Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia

Great Wine and Food in the Italian Alps

The 2004 Winter Olympics held in the Turin area of northwestern Italy introduced many people to the fabulous skiing and winter sports available in the Italian Alps. However, my recent visit to the Valle d'Aosta area (the actual name of the region) in late summer revealed that there are also many beautiful sights throughout the valley (including ancient Roman ruins in the capital city of Aosta). Though the sights were impressive, my main purpose for visiting was to taste the local food and sample the local wine. Both proved to be a most pleasant experience.

Before the trip my research indicated that one of the finest restaurants in Valle d'Aosta was to be found in the quaint small town of Cogne, located a short drive up the mountain (everything is up or down a mountain here) from Aosta in the breathtaking Parco Nationale. When you drive through Cogne you come upon a lush meadow with alpine cows wearing traditional bell collars. Just past the town center is Ristorante Lou Ressignon (, a restaurant that author Fred Plotkin in his book Italy for the Gourmet Traveler called the best in Valle d'Aosta. "Lou Ressignon" is not the name of a person; it means "midnight snack" in the local dialect.

The restaurant was started in 1966 by Arturo Allera and is today carried on by his children, Elisabetta and Davide. Elisabetta manages the business and Davide serves as Chief Chef. Featured dishes are local delicacies using local products cooked to perfection by Davide and his staff.

Elisabetta and Davide Aller
Elisabetta and Davide Allera in Ristorante Lou Ressignon. Photo: Terry Duarte.
I had asked Ms. Allera to choose only local wines that she felt typified the wines of Valle d'Aosta. With the antipasto and primo courses Ms. Allera served two white wines of the area. She began with Muscat de Chambave La Gazzella Voyat 2006 from the estate of Ezio Voyat. This vineyard is located about 10 miles east of Aosta. The wine is a local version of Muscato Bianco which I generally do not like, but this dry (not sweet) Muscat was actually very good with the classic Muscat taste. The second wine served with these courses was Petit Arvine Cave des Onze Communes 2006. This wine is the local version of the Swiss Valais and was really quite good. It was light and somewhat fruity with a very pleasant aftertaste. I highly recommend this wine for appetizers or first courses.

Now we move to the first two courses. The antipasto consisted of a combination of prosciutto di San Marcel and lardo (don't laugh if you haven't tried lardo. The taste was unbelievable). The primo course was one of the restaurant's signature dishes, Seupetta a la Cogneintze. It consisted of a bread and Fontina cheese (a specialty of the area) risotto which was truly excellent. At this point in the meal I knew we had a serious candidate for my top restaurant list.

Next we were served the secondo or meat dish. Ms. Allera chose a Saro Diablo Feudo di S. Maurizio, a red wine from the Feudo di San Maurizio winery. This wine did not have a DOCG or DOC application, sold only as a Vini da Tavola. It was a blend of seven grapes (Barbera Freisa, Ciliegiolo, Dolcetta, Gamay, Petir Rouge, Fumin and Premetta) with a ruby appearance and was aged in bottles for one year. Its slighty fruity nose and light wood taste fit perfectly with the next dish. The secondo was Carbonada, a beef stew in red wine served with polenta. Both the wine and the Carbonada were of the same lofty standard as the previous dishes and wines.

We finished with their version of apple strudel and amaretti biscuits and ice cream. After an excellent Aosta Valley coffee I sat there and told my wife that this meal was one of the finest I had ever tasted and that the wines of Valle d'Aosta, at least those we sampled, were a hidden jewel.

Lou Ressignon restaurant outside sign
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the northwestern part of Italy or Turin, a trip to Valle d'Aosta should be a must for you. Winter or summer there is a lot to see and I recommend you consider a visit to Cogne with a meal at Lou Ressignon and possibly a night or two stay. They have several rooms and this removes the need to drive back down the mountain after great food and wine. One last point is that the wine list at the restaurant is excellent and the wines are not priced with the normally high restaurant markup.

Lou Ressignon definitely is an addition to my list of the best restaurants in Italy.

November 2009

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