A photo caption with a Feb. 5 Travel article should have identified the pictured town as Monforte d'Alba, a small town near Alba, Italy, not Alba itself.
In Italy's Alba, Where Have All the Truffles Gone?
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Can one restaurant meal lead you to everything you need to know about a place?
In Italy's misty, mountainous Piedmont region, where the 2006 Winter Olympics begin this Friday, the answer is a resounding yes.
And I'm not talking about some fancy Michelin-starred establishment that every guidebook tells you to visit. Just dinner at a simple place, an osteria down the street from where you're staying.
And that's without getting what I wanted to eat. Because I was after something pretty specific.
One of my main reasons for visiting Alba, a town of medieval red-brick towers about 30 miles southeast of the Olympic host city of Torino (please, let's call it that instead of the Anglicized Turin), was to try to sample the region's famed white truffles.
Alba is Italy's truffle capital. It's also the heart of a major Italian wine-producing area, where Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti Spumante, Cinzano and Martini and Rossi (just to name a few wines) are made.
It's the center of Italian chocolate country too, as the headquarters of the multinational Ferrero company, which produces Ferrero Rochers and Nutella. And it's the heart of the magical Langhe area, a classic Italian landscape of grape-covered hills, medieval towns and dramatic castles.
Alba and nearby Torino are in northwestern Italy, near the Alps and the border with France, in the foggy, land-locked Piedmont, which in Italian means "foot of the mountains."
But back to the truffles.
I had never eaten the succulent, super-pricey delicacies -- and that was a big, embarrassing gap in my Italian identity. I was born in Italy and my mother grew up in Torino. What kind of daughter of a Piedmontese has never tasted ta rtufi bianchi shaved on pasta?
I was determined to right this culinary wrong in Alba rather than at some fancy Italian restaurant in Washington. I knew, of course, that the height of truffle season -- usually September through December -- was over. But I had heard that last year, truffles were eaten in this gastronomic wonderland late into January. And January was the only time I had.
So I, and a colleague traveling with me, went on a truffle hunt. Not with the sniffing dogs, mind you -- it was really too late for that -- but truffle restaurant-hopping.