Pila or Bust-Eating in Valle d’Aosta

by cakeduchess on June 23, 2011 · 30 comments

If you’ve never been to Italy, or even if you’ve been there, it may be difficult to fathom that sometimes the most amazing meal can be found in the most unobvious place. A delicious meal can be found in the middle of a bustling highway at an Auto Grill; or on a cold and dark mountain road in the middle of the day.

We were driving up a cold and foggy mountain road in the middle of the day and had lost all hope for finding a decent meal. It’s the middle of June and we were in Valle d’Aosta. It was supposed to be sunny and warm.  We approached a charming small hotel and restaurant Chacaril and were not sure what to expect.

We entered and saw a quaint room warmed by a fireplace filled with workers in plaid shirts and construction boots. Sitting in their gorgeous hand-carved chairs that almost looked too small to accommodate their bodies, they paused while putting in the next pasta bite as if to say, “You found our secret place.”

Mario welcomed us with a warm smile and “Buon giorno!” and took us to our table. He suggested we start with a  typical antipasto plate from the Valle d’Aosta region: nocetta (which is like bresaola),lardo (lard), butter, sweet chestnuts, and honey. This is how you do it: butter spread on a slice of homemade bread, a little nocetta or lardo, a drizzle of honey. Unbelievable flavor combination that I would’ve never imagined trying. The sweet/salty flavor of the lardo mixed with the creamy butter and the surprise drizzle of honey on top. I was in love with this new antipasto.

I could’ve been satisfied with eating that all day. But we had to move on to more typical plates of Valle d’Aosta.  Penne with panna, speck, and zucchini. We also had agnolotti with artichokes and fonduta sauce.
After the pasta, there was room for one more dish from the region: grilled polenta with cinghiale. Cinghiale is wild boar and they made it with porcini mushrooms.
The last diners left and Mario had time to sit with us and talk a little about the products of Valle d’Aosta. He brought us a wine from the area that was so rich you could taste the earth, flowers, and grass from the mountains in every sip. He brought us Fontina D.O.P. cheese. A cheese that he explained must be eaten with this wine. The cheese was phenonemenal and I ate 1/2 of it before taking a photo.
The Fontina D.O.P. also had a honey that goes perfectly with it: a delicious chestnut honey.
We were there for hours. I watched the rain drizzle outside as I sipped my wine and ate the last bite of cheese while listening to Mario and Fabrizio talk about food in Italy compared to food in America. The difference in the quality of products and the way they are enjoyed.

Maria offered us the crostata they make for dessert. I’m sad to say there wasn’t room this time for another bite. We will return to visit our new friends at Chacaril and definitely have a slice of crostata.Winking smile
CIAO from Italia! I hope you are enjoying these posts and photos.SmileThank you for stopping by!!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Ethan June 23, 2011 at 7:44 am

I was smiling and getting hungry while reading this. I love the passion that “this cheese must be eaten with this wine”
Glad you’re having such a wonderful time and stumbling onto little adventures like this one:)
keep eating!


Lauren M June 23, 2011 at 9:21 am



Ilke June 23, 2011 at 10:41 am

Yes I am enjoying the posts and pictures! Have fun and enjoy your every bite!


claudia lamascolo June 23, 2011 at 11:50 am

What gorgeous photo’s I feel like we are there with you! In spirit for sure… lovelys post!


Susan Lindquist June 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

What I loved even more than the food was the description of your host’s level of hospitality and interest in being sure you sampled the best of his region … I miss that when I go to small diners and restaurants in America … we are very much pre-packaged and assume that diners don’t want interaction with the chefs and restaurantowners … au contraire!

Safe travels! Enjoy your time in Italy!


Happy When Not Hungry June 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Love your photos!! Buon viaggio!


Angela@RecipesFromMyMom June 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Mmm, Italian food porn! Thanks for sharing your fabulous meals and travels with us. Hope you can make room for the crostata.


The Vanilla Bean Baker June 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

What a delightful find for you. I clicked on the link you provided, such a beautiful little retreat tucked in the mountains. They have a special offer that says *Be Happy By Nature*…how fitting! Your photographs and description of your three hours are lovely. Nothing like the pride that comes with a family run business.


Lauren at Keep It Sweet June 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

This reminded me of why I loved Tuscany so much… the food and the people, it is just such an experience! Thank you for sharing and letting me feel like I was there with you:-)


Sanjeeta kk June 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Italy and cheese..how many variations and versions do they have! Love the picture of the drive way. Good that you had fun. Hugs.


Evan @swEEts June 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Oh my goodness you just made my mouth water at all that delicious looking food. Fabulous.. I’m so jealous of your adventures overseas! What I wouldn’t give to be on a trip like that right now!!


Jennifurla June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

woah, you have me so jealous. What a special meal.


Junia June 23, 2011 at 7:56 pm

wow, decadent food!!! i wish i were in italy right now~~


Georgie June 24, 2011 at 1:42 am

Thank you for introducing us to such wonderful flavors combinations. It’s wonderful you get to travel and visit family, I was wondering where you were. I love going to Greece and visiting my grandparents, the food seems to taste so much fresher and I always learn something new. My last visit we made Restina wine, not my favorite, though the family loved it! Enjoy & have a fabulous time.


A Thought For Food June 24, 2011 at 1:43 am

Can I just say that I’m incredibly jealous of your trip. I am dying to travel to Italy and this post has just increased my interest.


Xinmei @ Pudding Pie Lane June 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Sometimes the best places are found when you’re not looking for them, this secret hideaway looks amazing! And I love sitting inside with the rain outside, it feels really nice and atmospheric that way :) And I want to try some of that cinghiale!


Anna and Liz Recipes June 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

We are in Italy all the time! And we love your site! So glad we found you! Thanks…:)


foodwanderings June 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Sounds like you are having an amazing trip dear Lora!! Keep enjoying life travels and food. your friend, Shulie


Savory Sweet Living June 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Love reading about all the tasty delights you’re experiencing in Italy. Thanks for sharing and now I want some grilled polenta with cinghiale!


Kathy June 24, 2011 at 11:39 pm

What a lovely post! I so enjoyed reading about your eating adventures! Safe travels…enjoy your trip!


Mari June 25, 2011 at 12:07 am

The food is very different…everything looks so delicious! The cheese and the chestnut honey it must be sensational. I wish I was there :) Enjoy your vacation :)


Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels June 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I’m loving all of your posts on Italy! I want to eat that entire plate of pasta and all of the cheese. YUM!!! :)


Pacheco Patty June 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Such a wonderful trip, sounds like you are savoring every moment of it!
I just made your Catholic Guilt cake and we all enjoyed it;-)
Have fun, how could you not;-)


Reeni June 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

So much good food Lora! You’d have to roll me out of there! I’m suddenly craving pasta and zucchini. xoxo


Sandra June 26, 2011 at 1:13 am

I am totally jealous..:)) everything looks amazing Lora..ohh that antipasto look incredible.. Looks like you are having great time!!!


Betty @ scrambled henfruit June 26, 2011 at 3:25 am

I love to travel vicariously through blogging friends. :) This sounds like a phenomenal trip with fabulous food! I hope you’re having a wonderful time!


Boulder Locavore June 26, 2011 at 11:38 am

How fun to ride along with you! I recently discovered a local source for lardo and am completely smitten with it. Hope you are feeling great and enjoying a wonderful trip!


mellissina2 June 26, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Micsoda jó dolgok történnek!!!!!


Anonymous June 27, 2011 at 2:22 am

That chestnut honey sounds delicious and your trip is making me want to go to Italy ASAP! Happy Eating!
-Karriann Graf


Lizzy June 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Yes, I could just eat plate after plate of that antipasto plate (with maybe just a sliver of crostata!). What a delightful meal~


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