Since 2011 Cesare has had his new “Bottega Ristorante” in rooms built partly by himself in the 1980s. You get there by walking along a narrow path lined with the colourful flowers of lavender and rose bushes. The Restaurant stands on the Acetaia, a place he established 30 years ago where he produces his prestigious vinegars from Moscato, Dolcetto and Barolo wines.
Cesare has come back with his usual energy and enthusiasm, proud of his plans, fully aware of his own skill but also somewhat daring. He knows he can create – for his countless old friends and also forhis new clients – perfect dishes, unforgettable evenings warmed by fireplace and friendship, by the pleasure of having a peaceful chat together with good food and wine, enjoying the sensation that time is flowing serenely, a little more slowly than usual, which makes life lighter and keener.
Cesare, who has learnt the art of cooking from many chefs and many friends, who has reworked that knowledge and experience integrating them with his personality and instincts, reinvents old dishes and makes them new, combines simple flavours turning them into an amazing explosion of smell, taste and colour.
So those who reach the windy top of Albaretto and the building at the entrance of the village, surrounded by a garden where a mulberry and a cherry tree, a pear tree and a elm stand together with an oak and pines (every tree has been chosen and planted with great care), will see dishes emerging from the ample kitchen: duck salads in fruit sauce; polenta (a dish made with maize flour) in chestnut sauce with white truffles; onions in salt; galantine; wild mushrooms with peaches, a dish dedicated to his friend Willsberger (who came from Germany to admire Cesare’s cooking and wrote about it in his important newspaper); sancrau (sweet and sour stewed cabbage). To follow, there is risotto with truffles, vegetable soup with chestnuts and pork ribs, stuffed guinea-hens, the unforgettable roast goatling. To finish with, Moscato or Marsala zabaglione (egg-yolks, sugar and wine combined over a gentle heat); Moscato vinegar and rosemary sherbet; or hazelnut cake, the famous “roTonda di Langa”.
La Bottega (The Shop)
Together with the Restaurant, Cesare has also re-opened a Bottega. Re-opened because his father Filippo already had one: “My mum and dad had a tavern where they also sold food; there was a cow, and my father was a barber too.”
This is what Cesare remembers of those years also narrated by Beppe Fenoglio. Cesare explains that the idea had always been in his mind, but he had never had the time to realise it. Now the moment has come. There are few products in the Bottega. Some have beautiful packaging, or come in boxes with artistic labels (mainly by his friend Gianni Gallo); some have a more everyday look, but all are in the Bottega for a specific reason: their high quality. They are the ingredients Cesare uses in his kitchen, produced by friends that often sit in his restaurant to relish his dishes and menus. First of all there are the vinegars, created 30 years ago thanks to the merging of an old ambition of Cesare’s with the skills of enologist Armando Cordero’s. Now one of Cesare’s sons, Oscar, takes cares of them, bottles them and lets them mature. These are vinegars from Moscato, Dolcetto and Barolo wines. More recently a ‘White’ and a ‘Red’ have been produced, whose bottles have a label showing a heron painted by Gianni Gallo and silk-screened. Taking one of them home, in the hope of reproducing certain tastes and smells, is a real treat. Then the cakes, such as the “roTonda di Langa” which traditionally ends Cesare’s dinners with the slightly bitter sweetness of short pastry and hazelnuts.
Finally pasta: tajarin for example; maize and wheat flour; the salt named “Cristalerbe”; different kinds of extra virgin olive oil; rice and, of course, wines.
Which wines can you drink at Cesare’s restaurant? The Langhe’s wines: the answer is simple and comprehensive. Cesare’s dishes are the result of his extraordinary genius, there is no doubt; but they are also rooted in the products of the Langhe, therefore they marry well with the local wines. A glass of Bollicine di Nebiolo to start with. As for white wines, you can have either Chardonnay or Arneis. Then, to match the different dishes there are Dolcetto from Dogliani, Barbera, Nebiolo and, it goes without saying, Barolo and Barbaresco. For desserts, Moscato is the one. A wine which deserves special mention is the outstanding Barolo from la Morra, produced by Pierangelo Bosco, Cesare’s eldest daughter Elisa’s husband.