Valle d’Aosta

Well, November hasn’t quite started out like a typical autumn-to-winter month. I picked up some heaters for the courtyard to extend the outdoor dining season a little. But as I write this, the heaters remain unused and the courtyard is full for lunch under a blue sky and in warm 80º breezes. I’m not complaining!

But this month we’re celebrating the smallest and coldest of the Italian regions—the Valle d’Aosta.

The valley is a crucial connecting point between north and south, east and west in the Italian alps. It was so significant that way back in Roman times they named it after Caesar Augustus (‘Aosta’ being the transliteration of ‘Augustus’ or ‘bold one’ from the Latin to the local dialect).

And, like any significant geographic access point, it’s been claimed by nearly every empire, kingdom, and nation in that part of europe—even by Celts and Ligures. The Italian border has ebbed and flowed across this region like the ocean tide. And all these influences persist today in the multinational names of mountains, rivers, and villages.

And then there’s the food…

The modest growing season and lack of salt water (Valle d’Aosta is one of only 4 out of the 20 Italian regions that doesn’t have a coastline) focuses the local cuisine on winter-hearty bitter greens, cured meats, and loads of dairy. Also unique to the rest of the Italian mainland, you won’t find a lot of pasta on the menu. In stead, you’ll find influences from classic French country cooking and Belgian brewing sensibilities.

So if it ever gets cold this month, you’ll definitely want to come into the restaurant, settle into a cosy corner, and enjoy a fontina fondue or gnocchi alla bava.

I’ll let you know soon about cooking class recipes and give you a peek at December’s events and menu, too.