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My recent trip to Italy to teach at Slow Food U was a whirlwind. My itinerary and schedule had me on the ground for literally four days. Because the timing was so tight (including a day with two back-to-back three-hour seminars), wine country visits and trips to Piedmont’s many great dining destinations were not possible.
So it was that the small city of Bra, where the Slow Food Movement was founded in 1986, was radius of my culinary exploration.
Because of its association with Slow Food, Bra has some really interesting restaurants (including many chain pilot programs; more on that later). My next series of posts will be devoted to my favorite spots to eat and drink (including destinations from previous visits).
The first question that comes up when you mention the name Bra to an English speaker is does Bra, the toponym, have a relation to bra, the intimate apparel?
No, it does not (obviously).
Bra comes from the late Latin braida meaning a field in a suburban area. It’s relatively common across northern Italy. Some will remember the famous Piazza del Bra in Verona.
Bra in Cuneo province (Piedmont) got its name because it was an agricultural hub in Roman times (as was Verona, for that matter).
Over the seven years of my teaching gig there, one of my favorite first stops has always been Local, the university’s food shop and casual restaurant. It’s expensive, as the students always complain. But the food products there are phenomenally good.
Even though it’s not a regional dish, their porchetta sandwiches are inanely delicious (not always available) and their vitello tonnato is as traditional as it comes. They also do modern and classic interpretations of Bra’s famous veal sausage (more on that later). Our girls loved the cooked salsiccia the year they came with me.
But on this occasion, the classic Piedmontese salt-cured anchovies with salsa verde spoke to me.
Dissertations could be scribed on this mainstay of Piedmontese gastronomy. In many ways, it represents the basic building blocks of the Roero-Langhe-Monferrato culinary cannon. Vitello tonnato couldn’t exist without those anchovies. Nor could bagna cauda.
It was a thrill for this wine blogger to discover that they were serving a new wine from a favorite Dogliani farm, a Riesling from Cascina Corte, an ante litteram naturalist producer.
The bright acidity and intense fruit of the wine was such a fantastic match for the richly salty fishes and the garlic-heavy flat leaf parsley dressing.
And it all really hit the spot for lunch after a long day of travel from Houston.
Stay tuned for more notes on where to eat and drink in Bra…