If you’ve never been to Italy, or even if you’ve been there, it may be difficult to fathom that sometimes the most amazing meal can be found in the most unobvious place. A delicious meal can be found in the middle of a bustling highway at an Auto Grill; or on a cold and dark mountain road in the middle of the day.
We were driving up a cold and foggy mountain road in the middle of the day and had lost all hope for finding a decent meal. It’s the middle of June and we were in Valle d’Aosta. It was supposed to be sunny and warm. We approached a charming small hotel and restaurant Chacaril and were not sure what to expect.
We entered and saw a quaint room warmed by a fireplace filled with workers in plaid shirts and construction boots. Sitting in their gorgeous hand-carved chairs that almost looked too small to accommodate their bodies, they paused while putting in the next pasta bite as if to say, “You found our secret place.”
Mario welcomed us with a warm smile and “Buon giorno!” and took us to our table. He suggested we start with a typical antipasto plate from the Valle d’Aosta region: nocetta (which is like bresaola),lardo (lard), butter, sweet chestnuts, and honey. This is how you do it: butter spread on a slice of homemade bread, a little nocetta or lardo, a drizzle of honey. Unbelievable flavor combination that I would’ve never imagined trying. The sweet/salty flavor of the lardo mixed with the creamy butter and the surprise drizzle of honey on top. I was in love with this new antipasto.
I could’ve been satisfied with eating that all day. But we had to move on to more typical plates of Valle d’Aosta. Penne with panna, speck, and zucchini. We also had agnolotti with artichokes and fonduta sauce.
After the pasta, there was room for one more dish from the region: grilled polenta with cinghiale. Cinghiale is wild boar and they made it with porcini mushrooms.
The last diners left and Mario had time to sit with us and talk a little about the products of Valle d’Aosta. He brought us a wine from the area that was so rich you could taste the earth, flowers, and grass from the mountains in every sip. He brought us Fontina D.O.P. cheese. A cheese that he explained must be eaten with this wine. The cheese was phenonemenal and I ate 1/2 of it before taking a photo.
The Fontina D.O.P. also had a honey that goes perfectly with it: a delicious chestnut honey.
We were there for hours. I watched the rain drizzle outside as I sipped my wine and ate the last bite of cheese while listening to Mario and Fabrizio talk about food in Italy compared to food in America. The difference in the quality of products and the way they are enjoyed.
Maria offered us the crostata they make for dessert. I’m sad to say there wasn’t room this time for another bite. We will return to visit our new friends at Chacaril and definitely have a slice of crostata.
CIAO from Italia! I hope you are enjoying these posts and photos.Thank you for stopping by!!