Part two - Piedmont
One of the best restaurants in the U.S. invests in customer service by taking the staff to Italy every year.
I have had the pleasure to patronize the Barolo Grill in Denver, Colorado for more than 20 years. Of the many constants during those years is an excellent, dare I say exciting, dining experience, convivial atmosphere and low staff turnover. Contributing to all of those is the owners’ commitment to staff training and immersion in Italian culture by organizing an annual trip to Italy.
As a sales professional in the wine industry, and by living in the neighborhood, I have had a “bird’s-eye” view of the growth of the restaurant’s food and wine program. The wine program has particular pedigree, gaining momentum under owner Blair Taylor, who moved on to focus on his wine importing business, to currently being owned by Ryan Fletter, who took the wine program to its current level over the past 2 decades.
Barolo Grill has been acknowledge by many of the industry leaders for its excellence. Among those recent accolades:
Wine Spector Magazine- Grand Award of Excellence
Wine Enthusiast Magazine- named among America’s Best Wine Restaurants
Conde Naste Traveler- 22 Best Restaurants in Denver
Open Table – Top 100 restaurants in the U.S. for Wine Lovers
I invite you to enjoy my guest blogger, owner of Barolo Grill, Ryan Fletter, as he shares his adventure with the Barolo Grill team in July, 2018. If you love Italian food and wine, this article is for you. This is part two, of a two-part posting. Read part one here
Barolo Grill’s trip to Italy 2018, Part Two
We continued our Italian gastronomic pilgrimage northbound. We started from the rolling Tuscan hills, encased by big sturdy red wine–centric areas, then went eastbound for crisp white wines of local varieties like verdicchio and local seafood at the seaside coastal Adriatic Sea. We passed endless sunflower fields (or girasole, named for the fact they ‘turn to the sun’) as we moved further up through the inland areas of Emilia-Romagna passing the flat farmlands surrounding Modena and Parma. Along the way we visited artisan facilities responsible for producing prosciutto, balsamico, and various cheeses.
Lambrusco is the common local wine of the Emilia-Romagna area. This simple, fresh, and fruity sparkling (almost frothy) red is delicious and cold. Like a grape popsicle, it keeps you slurping for more. After a few bottles of that, however, we were ready for some serious wines.
We landed in the heart of Piemonte, the land of white and black truffles and the birthplace of the great nebbiolo-based wines of which Barbaresco and Barolo reside. The noble wine grapes used for Barolo, called nebbiolo, are some of the most treasured vines in the world and produce some of the greatest wines on the planet, arguably. Picture this, hazelnut, peach, and apricot trees and vineyards spread as far as the eye can see!
Our first mouthful of nebbiolo was at the eponymous Bruno Giacosa winery in Barbaresco. This is one of the most famous wineries in the area; it helped elevate this once poor farmland region to the high designation it enjoys today. After our visit, we set up base camp in the town of Alba. This town is famous for birthing a Roman Emperor and as the palatial epicenter for the kingdom ‘House of Savoy,’ but it’s also the epicenter of the world-famous gastronomical treasure, the rare white truffle. After we settled in, we toured other stunning wineries like Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy and Poderi Colla, both early founding firms in this dolcetto-, barbera-, and nebbiolo-rich area.
One of the most anticipated events for the team—and one that never fails to provide inspiration for the Barolo Grill culinary program—is our dining experience at Michelin-star restaurant Massimo Camia. Chef Massimo, his wife Luciana, and his son Iacopo were awaiting us in their dining room upon arrival. We began the meal with amuse bouches of lightly fried sardines and guinea-fowl-cream-filled meringues. We continued with vitello tonnato, which is composed of thin slices of veal slightly seared and topped with a thick tuna sauce and caper berries. The dishes kept coming…cannelloni di riso nero (black rice pasta filled with cod bathing in a seafood fume’); coniglio di pepperoni (rabbit roasted and lightly breaded served with roasted sweet red and yellow peppers. The pasta here, in particular, is always inspiring: We fell for the tortellini con ricotta, fresh pasta stuffed with ricotta and herbs, whose golden hue comes from the almost-orange egg yolks). Chef Truett has created a hybrid of a few of these dishes by taking fresh egg-rich pasta (similar to a tortellini) and stuffing it with rabbit sausage to create agnolotti del plin. This dish will be joining Barolo’s menu later this year.
As we moved to the next course, bistecca di manzo (piemontese beef roasted and sliced, topped with reduced veal stock and red wine reduction), we drank gorgeous older vintage Barolo wines. Iacopo tended to the table throughout the whole experience while Luciana served plates and Massimo came out to explain each dish.
We finished with the best meringues you have ever tasted, and all of our team was floating on air, getting ready for our next visit to the swimming pool that awaited us at winery Poderi Gianni Gagliardo, in the Barolo countryside. We were so hospitably welcomed with glasses of their crisp local white grape variety favorita from special large double magnum bottles. This wine is currently on the list and is being poured by the glass. The winery is located in the heart of the Barolo wine region, just a stone’s throw from where we wined and dined, and were wowed, yet again.
FYI - Ryann has also shared this story with 5280 Magazine.