The best thing I ate on my last trip to Italy and an old flame rekindled.

Favorite restaurants are always a long-term commitment, kind of like a romantic relationship. Sometime the rapport is fiery and passion-driven. Sometimes the flame is diminished by the patina of time. But when you really love a restaurant, the rewards of your undying devotion can really pay off.

That’s what happened when my Brescian friends took me to one of my favorite restaurants on the planet, the Dispensa Pani e Vini in the heart of Franciacorta country.

From my first kiss with the restaurant back in 2008 to the present, some of the most memorable meals of my gourmet career have happened there. There have been some acceptable yet mediocre experiences as well.

But I keep coming back: when the beet tagliolini with gorgonzola (above) arrived at our table, I thought I was going to faint.

It was the best thing I ate on my last trip to Italy. Simply spectacular, exquisite yet earthy and homey.

As Tony used to say, for Italian cuisine to be authentic, it has to be creative. This dish was all that and more.

The grilled octopus was another standout at our lunch.

Anyone who’s ever worked in the fine dining industry knows that chefs, managers, sommeliers, and owners come and go. The Dispensa, which was founded by one of Franciacorta’s most influential chefs, Vittorio Fusari, has seen a number of ownership and staff changes over the years.

But right now it has reclaimed the grace, verve, and mission of its original chef Vittorio.

I highly recommend it, even on its not-so-great days.

That’s the amuse bouche.

We paired with my friends Giovanni and Nico’s new release from the little known Botticino appellation. It’s a mostly Barbera blend that’s grown in Botticino’s marl- and limestone-rich soils and is raised in large cask. Delicious and with great depth.

As unfamiliar as Botticino may be to many Americans, anyone who’s ever passed through Grand Central Station has seen Botticino marble. Brescia province and the quarries that overlook Lake Garda are the source of that stone.

We didn’t get a chance to say hello to the new chef that day. But my faith was mended, my heart healed, and my belly sated. I can’t wait to make it back to that old lover in the heart of Franciacorta country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s