Dining Review: Lalibera – Alba, Italy
After more exploring, we decided to see if our dinner reservation would take us early. We were told multiple times that this popular weekend in Alba would require reservations for every meal, even if just for two people. Lalibera was able to accommodate an earlier seating and as we sat at our table, the excitement of experiencing tartufo bianco (white truffles) was at an all time high.
The interior of the restaurant reminded us of a modern kitchen table- like everyone is dining in someone’s kitchen table. Very relaxed setting with all the dining items in an accessible dining cabinet nearby and the kitchen just feet away behind a swinging door. Only two servers working and limited seating made it a very intimate experience.
When we got the menu, we both raced to see if we would have the chance to try the white truffle delicacy and to our delight, the options were plentiful! The menu here was great and unfortunately the late cheese and gelato run had us fuller than I preferred as I wanted to try many things on the menu, including the stuffed zucchini flowers. We decided to keep it simple so our stomachs would not regret it later.
There were multiple ways to pay for white truffles on your dish- a flat rate where they freshly shaved a set amount of truffles or the weight of the truffle before was marked, they being to shave the truffle and you tell them when to stop, then they weigh the truffle after and you pay the difference of the weight per gram. Whenever we saw the latter done, people were almost always shocked at how much they ended up spending for what they wanted. You do not need a lot of shaved truffles to experience the tense aroma and flavor.
For my meal, I opted for the Tarjarin (pronounce ta-yar-een, a Piedmontese pasta with thirty to forty egg yolks and an extremely thin noodles) with butter and tartufo bianco d’Alba (flat rate of 40 euro which was the going rate at almost every restaurant). Kevin decided on the on the freshly made tagliatella pasta in a veal ragu.
Along with traditional Piedmontese grissini (crunchy, thin breadsticks), dishes with a special appetizer came- like an egg frittata with tomatoes underneath and a whip cheese on top. It was quite good surprise.
We knew we were going to have wine with every meal so we made a point of trying a different Piedmont varitel each time- Langhe Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto, and Arneis- challenge accepted!
Tonight we ordered a 2014 Langhe Nebbiolo from Cascina Morassino- classified as such because typically the grapes were grown outside the areas where it can be called Barolo or Barbaresco. We often find it is more approachable and drinkable younger at the younger age than it’s highly tannic friends and it much more cheaper as well. We really enjoyed this wine, especially as we began our meal and the wine opened up.
And then the moment came where our pastas arrived at the table. My naked tajarin doused in butter awaited its truffle shaving.
The server allowed me to smell the white truffle and the aroma was intense- having only had black truffles before, this was a different experience altogether. Funky and earthy- something that truly cannot be replicated. We watched the truffle shavings fall from the shaver like pedals from a flower or leaves from a tree with each slice sending the rich fragrance across the table. And when she was finished, my plate was completely covered in white truffle shavings- I was very satisfied with my portion!
The fun began as I folded the truffles in the the tajarin and incorporated into the melted butter, making every bite infused with the aroma. I wish I could explain the out of the world flavor but I am out of words!
Enough about the truffles, Kevin also had a great dish, loving the depth of ragu flavor. The large, flat tagliatella pasta that had basil incorporated into the noodle and the ragu was loaded with Italian spices, pieces of tender veal, and peas.
It was a beautiful table spread!
At the end, we both enjoyed sopping the bottom of our dishes with bread to get all the goodness of the dish. I basically had white truffle infused butter at the bottom of my plate- was not letting any of that go to waste! We learned later that is act of taking bread to absorb pasta gravy has a name- scarpetta! Meaning little shoe, and unsure why that is the translation, but this is a practice I have done forever. Leave no gravy behind!
Onto dessert, the options on the menu made it difficult to turn away. I ordered the chocolate fondant pudding with hazelnut ice cream and Kevin ordered the hazelnut semifreddo with hazelnut ice cream.
My dessert came out as a cake which confused me for the pudding descriptor but then I stuck my spoon in and out came hot gooey chocolate liquid. It was wonderful and way better than what I expected to be on the plate. Loved it, one of my favorite desserts on the trip!
Kevin’s dessert was another one where we did not know what would come out but was happily surprised. What looked like three chunks of an ice cream sandwich, chocolate wafers surrounded a frozen hazelnut cream mixture- so good!
Overall we were thrilled with our first dinner in Alba at Laliberia- fresh pasta honestly has no match as it melts effortlessly in your mouth, great new desserts, elegant wine, and oh, white truffles we took turns inhaling throughout the meal.