Dining in Italy: La Madia

Trattoria La Madia is located in the small town of Brione, near Lago d’Iseo in the North of Italy. It has been awarded tre gamberi by the Gambero Rosso guide for being one of the best trattorie in Italy. It is also listed in Osterie d’Italia.

The trattoria offers a great view from the windows.

There is only a set menu (a percorso, which could be translated as “journey”) with 10 courses for 45 euros, which can be reduced to 7 courses for 38 euros. The percorso consists of 3 antipasti, 3 primi, 3 secondi, and 1 dolce. With 7 courses, there is 1 antipasto, 1 primo, and 1 secondo less.

The wine list has organic and ‘natural’ wines from all over Italy. We selected a Timorasso from Massa as white and a Rosso di Valtellina as red. The Timorasso turned out to be a good and for some dishes perfect match for the antipasti and primi.

The excellent sourdough bread…

…was served with seasoned tomato juice to dip it in (like a thin gazpacho).

The amuse bouche before the percorso started was fermented turnip with a net of pork fat and a yuzu sauce. It was clear immediately that La Madia is not about traditional ‘peasant food’.

First antipasto: scorched tomato stuffed with fermented peach and kefir, with lovage-infused oil.

Second antipaso: “brutalista” fig: fig ice cream from ripe fig, pickled unripe figs, powder made from fig skin. The ice cream was semi-sweet and the dish had many contrasts between flavors and textures.

Third antipasto: dehydrated eggplant, rehydrated with miso, leek puree, and lemon curd. The eggplant was pleasantly chewy and the miso was not prominent.

First primo: risotto with pickled lemon and vegetable fond. The risotto was very al dente, almost crunchy, due to the variety of rice that had been used. The risotto was very creamy at the same time and a wonderful contrast with the fresh melon. This was one of the best dishes of the percorso.

Cappelletti (stuffed fresh pasta in the shape of small ‘hats’) stuffed with smoked sauerkraut in a broth of green coffee. The amount of sauerkraut was quite modest to keep the dish in balance.

Orecchiette made from pure sourdough starter with mushrooms. This is a great idea to use up leftover sourdough starter, which you will have a lot of if you don’t bake bread every day but do feed your starter every day. The mushroom flavor was great, but I couldn’t really taste a difference with regular pasta.

Scalded mutton (the mutton was dipped briefly in hot stock so it was not seared and it was ‘cooked’ by the residual heat) with a sauce of some kind of tart local currant. The mutton was tender and flavorful.

Beef tongue with tart apple sauce. This was my least favorite dish of the percorso. I liked the texture of the tongue better at Pepe Nero and the sauce was very tart.

Pork cheek with dried sardines from the Lago d’Iseo. This was my other favorite dish of the percorso. The sardine flavor was very elegant and in perfect harmony with the pork. The end result was that the dish was neither too porky or too fishy. The pork cheek was very tender and juicy.

The dessert was called “Nord! Nord!! Nord!!!” because it has rye that has been boiled for so long that it becomes sweet, which is apparently from the Nordic part of Europe. I liked the deep flavor that was almost like chocolate.

To finish there were friandise. My favorite was the one on the right-hand side made from cabbage.

The food at La Madia is very creative with a lot of pickling, fermenting, smoking, and other complex preparations. It reminded me a bit of Noma (from when I was there 10 years ago). The antipasti and primi were all vegetarian or even vegan. Although the price is certainly fitting for a trattoria, such an involved degustation menu would not be out of place in a gourmet restaurant with Michelin stars. All of the dishes were nice, and some were great. I certainly agree with the “tre gamberi” rating. This is definitely recommended if you are a little adventurous when it comes to eating. We’ll be back!

9 thoughts on “Dining in Italy: La Madia

    1. There were like 15 tables, but the wide angle lense makes it look big. No weight gain, abs are still there 💪🏻 I’ve only been to a gym twice so far during the trip. I think all the wine may be more of a problem than the amount of food…

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  1. As far as I am concerned a fantastic, innovative menu at an incredible price ! Have just commented in a Sydney blog taking us back (in a way !) to El Bulli . . . somehow this reminds me of the latter. . . . And Noma has been on my dream list forever !!! ‘Smoked sauerkraut in a broth of green coffee’ – just the description floors me . . . and here I would have loved to try both the beef tongue and the pork cheek with sardines . . . what a fantastic culinary adventure . . .

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  2. I was certain I had left a comment here. Oh well, now I need to figure out what I had originally written! It’s nice to see the tables are well-spaced and that the restaurant is not crowded. Last Friday we had intended on taking the Toronto Ferry to the Islands (Toronto Islands) but it was so packed, it appalled me so we opted for a water taxi instead.
    The food in this trattoria looks delicious, I will have to look into Gambero Rosso Guide, I have not heard of it. I am curious about the crunchy rice in the risotto, did you ask what type of rice it was?

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    1. They did mention the variety of rice, but I don’t remember 😇 I’ve found that a listing with a high rating in Gambero Rosso is a good sign, but not vice versa as many restaurants are not listed.

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