veneto in the Dolomiti, and run by the couple Fabrizia and Roberto. She cooks, he takes care of the service and the wine. The dining room is very cozy in the local style with antique furniture and lots of wood. We didn’t even look at the menu and just asked Roberto to put something together for us (90 euros for a degustazione).
The first course has the local stream (torrente) as a theme. Salmerino (beech trout), lightly smoked, with trout bottarga, ‘rocks’ made of meringue, a cream of the nettles that grow along the stream, and a powder that creates the sense of the pebbles moving on your tongue. Paired nicely with a Garganega from Veneto, Capitel Croce by Roberto Anselmi. This Garganega is matured in wood, which sets it apart from the usual dry style of Soave and that is exactly what is needed for the ‘creaminess’ of the fish. 9/10
Second course: cannolo made of tomato with semolina. It sounds simple but the combination of the tart tomato with the velvety semolina really works. Although I am usually sceptical about pairing multiple dishes with the same wine (often a compromise), in this case the pairing with the same Garganega is outstanding and brings out the flavors in the dish. 9/10
I still remembered the marinated venison tartare from 5 years ago, because it was so good. When I mentioned this, Roberto said a new version would be included in the menu. The venison is cured for 6 hours with salt, sugar, oil, and spices, and is very flavorful. This dish has the forest as a theme, as it is served with fresh and dried berries, ‘bark’, and puree of roots (tasting very similar to celery root). The delicious venison became even more delicious with the berries, and surprisingly enough again the same Garganega (a white wine) brought out the red fruit flavors even more. A great dish, 10/10.
This dish is a cross between risotto and fresh pasta, because the pasta is made from rice flour from riso venere, black rice. With speck (local smoked prosciutto), cabbage, and cumin a very nice dish. This was paired excellently with an aged Riesling/Chardonnay from Piemonte. 9/10
A tortello with an egg yolk inside (the egg yolk is still fluid), with chantarelle mushrooms and tomato confit. Served with two wines: an aged Vermentino from Tuscany and an even more aged Sauvignon from Friuli. Roberto asked us to compare the two, and they were bought good with the dish. Great wines with a great dish, 9/10.
Orzo with puree of local white beans, uni, radicchio, and a bittersweet orange sauce. Paired well with a Timorasso. The uni was a nice touch because it provided an interesting contrast, but there was not enough uni to balance out the whole dish. 7/10
Veal with melted cheese, potatoes and vegetables. The veal had a delicate flavor and was cooked to perfection, and worked very nicely with the cheese. The Refosco, a red from Friuli that came with it, was a bit strong for the delicate flavors of the dish. 8/10
A sampler of four desserts, served with a Recioto della Valpolicella. The recioto worked best with the tiramisù and the zabaglione. The tiramisù was interesting because the ladyfingers were in part still crunchy. My favorite was the almond pie. A nice set of desserts, 9/10.
We had a wonderful evening. So few restaurants understand that choosing the right wines can add so much to the dining experience. It does require teamwork between the chef and the sommelier. Roberto and Fabrizia have been running a restaurant together for 25 years, so they have that covered. Fabrizia’s food is delicious at a constant high level, with clear roots in local rustic dishes. She does pay attention to technique (which is impeccable) and presentation, but it is always the ingredients and flavors that come first (as it should be). 9/10 for the food. Roberto accompanies this with great wines that bring out the flavors of the dishes. 9.5/10 for the wines. The service is very good, 8.5/10.
We are already looking forward to our next visit to Laite!