Last night found me, guitar in hand, at the Ostu di Djun in the hilltop village of Castagnito in the heart of Roero country (on the west bank of the Tanaro river, which divides southern Nebbiololand).
Some believe its Piedmontese name comically ironic: Ostu di Djun means literally osteria di digiuno or fasting tavern. But it’s hard to tell. Nothing can be taken for granted in this crazy, enchanted, and enchanting restaurant.
What’s for certain is the food is all old(est) school, all the way.
When my friend Natale and I sat down for dinner last night, the owner Luciano asked us if we wouldn’t mind sharing our table with two other dudes. One turned out to be the legacy owner, the son, of one of Piedmont’s hottest Michelin-style restaurants (I won’t reveal the name so as not to humblebrag).
He and his buddy told me that they eat there at least three times a month and whenever they can.
For our first course, we all shared family-style tajarin with ragù and agnolotti, the classic ravioli from Piedmont. And for our second course, they ordered heart and sweetbreads. Me and Natale ordered liver.
All three of them remarked that they like the food there so much because it reminds them of what they’re grandparents used to feed them when mom and dad were at work each day.
I can already hear Tracie P rolling her eyes and hoping that I was able to drink natural wine last night.
No, we drank classic Pelaverga and then Barbaresco, strictly from magnum, the only bottle format that Luciano serves.
(All is good, Tra… well, kinda… but it was worth it!)
It was a wild and raucous night that culminated in a rollicking set of covers performed by me, Natale, and the resident piano player Giorgio.
I regret that between the banter and the Bacchanal, I didn’t have much a chance to photograph the food in the dimly-lit room, which brimmed with Italians and foreigners.
That’s the raw beef they serve when you arrive (above, top) and the Piedmontese standby insalata russa (second photo). Both were utterly delicious. So were the pastas and the offal.
Old(est) school, all the way.
Luciano says he wants me and Natale back to do another set soon. I’d be back in a heartbeat if I weren’t so busy teaching and keeping up with work back home in America.
It was one of those magical nights that only seem to happen in Italy… Haven’t had one of those in a while and man, it felt pretty friggin’ good.
Ostu di Djun has no website, it seems.
But you can find it on the Google here.