“Lalibera is written in the way to pronounce, in one breath, as if it were a single word. It brings the sophistication of the restaurant and the convivial spirit of the taverns.” – Flavia Boffa
Our last dinner in Alba was at Lalibera where Flavia Boffa is the owner and sommelier. In addition to her impressive knowledge of wines, her history includes being the first female truffle judge. From the outside, the restaurant was tastefully subtle to the point of being almost hidden. The warm décor featured lighting by Louis Poulson, furniture by Arne Jacobsen, and artwork by local artists, all blending into a stylish and contemporary ensemble. The young staff was pleasant and welcoming, always supplying anything we needed before we asked.
Chef Marco Forneris prepares traditional Piemonte cuisine with a modern, refined flair. All meat was sourced locally and produce came from the restaurant’s own garden or was selected by Flavia at the local farmer’s market.
Warm bread, focaccia, and grissini were served immediately and were so excellent that I had difficulty using restraint before the first course arrived.
We picked a 2007 Luigi Oddero Barolo from La Morra for our evening’s wine. It was one of the most aromatic and perfumed wines I had sampled in Piemonte. The flavor was reminiscent of a good Pomerol.
We enjoyed a variety of new dishes from the a la carte menu. For our primi piatti, we began with Rabbit Salad with Artichokes and was topped with smoked foie gras. The foie gras was thinly sliced with a hint of smoky flavor that melted on my tongue. The rabbit was soft and moist under a bed of artichoke hearts. It was a beautiful composition with all elements in their place and each flavor supporting the other – nothing else was needed and nothing was left out. We were amazed and delighted at just how good it was.
We then had “Lasagnetta” with asparagus and burrata. Burrata was cloaked in paper-thin pasta layers, topped with a little tomato sauce, baked in the oven and then topped with slices of lightly blanched asparagus and a basil leaf garnish. What a great combination of soft and crispy! Both dishes surpassed both of our expectations.
For our secondi piatti, we ordered Fassone Piemontese Veal Steak with capers from Pantelleria (a Mediterranean island south of Sicily) and Suckling Baby Goat with thyme. Fassone Piemontese is a breed of cattle raised for centuries in Piemonte. It has a rich flavor with a buttery texture and is much leaner than other breeds. Chef Marco’s butcher typically uses only female cows and lets the meat dry age up to six weeks. The steak was not overly sauced and the capers gave a subtle punch to the magnificent flavor of grass fed veal.
In Italy Suckling Baby Goat is a popular Easter dish heralding the beginning of spring but was new to both of us. The meat is high in protein and iron, low in cholesterol and lean, with half the fat of skinned chicken. The sweet, succulent, and melt-in-the-mouth tender meat had a grassy richness that was subtly infused with thyme. The opulent sauce was reduced from jus and red wine and tasted as if was thickened with bone marrow. Simple baked baby potatoes helped soak up the sauce.
After all of those rich courses, a light dolci was in order. We split a Tiramisu which turned out to be a beautiful recomposed version of this much maligned dessert. The base layer was a relatively thin “wafer” topped with coffee-flavored mascarpone custard and finished with airy whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. The entire dinner for both of us, including wine, was €127.
The meal was perfect for our last dinner in Alba. The next morning we were off for Modena.