When we first arrived to this place, a bunch of people were paragliding down the beautiful Piedmontese hills;like eagles flying in the skies, it all looked very peaceful. The farm is on top of a hill, and right next to an observatory. Later on, I learned from a good friend that the place is well known for their hospitality and authentic food among his off-road driving friends! The farm is cute, you feel welcomed right away- the grass and wooden fences are nicely manicured, there are benches that invite you to take a rest from the heat during the summer, and from there it’s easy to take a quick peek into the back of the structure where you can see people eating and drinking in the shade of their back porches.
The location is an interesting one. The farm sits right at the border of 2 main Italian northern regions: Lombardy, Piedmont. The territory is part of the ‘Quattro Provincie’, a group of four provinces that are grouped together for having a cultural background from costumes to music to dance in common (these cities are Genova, Alessandria, Pavia, Piacenza).
The Bodratti and the Vohwinkel families have been in the hospitality business together for at least 2 generations here at Ca’ del Monte, and you can tell by their gentle and kind welcoming that they offer to people. Their daughter Ilenia and Daniele her husband, offer us a shot of espresso as soon as we arrive, a typical way for Italians to introduce each other and in this case, also to quickly learn what kind of food we like and what we don’t. Ca’ del Monte falls into the category of the Italian Agriturismo, basically farms turned into hospitality gems; by law, and as per what you would expect if you ate in a farm, they must serve at least 70% of their own and locally-made or harvested products. All places offer a menu that revolve around seasonal and local availability, but it’s not a menu you physically see, it’s mostly in the head of the cook, in this case Daniele’s mom, Anna Bodratti.
When we visited, they served us a variety of their specialty, and what was available that very same day. If you are a sucker like me for homemade pickles, you will love zucchini in carpione: zucchini sauteed in oil and then marinated in vinegar, onion, garlic, salvia, vino bianco and kept in the liquid for about a week. Hungry yet? On the same table they served us sweet and sour vegetables, their own animal’s cold cuts, a vegetable quiche made from their eggs and their vegetables, and homemade gnocchi with porcini mushroom sauce. The porcini were dried as the fresh ones are easier to get during the rainy season and we were there in July. The wine was their estate’s and that is NOT on sale.
In fact, they decided that it was much more convenient for them to keep it in the family, and much better for us who got to drink quite some of it! We all loved the simplicity and the unpretentious food served as if, quite literally, grandma cooked for us. For dessert we were served a delicious panna cotta ai frutti di bosco, sort of a flan with mixed berries. And then we were caught sleeping on the grass next to the wild berries plants.
Photo Credit: Mauro Clerici
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