Da Cesare

Via Umberto 12

Albaretto della Torre (CN)

Telephone +39 0173 52 01 41

September, 2006

Chef and proprietor Cesare Giaccone is one of Piedmont's legendary culinary figures. For decades Da Cesare, located high in the hills of Albaretto Torre, was a destination point for those seeking the finest food and wine in the region. Two years ago, seeking to scale back and simplify things a bit, Giaccone moved the restaurant back to his original house. Tucked off the main road in Albaretto, the "new" Da Cesare offers a homier, more intimate setting. Guests enter through an open kitchen where Giaccone prepares his usual range of dishes including his signature spit-roasted capretto (baby goat). The cuisine is eclectic as always, with combinations only Giaccone is capable of pulling off, although the menu is fairly set each evening with limited choices.

On this beautiful late summer evening we started with Bruno Giacosa's 2005 Roero Arneis, a wine that I have never found fully convincing. It showed plenty of sweet, opulent fruit upfront (in 2005 there was some botrytis) but then was surprisingly empty on the mid-palate with a short finish. Giacosa's Arneis is usually at its best within a year of the harvest and this wine was already less attractive than it was when last tasted in May 2006.

We sat down to a dish of seared tuna served with sweet and sour onions. Though tasty, it was an awkward dish to pair with wine and was best on its own. Mauro Mascarello's 2003 Barbera d'Alba Codana, made from a plot adjacent to the famed Monprivato, has over the years been one of my favorites among the region's traditionally-styled Barberas. Unfortunately this bottle was somewhat off in its aromas and dryish tannins and not representative of what this wine typically offers.

The local ovuli mushrooms are a treat this time of year. Giaccone served them in two different renditions, the first on a bed of piping-hot polenta and the second as part of a mixed platter of lightly fried delicacies that included cheese fritters and vegetables. A magnum of Bartolo Mascarello's 2000 Barolo was the perfect match. Although I continue to be disappointed by this wine in 750ml bottles this magnum was terrific. Sexy, open and gorgeous, it showed plenty of 2000 character in its sweet fruit, silky tannins and generous, approachable personality. It was immensely enjoyable.

Foodwise, the highlight of the night was the lasagnette which were served with a succulent sausage ragù. It is a dish that combined simplicity with supreme elegance. Alongside it we enjoyed a gorgeous bottle of the 1998 Barolo Monprivato. One of the best current vintages of this wine to drink today, the 1998 was soft and delicate, with tremendous purity in its enveloping aromas and fruit. Still quite fresh and youthful, it promises to drink well for another decade.

A dinner at Da Cesare is not complete without Giaccone's famous capretto (baby goat). Slow-roasted to perfection, it was crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. A magnum of Giacomo Conterno's 1997 Barolo Cascina Francia was the ideal wine to match with the strongly-flavored capretto. It was a powerful and concentrated Barolo, with generous layers of sweet ripe fruit, great length and fine tannins, conveying an impression of being incredibly primary and unevolved given the vintage. Exceedingly rare (in 1997 only 200 magnums were bottled) it provided a transcendental drinking experience. Despite being served towards the end of the dinner it was the first bottle finished. To the amazement of everyone at the table platters of roasted duck were brought out from the kitchen, but by then my stamina was exhausted and I skipped that course. I did, however, sample the freshly-prepared zabaglione al moscato. All in all, it was a great evening of food and wine.


Tuna with sweet and sour onions

Ovuli mushrooms served over polenta

Fritto of local cheeses, mushrooms and vegetables

Lasagnette with sausage ragù

Roasted capretto (baby goat) with potatoes and vegetables

Zabaglione al moscato



Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis



G. Mascarello Barbera d'Alba Codana



G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato



Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (magnum)



Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia (magnum)


[Photo and credit: Da Cesare, Piedmont, Italy]

--Antonio Galloni