During our travels in Italy, we always try to include as many trattorie with 3 gamberi from Gambero Rosso as possible. Each year, leading gourmet magazine Gambero Rosso publishes a restaurant guide and there are only 18 trattorie in all of Italy that get the highest score. In Friuli there is one: Ai Cacciatori in Cavasso Nuovo, in the beginning of the mountains West of Udine. This is the trattoria of Danêl and Angelina Corte: he takes care of the dining room and she cooks.
We asked Danêl to choose some dishes for us. He picked two antipasti, two primi and one secondo. He suggested we try the house red, a 2012 Refosco dal Peduncolo, which was very nice. Refosco is one of the local grapes from Friuli. We started with an aperitif of another local grape, a sparkling Ribolla Gialla.
This paired well with confit of local onions (which I had already started eating when Kees reminded me to take a photo).
The first antipasto: sformatino (similar to a soufflé) with leeks and formaj dal cit (a special local cheese) with crispy prosciutto (culatello di Sauris). The sformatino had a perfect velvety consistency and the leek flavor was just right. 9/10
The second antipasto: pitina (a local salame) with polenta and sheep’s milk ricotta, and a skewer (arrosticino) with delicious tender pork neck. The salame, polenta, and ricotta worked very well together. 8/10
First primo: tortelli with eggplant and ricotta, served with butter di Malga and just a bit of tomato. 8/10
Second primo: blecs with nettles (blecs is fresh pasta that is somewhere between pappardelle and maltagliati) with a ragù of lamb and vegetable brunoise (eggplant, pepper, zucchini), with grated pecorino. This was absolutely delicious and the best dish of the evening, although all of them were great. 10/10! Vegetable stock was used for the ragù as well to add to the flavor. (I am including this comment in order to recreate this dish at home. Stay tuned to see it on the blog…)
Secondo: stewed mountain goat with a delicious sauce and polenta…
…accompanied by contorni: radicchio, potatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. The meat was tender and together with the sauce had great depth of flavor. It is not easy to stew meat this well. 9/10
And finally dessert: cream of mascarpone with a berry coulis. 8/10 We had a glass of Ucelut with this, a dessert wine made from a local grape.
Ai Cacciatori offers great value for money. Our dinner for two including wine, coffee, and digestif, was 110 euros. The food is delicious, and I’m rating it 9/10. This is comparable to one or two Michelin stars. Even though the food is more rustic, it is the enjoyment of the food that is what decides the score.
The service is exceptional. Danêl made us feel very welcome, kept checking how we were doing and took time to explain the dishes to us. The pace of the menu was also fine, and when it took a bit longer for the secondo to arrive he came to us himself to let us know that it was coming. Even though the place was packed, he treated us as if we were the only ones there. That is how service should be, so 9/10 for the service.