Cerro, Covigliaio - Firenzuola, Italy, tasted on March 21, 2004 — Back
to Italy. On this particular day we found ourselves driving on a
long windy road from Florence to Bologna. Florence was great, but we
were intent on spending the bulk of our time in Italy in Emilia
Romagna - source of parmesan cheese, parma ham, and authentic
balsamic vinegar. Not many regions can claim so many iconic and
delicious contributions to the world of food. Bologna is the biggest
city in the region and it was going to be our home base while we
scoured every inch of the countryside for ham, cheese, and vinegar,
saving small amounts of room for pasta and various other yummy
Italian dishes. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our drive to
Bologna was long, and we were... no surprise... hungry.
When we couldn't wait any longer we pulled off
the road and found the cute
Il Cigno hotel with
its own restaurant -
Cerro. We'd stoppped at a roadside bar/restaurant but the smoke was
so thick we just couldn't stay. Luckily il Cerro was a little further
down the road. It was 3pm on a Sunday and the place was positively
empty. But they graciously agreed to feed us. It was very nice of them.
Given that they were working late, we didn't judge them too harshly for
the bad 80's music pouring out of the kitchen. Even though the hotel
seemed pretty relaxed, and the decor of the restaurant was a bit rustic,
the meal was definitely towards the high end of the spectrum -
especially in terms of the service. When we were served wine, the waiter
would "wash" all the glasses with wine...
'priming the glass" according to alex.
Our late lunch started off with Fagiolini with Bacon and Cheese.
Basically a pastry shell, all golden with sesame seeds is filled with
ham and a cheesy filling that was tart with warm beans all mushed up as
well. The beans were light but provided a foundation of texture and
flavor. This was quickly followed by an enormous plate filled with cold
meats and marinated vegetables. The marinated artichoke was simply
amazing. It was delicate, starting soft, but getting stronger over time.
Citrus showed up halfway through, and the flavor held up surprisingly
well to the strong meats. The oiliness was comforting. The strip of pork
fat on the plate got a little too warm to be enjoyable.
Next up was a series of crostini. There were
some good individual moments: the garlic on mushroom, the melty cheese,
and the unbelievably tangy and exciting tasting tomato.
Peyman pointed out that the bread
did get a bit soggy given how oil drenched everything was. The
Tagliatelle with Ham and Leek was delicious. I love pasta and this was
no exception. It was a bit peppery on the finish. The pasta spirals with
tomato sauce that followed were not quite as good. They had a great spicy kick,
but were a touch too
herby, and the pasta was slightly undercooked.
We were getting pretty full but soon a platter of San Carlo
Dixi, Cornetti di Mais, al Formaggio arrived. The rice
very good. The savory tomato meat flavored sauce was rich and hearty.
But the penne that followed was even more undercooked than the spirals.
It was inedible. Finally we had a platter with vegetables, cheese, lardetto,
and mushrooms. Unfortunately it was kind of greasy. The fresh vegetables
were great but overall tough to eat.
Two factors conspired to make this not a particularly
great meal (tagliatelle aside). Firstly, there seemed to be an overuse
of oil on the part of the kitchen. I love olive oil as much as almost
anyone. But it seemed overly generous to me. The other issue was that
many people in Italy had a hard time understanding our style of
ordering. We go for breadth, not depth. Our ordering is designed to let
us sample small amounts of as many dishes as possible. The waiter
brought out such enormous communal dishes of each item we ordered that
by the end we were begging for mercy. I suppose if the food had been
more consistent, maybe we wouldn't have minded the enormous portions
quite as much.