Midway through our stay in Madonna di Campiglio, our hotel put on a special Cena Rustica (“Rustic Dinner”) for its guests. It featured hearty local winter food from this part of northern Italy.
Italian is a wonderful language for describing food. Even the simplest traditional foods sound spectacular when written (or spoken) in Italian. Our first course was Sformatino di patate su crema di verza con cavolo russo e steak di speck (a potato flan on cream with Russian cabbage and ham steak). The next course was Orzetto mantecato ai funghi Porcini (risotto-style barley with Porcini mushrooms), while the main course was the regal Cervo in umido con polenta di Storo e crauti (stewed deer with Storo polenta and sauerkraut). No pizza or spaghetti here!
While this was not my favourite meal at the hotel, it was still fun to try food that I would never encounter anywhere else. The stewed deer was somewhat similar to goulash or beef bourguignon. After all of that weighty food, the light Torta Mimosa was quite welcome for dessert.
Our last stop before returning home was the city of Bologna. Although typically associated in North America with inexpensive luncheon meat, Bologna may well be the culinary capital of a country that has one of the most satisfying cuisines in the world. As we were there for only one night, we wanted to make sure that our meal was one to remember.
That was the theory. The reality was that we had been in transit for most of the day and we were famished upon our late afternoon arrival in Bologna. We checked into the “Hotel Il Guercino” in the Bolognina neighbourhood, just north of the train station, and immediately turned our minds to finding a nearby restaurant. We didn’t want to return to the historic downtown core, as it would have meant going back through the train station area…and that area felt a little seedy even in the late afternoon.
This turned out to be a challenge. There were lots of highly regarded restaurants in “up and coming” (e.g. “still a little rough around the edges”) Bolognina…but they all opened at 7:30 p.m. or later. We tried to wait but hunger prevailed and we eventually decided to go with a restaurant that opened at 7:00 p.m. Although I had reservations about it, the best choice appeared to be “Well Done”, one of a small chain of Italian restaurants specializing in hamburgers and other locally sourced food.
I can hear the gasps of anguish even as I write this. Hamburgers in Italy’s premier culinary city? But with their insistence on fresh and local ingredients, it actually turned out to be an inspired idea for our last Italian meal. I had the Lambrusco burger: the beef was braised in Lambrusco wine, topped with pecorino cheese and radicchio (itself braised in Lambrusco wine). To tie it all together? It was served with a glass of Lambrusco wine.
I had never heard of Lambrusco, nor had sparkling red wine ever really been on my radar. But that’s essentially what Lambrusco wine is…and I have to admit that it worked. Somehow, a burger goes well with a bubbly beverage. In the end, this modern Italian take on an American mainstay was quite enjoyable. We didn’t feel like we had squandered a dining opportunity on our last night in Italy, even if it was nothing like the dinner we had anticipated.
Stay tuned for more travel!