I have to go back at least 10 years to remember a time when I went to Piemonte that we didn't eat at La Cantinetta - and I've been about 20 times in 14 years. The traditional Piemontese food is great, the wine list beyond wonderful, and the simple ambiance warm and welcoming, but it's Maurilio Chiappetto's personality and genuine hospitality in the dining room and brother Paolo's delicious cuisine from local, fresh products that makes this such a wonderful dining experience.
I always have lunch at La Cantinetta because I can indulge and still be able to sleep. No doubt dinner is wonderful, too. Another thing I always do is not follow a menu. Just go by courses and take whatever the choices are for the day. There are some regular dishes, but many are seasonal.
For example, start with the antipasti, which usually are about 5 different dishes served in succession. Then move on to the primi piatti. Usually there are three to sample. You can one, two, or all three. Next comes secondi, usually two choices and finally dessert. I usually only take the antipasti, primi and split a dessert (the molten chocolate cake is one of their specialities, but panna cotta is delicious, too).
As to antipasti, here are some of the traditional regional dishes you may see. This time I had the Insalata Russa, Vitello Tonnato, Chicken Liver, Raviolo and Flan (no wonder I came home with an extra kilo, but at least I didn't have primi and seconde!):
Insalata Russa - traditional Piemontese (not Russian) mayo and egg-based salad with peas, carrots, potatoes and chicken. Everyone has their own recipe
Red bell peppers stuffed with tuna
Chicken liver pate with sweet onions and toasted brioche
Vitello Tonnato - simply one of the best!
Carne Cruda - Again, this is one of those dishes that everyone puts their signature touch on. La Cantinetta's is very popular and not to be missed.
Raviolo with stuffed with an egg yolk and spinach sprinkled with grated Parmigiani-Reggiano cheese
Cardi flan topped with one of the best fonduta around
Primi Piatti - again, usually only three, one of which has always been a risotto in my experience
Agnolotti di plin - this traditional Piemontese pasta is fabulous here. Until recently, Maurilio's father, Giovanni (who is now 89) was making the agnolotti since his retirement from being a cook. Trouble with his hands sidelined him from doing what he loves.
Tajarin - sometimes with rabbit sauce, sometimes with butter and sage.
Gnocchi - in autumn you'll often find it with
Risotto - in autumn you'll find it with porcini but other times it might be with Barolo
I'll let you see for yourselves what the secondi are. Trust me, they are delicious, particularly Paolo's chinghiale (wild boar) on polenta you'll usually find in autumn and winter.
As to wines, if you are unfamiliar with the wines of the region, let Maurilio guide you to a good choice of something from one of the over 65 producers represented on his list. He usually has some delicious wines by the glass, so if it's just two of you, take wines by the glass and try different ones. If you haven't had Deltetto Arneis, try this lovely white (either the Daivej or its more elegant brother, St. Michele) with your antipasti.
Note that they are closed for dinner on Wednesday and all day on Thursday. So plan accordingly.
Also, and very important, this is not to be confused with La Cantinella which is close to the castello. I haven't eaten there, but I understand it's good, but make no mistake these are not the same restaurants.
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