The PezCycling Giro Trip 2017 indulges the culinary senses in some of north west Italy’s best restaurants. Peter Easton has hand picked these favorites – as our daily reward for riding some of Italian cycle sport’s best stages.
–Words by Peter Easton of VeloClassic.com—
It’s no secret that the thrill of traveling with your bike is found in the adventure that lay beneath the wheels, the roads that are traversed, the mountains climbed and descended and the abundance of history that rolls beneath you. But an equally important part that rounds out every vacation day is where those roads lead to – and in our case – it’ll be some of the best Italian cuisine we know of.
And if you’re like me, there’s as much pleasure taken in where I end up at day’s end as there was in getting there. Italy is known as a social culture, whether you’re riding your bike, stopping for a coffee and a pastry, or settling in for dinner with excellent company to explore the diversity of culinary riches Italy offers. And while it may seem a bit dramatic, this is all part of our PEZ Giro della Gazzetta tour – this May 27 – June 4th.
The Heart of Fashion… And Food
Every province of Italy is reflective of its people, local customs and food. This is what makes the country so dynamic, chaotic and enjoyable. Perhaps the most highly regarded, modernized city that is expressive of the Italian life is Milan. The capital of Lombardy, the city is at the heart of fashion, design, politics and industry. Food of course is equally as important, and with the fertile Po River Valley as a resource, the culinary stars here do things a bit different than the more southerly provinces.
Butter replaces olive oil and meat is the main staple- think veal Milanese – and risotto and polenta tend to outshine the ubiquitous pasta dishes. Inside the city, in the hip Porta Ticinese neighborhood, chef Mauricio Zillo is celebrating Milanese cuisine at his tiny restaurant, Rebelot del Pont. Zillo is one of a wave of new chefs that is changing the dynamic of how Italians are approaching their cuisine, especially in the metropolitan areas of Milan, Rome, Florence, Torino and Venice.
“The purpose of a chef is to make sure that your clients enjoy the dishes you cook. It is their opinions that matters the most, even more than the Michelin’s stars.” Zillo says. He has worked for some of the best chefs in Europe, including Juan Marie Arzak in San Sebastian. “This work provides immediate rewards: you make a dish, propose it, and see the results right away. Having a restaurant fully booked is a great pleasure, but if it is full of returning customers, it’s the best.” A clear indication that the seriousness and pleasure of eating is as much an adventure as cycling on is on this trip.
Somewhere Beyond The Sea
The wonderful sights and aromas of the Mediterranean are easily digested in this crescent moon shaped province of Liguria. The coast of Liguria is well known to us as the route for Milan-Samremo. The region is also famous as the flower capital of Europe and for the creation of Pesto Genovese. The land above the coast consists of very little arable land for farming, so pine nuts, basil and olives are indigenous.
Fish of course is abundant, and in the city of San Remo, not far from where La Classicissima’s sprint takes place on Via Roma, is the restaurant of Paolo and Barbara Masieri. Chef Paolo personally selects the fish twice a day for his menu, and everything served in his restaurant comes from a 50-kilometer distance along the coast or into the mountains to the west. His menu changes seasonally, much like the Ligurians have learned over the centuries with an area that is not overly rich in produce.
Alpine Climbs & Hearty Dishes
As one heads into the mountains of the Maritime Alps and the region of Piemonte to the west of Liguria, mountain cuisine is at the heart of any recipe, with rugged terrain, harsh winters and rocky soil dictating what can be sourced. Like Lombardy, dairy cattle are in abundance, so cheese and butter are primary sources of sustenance that highlight the kitchen table. Risotto with gran Padano cheese, salumi and fontina cheese, polenta with taleggio cheese. And of course, there are truffles, perhaps Piemonte’s most prized and expensive delicacy. Though only available in the fall, its intoxicating aroma dresses dishes from starters to desserts and is a profound sense of pride to Piemontese chefs.
No visit to Piemonte is complete without a stay in the region’s capital city of Torino, home to FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Nutella and the wonderful world of aged sweet vermouth. The energetic city hosts the finish of the fall classic Milano-Torino, and played host to the Giro d’Italia finish last year. The city is a great example of the Piemonte region’s celebration of the Slow Food Movement and Il Maestro del Gusti, two organizations that celebrate the heritage and excellence of Italian gastronomy in Piemonte.
Cyclists are aware of the Cinzano brand of vermouth, which is type of fortified wine that was founded in Torino in the mid 1800’s. One informal restaurant that expresses the flavors and soul of this hidden gem of a city is l’Orologio. It’s pretty much everything you want all wrapped up in one – artisanal cocktails and beer, wine bar, café, music venue and of course, restaurant, with food ranging from small plates like cappellacci – a small pasta stuffed with hazelnuts – to smoked and dried meats, to a terrific risotto. In a city famous for its taste and its chocolate, the best finish to any meal here is with Dolce Torinese, a rich chocolate torte containing almonds and butter cookies.
Travel gives one a multitude of experiences to engage in, both on and off the bike. Embracing cultures, foods, customs, history and the people is as rewarding – if not, more – than the effort by bike it takes to get there. And regardless of how long and how hard that effort is, it is always worth it.
Join Pete & The Pez for a week of riding, eating and drinking like no other:
Trip Dates: May 27 – June 4, 2017
Accommodation: 8 nights
PEZ Kit for all: Each guest receives an official PezCycling jersey, bibshorts and kit accessories
See full details at Veloclassic.com/tour/2017-giro-ditalia/