A couple decades ago, when I was just out of college, I moved to Italy to work as an au pair. Unlike most travelers, I did not end up in a city like Florence or Rome but rather a small town in the region of Piedmont where no one spoke English. I knew nothing about wine at the time but everyday day I would meet my new Italian friends at the local bar for aperitivi and they would do the ordering. And, each day a glass would be placed in front of me filled with a red wine that was slightly sweet and slightly sparkling and very delicious. It was Brachetto d’Acqui.
A recent trip took me back to Piedmont, to the heart of where Brachetto is from, Acqui Terme. This ancient Roman town, an 1 ½ hour southeast from Milan, became my home base for three days. We settled in at the Grand Hotel Nuove Terme which overlooks the town square and began the tour of eating and drinking and eating and drinking some more.
Piedmont is a land for gourmands. From vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) and Fassone Vitello (a Piedmontese cow) to gnocchi, risotto and agnolotti del Plin (made by hand) to porcini mushrooms and Robiola di Roccaverano, it is not hard to eat your way through the region. Here are some great spots to visit:
Ristorante Nouovo Parisio – Located just of the center square of Acqui Terme, we enjoyed dishes made with fresh local Porcini mushrooms, such as Insalata di Funghi Porcini, Gnocchi con Funghi Porcini, Funghi Porcini Fritti, and a cheese plate featuring the local goats milk cheese Robiola di Roccaverano.
Piazzetta Verdi, 3
15011 Acqui Terme, Italy
+39 0144 442196
Osteria Bun Ben Bon – Located 25 minutes north of Acqui Terme, this award winning local restaurant served up risotto with funghi and brachetto wine, as well as a dessert Zabayone made with Brachetto.
Strada Vecchia Asti 66
14049 Nizza Monferrato, Italy
+39 0141 726347
Open for lunch and dinner
Closed Tuesday night and all day Wednesday
Enoteca La Curia – As it was truffle season when I was there, highlights included vitello tonato, Robiola di Roccaverano with truffles and handmade Tajarin (tagliolini) with fresh porcini mushrooms.
Via Alla Bollente n.72
Acqui Terme, Italy
+39 0144 356049
I Bologna – At the family restaurant of Braida Winery, we watched the chef’s mother make handmade agnolotti that were delicate and delicious and then enjoyed some of the tastiest desserts of the trip – coconut panna cotta with pineapple granita, crème brulee, hazelnut gelato and chocolate cakes, which all paired perfectly with Brachetto d’ Acqui.
Via Nicola Sardi, 4
14030 Rocchetta Tanaro
+39 0141 644600
The B. Ristorante – The restaurant is located in a former home and here we took a cooking class and learned how to make both a sweet dish (Bavarois or Bavarian cream) and a savory dish (Involtini made with pork wrapped around lardo and prunes).
Strada Canelli, 57
14049 Nizza Monferrto, Italy
+39 347 4315526
A trip to Piemont isn’t complete without visiting wineries and tasting the amazing wines of the region (Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Gavi, Moscato and, of course, Brachetto d’ Acqui). Brachetto is a red Italian wine grape that produces a light-bodied, highly aromatic, slightly sweet, slightly sparkling red wine with notes of strawberries. Perfect for aperitivi or with deserts, Brachetto d’ Acqui is a wine in which they say we should, “share the bliss.”
Marenco Winery – Michela Marenco, third generation in her family, runs the winery along with her husband Giovanni Giancosta. Michele and Giovanni told me that they love Brachetto because “it is sweet but not sticky.”
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 10
15019 Strevi Alessandria, Italy
+39 0144 363133
Bersano Vini – one of the most historical wineries in the area, founder Arturo Bersano is credited as being the father of Brachetto Spumante.
Piazza Dante, 21
14049 Nizza Monferato (Asti), Italy
+39 0141 720211
TreSecoli – Begun in 1887, it is the association of two different co-opperative wineries and is named in honor of the three centuries and generations of people who have worked there.
Via Stazione, 15
14046 Mombaruzzo, Italy
+39 0141 77019
Ca’ dei Mandorli – Father and son Paul and Stefano Ricagno run the family winery that has been producing wine for over two centuries.
Stradale Alessandria, 90
15011 Acqui Terme, Italy
+39 0144 55741
Braida – Raffaella Braida and her brother Giuseppe are the third generation to run the family winery. Their father Giacomo made the winery famous by producing the flagship wine of the company, a Barbera called Bricco dell’Uccellone.
Strada Provinciale 27, n.9
14030 Roccetta Tanaro
+39 0141 644113
Banfi – With wineries in both Tuscany and in Piedmont, the Piedmont winery specializes in sparkling wines and most importantly, Rosa Regale made from Brachetto grown in La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme.