Relais San Maurizio

June 13, 2008

The best restaurant in the Piemonte used to be Da Guido in Costigliole d’Asti. We went several times and were always delighted with the food and the interior ambiance. But after Guido Alciati died, his wife, Lidia, and their three sons who had all worked in the restaurant, decided to close it. The two eldest sons went on to other projects and their influence can be found in several places in the region. Lidia and the youngest son, Andrea, joined with a new project on a hilltop south of Costigliole, the Relais San Maurizio, which is now a Relais et Châteaux hotel, spa and restaurant. Linda and I stayed and dined there the evening of June 5, 2008.

Built as a Franciscan monestary in the seventeenth century, the complex was bought by an Italian count in 1862 and converted into his residence. The present owners bought it about ten years ago. They have made substantial restorations and modernisations. The surrounding gardens are lovely and the views in all directions are spectacular.

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The view from our hotel room.

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Photos on our walk around the gardens just before dinner.

The restaurant, Guido da Costigliole, is in several rooms in the vaulted lower level. The tables are well spaced. Andrea Alciati presides over the dining room. The menu is not very elaborate and emphasizes regional specialties. There is a choice between à la carte and a basic “tasting menu,” which we selected. The refreshing apéritif was a glass of Asti spumante. We ordered a bottle of the 1989 Francesco Rinaldi (Cannubi) Barolo, which was sensational. The wine lists are large and the fine local selection very reasonably priced.

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The antipasto was shredded rabbit with vegetables, veal tartare and Russian salad.

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Our first course was “Il” vitello tonnato. This was another variation on a traditional dish we had already been served twice in the last two days, but it was good.

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The second course was Gli agnolotti di Lidia. The menu estimates that Lidia Alciati has made almost five million agnolotti by hand during the last forty-five years. She is 79 years old and still makes the agnolotti every day. She now leaves the rest of the cuisine to another chef. In an interview five years ago she described how she prepares her filling: “Allora, I put onion, carrots, rosemary in a roasting pan, then add pork cut in pieces, veal, rabbit, and let it take some color. Ten minutes before it’s finished cooking, I add the raw spinach, then remove everything, let it cool and pass it through the meat grinder. Once everything is ground, I add some egg to moisten it and some Parmesan.”  We loved them, of course. They had a richness that was delicious, but was not overpowering.

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The third course was a piece of braised Fassone, the excellent local beef, on a mashed potato base. It was good, but so rich we couldn’t finish it.

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The dessert was ice cream with a caramel sauce.

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There were elaborate mignardises.

We enjoyed the meal, but, except for the agnolotti, it was not at all like the restaurant that Da Guido had been. Nor was it what I would expect in a restaurant with a Michelin star in a Relais et Châteaux hotel. It was just a good regional restaurant with an exceptional wine list.

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In the morning we enjoyed the elaborate buffet in the ornate breakfast room.
 

http://www.relaissanmaurizio.it/new/entra-ing.asp

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