A 20th anniversary, while you happen to be in north Italy for the holidays was as good an excuse as any to visit 3 Michelin-starred Da Vittorio, just outside Bergamo.
We arrived at dusk and settled in to our room. Here’s the view:
The hotel was fairly tasteful and the service exceptional. We were very well taken care of. After a brief rest we went down to the dining room. The table lamps were fun.
Less fun was the fact that the spotlight shining onto my table was above and behind my head, casting a shadow over whatever dish was put in front of me. I guess it’s not always easy to know where to place spots when the tables may often be moved around to accommodate different numbers of diners, but it’s a minor irritant for those of us (i.e. everyone, these days) who like to take pictures of their dinner.
We took a look at the menus and wavered between the fishy menu and the truffly menu. My wife chose the truffles, and it would have felt weird anyway to be up in the mountains three hours from the coast and order fish (although I’m sure it’s perfectly fine).
Just as we were choosing, the waiters came along and offered a sniff of their truffle box, as if to say “Go on, you want the truffle menu, don’t you?” I notice they didn’t bring along a box of fresh fish for us to smell. Also, my wife got to inhale the tuberous odour but I was roundly ignored.
Decision made, we got started on the starters. Spelt soup with sea snails, and pumpkin cream with goat’s cheese and bacon.
A cannolo filled with ricotta crumble and chestnuts, topped with truffle shavings.
Cauliflower, scampi, egg yolk, mushroom and potato cream, with a croissant. We were encouraged to view this as a breakfast, and to dunk our croissant into the savoury “cappuccino”. Nice.
Mushroom and celery consommé, topped with a foie gras disc which we had to push down into the liquid inside the cup. And some truffle.
Service was mostly fine throughout the meal, with a couple of minor hiccoughs. One of the waiters seemed to take himself rather seriously and was fairly solemn throughout. But my wife kept commenting on the fact that his jacket was too tight (and not in a sexy way). The other, more junior staff member was a bit more relaxed and friendly. I’m not sure whose fault it was, but they served one of the wine selection with the wrong course. It felt weird as we drank it after the consommé, as the sweet, strong alcohol clashed with the delicate flavours of the food. They realised their mistake and apologised, replacing it with a glass of the correct wine. So basically we got a glass of the “wrong” wine for free.
The only other complaint we had was that they were still playing Christmas songs on the restaurant sound system, even though it was already January 3rd, which just felt wrong. On the other hand it was the first time I’d heard Cliff Richard and Shakin’ Stevens being played in Italy.
Linguine with hazelnut crumble and truffles.
The food had been coming fairly thick and fast, which we usually prefer, but this time it was a bit rushed and although we didn’t say anything, I think one of the constantly loitering waiters noticed our expressions as another dish arrived (as if to say “Wow, so soon? Give me a chance to catch my breath”), and so gently suggested that we might like a short pause.
With the next course we had a spectacular Barolo, which was even better on the nose than the palate. In fact I had quite a lot to drink that evening, and I felt it the next morning. The sommelier was fine, although he basically just read the labels to us and didn’t offer any kind of explanation or tasting notes.
Semolina gnocco with parmesan foam. And truffle.
Perhaps my favourite dish of the night, due to the robust flavours and textures after a series of rather, soft, creamy dishes: veal fillet with potato and foie gras.
As it was the holidays they offered us a few small slices of home-made pandoro and panettone with ice cream and chocolate. Then came the brioche with whipped cream and truffle.
And that was it for the truffles. On reflection, we probably should have gone either à la carte or for the fish course. Truffle is fine if used sparingly and as an ingredient, but when just shaved on top of another dish the flavour doesn’t really come through and it feels like eating small discs of musty paper. It reminded me a bit of a similar meal we’d had in Piedmont some years before.
Dessert: “fig” of ricotta and chocolate crumble.
The most fun presentation of the evening: a candy floss mountain featuring various little sweets. I picked at the candy floss for quite a while.
They did have a cheese trolley, but I wasn’t given the option, maybe because we chose the extensive truffle menu? It’s probably just as well, as I couldn’t have fit it in, but I’d like to have been asked.
And then we waddled up to bed and slept like babies. The next morning outside the breakfast room I noticed this amazingly well decorated marzipan version of the staff as they celebrate their restaurant’s 50th anniversary.