It’s not often that you eat somewhere so good that it inspires an entire new series of blogs… but that’s exactly what happened to me last Sunday. So here, in the first of what I hope will be a long-running series, is a review of Agnulot, a relatively new restaurant in Verduno.
What is it?
Agnulot is a tiny little restaurant in Verduno’s old school building. When I say tiny, I mean five tables, 18 covers, tiny. It is run and entirely staffed by two women, Shira and Mirella. Owners, chefs, waiting staff… these two do everything.
Their idea was to create a restaurant that would feel like having friends over for dinner. Whenever they get the chance, they roam from table to table, chatting with diners, and the small menu, inspired by the local Langhe cusine, and packed with fresh, seasonal ingredients changes from week to week.
What’s the atmosphere like?
The restaurant may be small, but it is perfectly formed. Alongside those five tables is a bench looking directly into the spotless kitchen, which is separated from the dining area by a large pane of glass. From every table you can see right into the kitchen and watch the masters at work. With the chefs serving as well as cooking, it all feels very much like one big room. The dining area itself is bright and airy with lots of great details, like lights made from old wine barrels and others bashed into shape from the metal rings of those same barrels. It’s relaxed and friendly, with the feel of a dinner party, but at the same time feels special, like you’ve been invited to join some sort of secret club for the evening.
And the menu?
Like the restaurant, the menu is small, comprising of one antipasto, one primo, a secondo and a choice of puddings. You can either choose what you would like or take everything. We did the latter, obviously.
The menu changes every week and is announced on the restaurant’s facebook page. They can also do vegetarian versions of most dishes, and can cater to any other special requirements, such as celiacs, vegans, Tottenham supporters… with a bit of advanced warning.
How’s the wine list?
The wine list is equally small, but expanding steadily. A lot of restaurants pride themselves on having a wine list so weighty it requires three sommeliers with a trolley to transport it to your table. Here, you get to choose from three or four wines of each of the local varieties, all from different, mostly small, producers, all carefully selected by Shira and Mirella. I’m sure some people enjoy flicking through page after page of Nebbiolos, all from the same town, but personally I much prefer being able to say “Nebbiolo? Ok, this one or this one?” safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be on the list if the chefs didn’t love it! When the menu suits, they also offer wine from other parts of the world… hard as it may be to believe, some locals get sick of drinking Nebbiolo and Barolo all the time and get quite excited at the thought of a good Californian Chardonnay!
Why should you go there?
Firstly, because the food is amazingly good. There’s no shortage of great restaurants in the Langhe, but for me, this place is up there with the very best. Everything was perfect. The flavours, the freshness, the presentation, the service, the wine… honestly, I don’t have one bad thing to say.
And secondly, for the atmosphere, the feeling of being somewhere special, surrounded by friends. We felt like for a few hours we had been a part of something bigger, it wasn’t just a meal, it was an occasion. A really nice, friendly, delicious occasion that we will remember for a long time.
What we ate:
Homemade bread and grissini
Cotechino on a bed of potato purée and sauerkraut
Artichoke ravioli with a guineafowl sauce
Rump steak in breadcrumbs with seasonal roasted vegetables
What we drank:
I Brè Langhe Nebbiolo 2015
What we paid:
93 Euros for two people, including food, wine and cover charge.