Piazza Duomo: Mostly Delights and Challenges
Piazza Duomo: Mostly Delights and Challenges
Piazza Duomo, eight-course Viaggio tasting menu €270 (US$317, £230), Piemonte wine pairing €180 (US$212, £154). Piazza Risorgimento 4, 12051 Alba, Italy. +39 0173 366167. piazzaduomoalba.it.
Written by EatGoSee // See more food reviews here.
Piazza Duomo pioneers modern Italian cooking in delightful Alba, Italy. With 3-Michelin stars and World's 50 Best Listing, this Forza Italia mostly delights.
One of the world's most prestigious restaurants with the awards to show for it
Piemonte wine pairing delivers the most memorable highlights
Burnt lemon risotto is punchy and sublime
The yardstick for service
Vegetable-forward menu that serves peak seasonal food at its best
Pricing will alienate most
Some dishes do not land with a clear sense of direction
At times too clinical and lacks fun
Piazza Duomo is a long-awaited treat
So, this is the moment I longed for. I am not talking about the bill. Although, the resulting bill and my credit card pin shared an uncomfortable number of digits. No, no, I will come back to the bill.
I am talking about the moment I latched eyes on Piazza Duomo’s faded mulberry walls, after booking months ago. After months of anticipation, an hour’s drive and ten hurried minutes walk through ancient and evocative Alba.
Piazza Duomo is a destination restaurant for which hyperbole and superlatives were created in the first place. At number 29, it is the highest-ranked of only two Italian restaurants on the 2019 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. With 3-Michelin Stars, it is one of only eleven 3* Michelin restaurants in Italy. For context, Paris alone has ten 3-Star restaurants (currently). Piazza Duomo sits poised on top of my culinary dining wishlist.
Entrance to Piazza Duomo down a slip of a side street in Alba just off the main Piazza
Piazza Duomo is very much for special occasions
€270 per person for the tasting menu? Sure. These Daliesque figures help suspend disbelief, so I march forward. A staggering €180 for the Piemonte wine pairing? Well, we out here now. I refrain from The Rarities wine pairing which, at €800 per person, resembles the cost of my Emirates Dubai-Milan return ticket. David Constable recommended bolting on the Salad menu with the mains (€40). I trust David unreservedly, but I also drew the line there. If you long to give your credit card a Fight Club-level thrashing then you will be delighted to know Piazza Duomo also offers rooms for an undisclosed figure.
Piazza Duomo’s signature flesh pink dining room with abstract drawings during day time and also at night
Piazza Duomo’s Journey Menu aka Viaggio Menu
Piazza Duomo’s Vaggio Menu second course: uni carpaccio with pecornio and tomato jam served with a Moscato d’Asti (out of shot)
Our dinner mostly delights and challenges us course by course. A collage of uni carpaccio with pecorino cream and tomato jam is served with a nutty and exceptionally smooth almond ice cream laced with even more sea urchin and coffee. An assembly of incongruent ingredients come together harmoniously. This is paired with a meringue-like Moscato d’Asti cloaked in a black wine glass which, we are told, is deliberate. We are instructed to trust the process and lean into the pairing. They are right. Of course, sea urchin, cheese and tomato begs for Moscato in its afterlife.
Piazza Duomo’s first starter course includes an array of salads including this featured mushroom course and a crisp ricotta-stuffed ravioli
The first starter is no less than eleven bowls of various salads including cress clippings stained in a sprightly, umami-rich pesto. Chickpeas coated in sesame seeds add warmth (but I do know a hummus salad when I see it). Milky ricotta supports gardens peas — so deliciously fresh — they are practically still growing in the bowl. A single leaf coated in an exuberant lemon vinaigrette is munched on before candy-like pumpkin morsels. It is misleadingly simple stuff but Mrs EatGoSee and I revel in choosing bowls together and swapping notes.
I slip a spoon into a boisterous burnt lemon risotto with parmesan dusted with the darkest, lip-puckering burnt lemon ash and a scattering of thyme flowers. It is equal parts comfort food and refreshing wake up about three hours into dinner.
Piazza Duomo’s amuse bouche is a ballooned foam scented with ginger (first); candy-sweet pumpkin morsels from the 11-plate starter course (second)
This Burnt Lemon Risotto is so good that I would board a flight to Milan and endure 2 PCR tests just to eat it again
A shallow bowl of cherry tomato gazpacho tastes every inch of summer studded with cherries laced with black olives, basil and tarragon skates between fresh and aromatic. A whole crispy prawn head is sacrificially-presented in the slickest, deepest bisque. Despite these two dishes appearing side-by-side, I am unclear whether they actually work together but, as our waiter told us, there are no rules here.
A Mattise-inspired pannacotta plank is colourfully dressed with fruit and vegetal infusions reimagining La Lumaca. This is served just before an elaborate petit fours course featuring profoundly rich chocolate and hazelnut bites and iced, pert cherries lysing with juice and the unmistakeable goodness of being bang in-season.
Piazza Duomo’s refreshing cherry tomato gazpacho with cherries, olives, basil and tarragon.
Matisse-inspired pannacotta with fruit and vegetable extracts.
Is Piazza Duomo Worth it?
Finding value in a dinner equivalent to a mortgage payment is always tricky. Yet, Mrs EatGoSee and I agree this was one of our best five hours spent in a restaurant together, ever. That’s right, five hours. The Piemonte wine pairing stands firmly as a necessary, integral experience. The sommelier is generous refilling glasses throughout dinner. I do not know what I am missing from the €40 Salads, but the 11 leafy starter bowls gave me enough.
Now is the moment to unpack an earlier seeded observation. Piazza Duomo soars creating cumulative expectations course on course. This precision cooking, like an Italian sports car, is finely tuned, focused engineering. At its best, Enrico Crippa delivers not only what Piazza Duomo says on paper or what the awards signify. Piazza Duomo gracefully hand delivers that rarest of things: the amorphous abstract of all your hopes and dreams.
Piazza Duomo’s crispy prawn head served with the tomato gazpacho and cherries (first); While quite pricey, the Piemonte wine pairing is an essential add on to the menu and comes highly recommended (second)
However, precision engineering often means compromise for both driver and designer.
Piazza Duomo does present some lows and one dull thud. A sous-vide codfish blanketed with a saffron and ginger gossamer is subtle to the point of missing in action altogether. The fassona veal shingled with bedsheet-thin black truffle over a foie gras smear underwhelms. No one ingredient stands out on its own nor above the others. Lastly, the deer loin under a hedge of sea fennel leaf with a sidecar of Mexican cucumbers does not deliver the carnivorous red meat wallop I longed for after 6 rounds of daintiness.
Lastly, it does feel churlish to say but Piazza Duomo could be a little more, well, fun. The staff provide flickers of charm and amusement and the ‘bowl swapping’ during the starters sparks joy. Yet overall, dining as a form of entertainment feels a bit missing. I do not want circus performers and, for god’s sake, no dry ice, but all this exacting execution lacks the roaring thrill of the Italian sports car. I regularly eat out on my own and I am a little relieved I did not do so at Piazza Duomo.
Piazza Duomo’s codfish under a blanket of saffron with ginger spiced broth was not memorable for the right reasons (first); The truffles were only visually present but otherwise undetectable with this Fassona veal and foie gras
Piazza Duomo’s deer loin main course is disappointing as this is a red meat main course that fails to deliver a gutsy impact after many delicate courses
Would I Return to Piazza Duomo?
Nonetheless, I waddle away knowing this is once in a lifetime experience: rare, enjoyable and lives rent-free in my memories. I would return as unlikely as that may be.
Who Should Come to Piazza Duomo?
Michelin star foragers, fans of modern dining and modern Italian dining, a monied set. People looking for a very special occasion restaurant.
Piazza Duomo’s memorable petit fours include chocolate wrapped hazelnuts and these perfect cherries on ice