It used to be that citrus fruits were my favorite wintertime bounty, but that was before I tasted my first white truffle. Only available October through December and priced in the neighborhood of $300 an ounce, this precious tuber is the ultimate indulgence during the cooler months of the year.
I was recently invited to an incredible dinner at Valentino Ristorante featuring an abundance of white truffles. In celebration of Piero Selvaggio‘s 40 years of successful restauranteering in Los Angeles, the finest Italian white truffles were flown in for the event, as well as wines from Beni di Batasiolo, the world’s leading producer of Barolo. Needless to say, it was an enchanting evening of food and wine.
I was greeted by an army of glasses as I sat down at the table. Stefano Poggi, the export manager at Beni di Batasiolo, was on hand this evening to pair each of chefs Luicano Pellegrini and Nico Chessa’s creations with a handsome wine. The carefully marked placemats upon which the wines rested kept diners properly organized throughout the meal.
The first course was a coarsely chopped beef tartare topped with a quail egg yolk and white truffle shavings. A ricotta spuma (mousse) tied all the elements together. The tartare was paired with the Barbera d’Alba DOC 2008, a medium bodied red with good acidity and dark berry notes.
My favorite course of the evening was the “Porcini e Tartufi,” a silky egg custard positively brimming with porcini. The accompanying fonduta (cheese sauce) added an additional element of richness that paired well with the earthy truffles and mushrooms. The Barbera d’Alba, Cru “Sovrana” DOC 2008 served alongside was smooth and mildly acidic.
Another intensely satisfying course was the “uovo in raviolo al burro di nocciola e tartufi,” a single raviolo filled with a perfectly runny yolk. A hazelnut butter and a thick layer of truffle shavings provided the finishing touches. I loved how the heat emanating from the raviolo intensified the truffles’ aroma.
One slice of the knife and the raviolo’s yolk came gushing out, making an already perfect dish even more so. This course was served with the Barbaresco DOCG 2008, also known as the “Queen of Italian Wines.”
The onslaught of white truffles halted at this point in the meal, but the rustic flavors kept on coming. The “tagliolini al ragù di piccione” featured oodles of noodles in a delightfully rich and musty pigeon ragù.
The final savory course of the night was the “brasato di manzo al barolo con polenta bianca bramata,” slow braised beef shank with polenta and Castelmagno (Piedmontese cheese). I was damn near stuffed during this course, so my neighbor to the right was gifted a generous hunk of the fork tender shank.
The sole meat course was paired with the Barolo DOCG 2005, a velvety and spicy red that was named one of the Top 100 Wines of the World by Wine Spectator.
Truffles made one final appearance in the form of a truffled honey during the cheese course. The trio of Italian cheeses were also paired with blackberries, dried apricots, and a dab of fruity jam. Served alongside the cheese course was the Barolo Riserva DOCG 2004.
To finish, we were served a gianduja hazelnut semifreddo with sauteed plantains and candied malt balls. The Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2010 served with it was my favorite pour of the night. Light, fruity, and just sweet enough, the Moscato was the perfect note to end on.
Thank you to Valentino and Beni di Batasiolo for curating such a beautiful and delicious evening. And congratulations to Piero Selvaggio—here’s to forty more years of dynamite Italian hospitality!
3115 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405