Although almost everywhere else it is often just a plain homemade meal, in Piedmont boiled meat is a true art, a dish that has something sacred about it: we are talking about bollito misto alla piemontese (Piedmont-style mixed meat).
Or better yet, let’s call it by its official name: Grande Bollito Storico Risorgimentale Piemontese.
A dish that has made history
Tradition shows us that boiled meat is, virtually a plain dish in every region of Italy, and is often called ‘lesso’ (boiled meat) and closely linked to the production of broth, from which boiled meat is then obtained and eaten with the addition of salt, mustards and various sauces.
A dish available everywhere, but it was meticulously codified in Piedmont as early as 1887, in the book by Giovanni Vailardi, Cucina borghese. Easy and convenient.
Why? Its success on the tables and in the favourites of two of the most famous personalities of the time, the Count of Cavour and the first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II.
The latter, it seems, appreciated simple things like a glass of Barbera wine and a plate of boiled meat… and he unabashedly described the court of Turin as ‘bigoted and boring’, given that it did not share his rustic tastes.
But what does this sumptuous dish of mixed boiled meat look like?
First, we need to remember a number that we would call ‘magic’: seven.
There are seven main cuts of meat (beef), seven cuts of other meats (called ammennicoli, or offal), seven sauces to serve as accompaniments, and seven side dishes to go with a nice, colourful dish.
Obviously, no kidding, the meat must be of a strictly Piedmontese breed, the famous Fassona known and appreciated all over the world.
A short overview: the seven cuts of boiled meat must be tenerone (chuck roll), fiocco di punta (rib tips), cappello del prete (top blade), pancia or scaramella (beef ribs), punta di petto (brisket) and noce (rump). To these must be added the boiled meat cuts, which are always head (yes, with snout, ear and eyes), tongue, trotter, tail, hen and cotechino.
The pieces of meat must be cooked separately, based on the time required by their characteristics and the type of animal, in water that is already boiling and flavoured with classic herbs and vegetables.
And if these rules seem exaggerated to you, they are not so for the Confraternita del Bollito, founded in 1984 in Guarene d’Alba (province of Cuneo), the cradle of the breeding of the Piedmontese breed used to form the magic cart.
This is a serious matter in Piedmont.
Where to eat bollito in Piedmont
After learning the basics, here are four good places to eat boiled meats in the Barolo region.
Osteria del Borgo – Carrù
The classic of classics: here boiled meats are available all year round, in a friendly, family-run setting, with the added bonus of a super-stocked wine cellar and the possibility of eating the most traditional dishes of Piedmontese cuisine, from hors d’oeuvre to desserts.
Osteria Amarotto – Casale Monferrato
Here the boiled meat cart can is only served when the air starts to become chilly, but it is worth waiting for the right season. But if you come in summer, you will find bagna cauda, raw meat, and freshly made pasta dishes. A rather irresistible menu is all on the menu, but you need to save some room for the krumiri with zabaione to enjoy after the meal. It is worth it.
A restaurant that has been serving traditional dishes at a very high level for 60 years, including the classic veal with tuna sauce, sought-after mushrooms and “battuta di carne”: the large trolley of boiled meats can be enjoyed upon reservation. All in an elegant, refined, classy ambience, right in the centre of Turin.
La Locanda del Bollito
A rather simple ambience with wooden tables and an informal service, an excellent choice both for important dinners and for quick lunches with samples of two or three pieces of boiled meat. Only four tables, the surroundings are homely, but the quality is absolutely high.