Villa San Carlo is in Cortemelia, a commune in the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region of Piedmont. The original center of Cortemelia is said to be of pre-Roman origin. On a Food and Wine Tour in Italy in 2013, our group was fortunate enough to stay there and experience the incredible culinary skills of the owner and chef, Carlo Zarri. Not surprising is that Carlo is a close friend of our travel agent extraordinaire, Roberto Torrini.
We stayed several nights and enjoyed a special dinner each evening. There was an opening reception for us on the garden patio with wine and cheese. This was followed by a 5-course dinner with wine pairings. (1) Fried Potato Gnocchi with Artichoke Sauce (2) Traditional Tomato Soup with Crostino Bread (3) Hand-Made Traditional Ravioli with Black Summer Truffles (4) Little Chicken Fillets with Hazelnut Sauce and Smash Potatoes with Red Beet, and (5) Sweet Surprise with Hazelnuts served on a plate with our names written in Chocolate. Then Carlo made cappuccinos and wished us a good night. He cooked like that for us every night.
There were 3 courses and 2 wines the next night. (1) Nettle Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Hazelnuts (2) Pork Loin with Roasted Peppers, Mixed Greens and Bundled Green Beans (3) Coffee Panacotta with Chocolate Drizzle for dessert.
Carlo took us to his kitchen the next day and taught us how to make Gnocchi which was used in our dinner that night. (1) Our Gnocchi with Tomatoes sautéed in garlic-infused Olive Oil, Caramelized Onions and Fresh Rosemary (2) Two Veal chops served with Raisins and Garlic-Infused Olive Oil and Baby Onions, and (3) Moscato Gelatin with Fresh Berries for dessert. We watched the magic happen in the kitchen with the veal.
The grand finale and our last night in Cortemelia was extra special (as if the others were not!!!) (1) Tuma Cheese Wrapped in Hazelnuts and Served with Caramelized Onions (2) Risotto with Castelmagno & Rosemary (3) Veal Tenderloin ala Sophia Loren (Her favorite that Carlo always makes for her) with Mixed Vegetable Reduction over Val Wrapped in Filo Dough and Served with Polenta Cake with Spinach Straccialtella. This was carved tableside by Carlo, and (4) His Grandmother’s Pudding for Dessert – plate decorated with strawberries and “Arrivederci” written in Chocolate.
Noted for one of the most famous types of hazelnuts, the Tonda Gentile di Langa, every August the town celebrates it with a Hazelnut Fair. Hence the use of hazelnuts in many of Carlo’s recipes.
The Other Thing – It seems to me that Carlo Zarri could be a Top Chef in America, have his own Food Network show and be the “toast of the town”. But he is content to stay in his lovely Cortemelia and prepare his amazing dishes for his guests. I was thrilled to be one of those very privileged guests!!