Sometimes business travel does have upsides…
About a month ago, my colleague Cindy needed to visit the Italian subsidiary of the company I work for to conduct some interviews with the local teams. She suggested that I, being the interim tax manager for Italy off and on for the past couple of years, should tag along.
In this day and age, the vast majority of communications is by phone and email, so you rarely get to meet your local points of contact and external advisers in person. In my experience meeting them in person and be able to put a face to their voices (and vice versa) really makes business go smoother. Therefore, I quickly obliged and booked the trip to Biella, halfway between Torino and Milano.
Almost immediately after announcing the visit, our local adviser Federico said that we would be taken out to dinner on Wednesday so we could catch up before the interviews. An offer we couldn’t refuse, so at 19.30 we were picked up at the hotel up by Irma and Maurizio from the company and Federico and his wife, Eliana. We got in the car and drove north-west into the pre-Alps and stopped 15 minutes later in a town called Pollone at Ristorante Il Patio (Via Oremo 14, 13814 Pollone).
The restaurant is located off the street in an 18th-century stable. We entered into a beautiful salon with domed brick ceilings, classic interior mixed with many modern elements and were greeted by Sergio Vineis – the owner and chef of Il Patio – and Michela Rosco, the sommelier. As the temperature hit 33℃/90℉ during the day, we were seated on the patio (duh!), and we relished the cool evening breeze overlooking the gardens and fabulous scenery.
Sergio turned to be an old friend of Federico and Eliana, and he informed us that Sergio started the restaurant in 1989 and was awarded a Michelin star in 2003 which he kept ever since. As frequent guests, they thought the most amazing thing is the never-ending creativity in the dishes that Sergio and his son Simone (sous-chef since 2010) come up with. No wonder they still go splitsies on each of the dishes… Combine that with a focus on using local and seasonal produce and paired with delicious wines – “a particularly interesting wine list” according to Guide Michelin – we knew we were in for a treat!
These amuses arrived together with cod brandade crackers, 3 types of homemade bread (cereal, raisins, and hazelnuts) as well as breadsticks and delicious herb butter.
There were so many delicious things on the menu, but I settled on a risotto (when in Italy, right?!) and the special of the day: tenderloin in a mushroom powder crust and blackberry and herb sauces.
My starter was amazing: a perfect cheesy risotto with a layer of cream of leeks underneath and apple on top. The maccangno is a local cheese that is mainly made in the mountains of the Biella province. It is a soft textured cheese, medium ripe, made of whole pasteurized cow’s milk. The flavor is fruity and slightly nutty, so a perfect accompaniment with the risotto and apple. We got the starters paired with Peter Dipoli’s 2012 Voglar, a great Sauvignon Blanc from Alto Adige, which (tropical) fruitiness and crisp acidity worked well with the risotto too.
An impression of the other starters:
My main course was very well executed as the mushroom powder really enhanced the flavor of the meat without overpowering it. We got the mains paired with a magnificent I Vigneri’s 2006 VinuPetra, an intense Sicilian red from century-old Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio vines from the northern slopes of the Etna volcano.
The other main courses looked excellent too:
The risotto turned out to be quite filling, so I was pleased that my dessert was incredibly light: yogurt foam, raspberry coulis, raspberry ice cream with a liquid center and red fruit meringue shards. A perfect balance of sweetness and tartness!
Due to lack of light, unfortunately, no pics of the other desserts and onwards. However, after the desserts, we didn’t take any coffee, but did get something alike to Irish coffee: shot glasses of coffee mousse with whiskey foam! Other yummy treats served were chocolate covered fresh strawberries, chocolate covered golden berries (we collectively spent quite some time on our phones searching for this fruit that turns out to go under many names in various languages (like physalis, cape berry, winter cherry, and Chinese lantern and many, many more) and some local pastries: brutti ma buoni (“ugly but good”, meringues with hazelnuts), baci di dame (“lady’s kisses”, a typical pastry from Piedmont) and cantucci.
In short: a perfect ending to a perfect dinner!