The song of young Gallo

At Locanda del Pilone in Alba a chef born in 1987 gives a convincing display of his creativity and respect for Piedmont

10-09-2017

Federico Gallo at Locanda del Pilone. The service, led by Sofia Brunelli (photo by Tanio Liotta) is professional, competent and confident

Photogallery

Our dinner at Locanda del Pilone, depicted by Tanio Liotta. First the appetizers: Chips of sweet potatoes, sour cream and salted cod carpaccio
Sandwich with almonds and octopus pâté
Bau (or baozi, that is to say the Chinese steamed roll stuffed ) with a sauce of hare. Excellent
Sphere of olives with Aperol spritz

There’s a perhaps a way to sum up the soul of Locanda del Pilone. It’s a word: sobriety. Of great elegance, of course: but sobriety. This belongs to the Borolis, to begin with, that is to say to the reserved family of great and historic entrepreneurs (since 1831. First in textile industry, then in the book industry and now in wine making too) who had the idea of this place. The site, an old farm preserving its historic characteristics, charms with its old noble Piedmontese attractiveness; the ancient furniture, a rustic-chic elegance without ostentation, with details that reveal the careful attention of a noble, never grotesque luxury in the bedrooms: Artemide lamps, Acqua di Parma toiletries… This is surrounded by the view, overlooking vineyards of Barbera and Dolcetto and the glorious Alps. Nature is allowed to be over-the-top beautiful, if it wishes.

The dining rooms on the ground floor have ancient bricked and vaulted ceilings. Here young Federico Gallo works silently. His careful career for now has been crowned in 2005 when he was promoted to guide the Locanda. He arrived here as Masayuki Kondo’s sous chef. The latter now serves Italian food back in Japan. Born in Torino in 1987, Gallo is perfectly at ease with the spirit of the Locanda: he’s reserved, calm, in other words he’s the opposite of many of his colleagues who are more or less his age, and cook and brag all the time, even when the guest has had enough of it. So his style is gentle, linear, balanced. It is sober – indeed, and perfectly presents the territory; and not Langhe in the way they appear in postcards, a little crumpled, always identical,  bent under the weight of tradition. In other words fake and/or grotesque.

A view of the Langhe

A view of the Langhe

It rather depicts them in their contemporaneity, in the complex work of making roots and sky meet, with culinary history on one side, and creative impulse on the other. Gallo leads the game with skill, thanks to a curriculum that had him approach weighty culinary traditions many times: often in Tuscany, especially at first, since the family is originally from Chiusi and in the same Etruscan town his grandfather used to have a tavern in the historic centre; then Piedmontese and Mediterranean at Villa Crespi, with Antonino Cannavacciuolo, and then the tradition of Rome and Lazio with Iside De Cesare at La Parolina in Acquapendente.

The staff at Locanda del Pilone. Left to right Sofia Brunelli (the soul and director of the dining room), Francesca Negusanti, Marco Loddo (sommelier), Davide Saglietti, Davide Picollo, Francesco Demartino, Matteo Zanin, Luca Bendinelli (sous chef), Umberto Rizzi, chef Federico Gallo, Mattia Melchionna

The staff at Locanda del Pilone. Left to right Sofia Brunelli (the soul and director of the dining room), Francesca Negusanti, Marco Loddo (sommelier), Davide Saglietti, Davide Picollo, Francesco Demartino, Matteo Zanin, Luca Bendinelli (sous chef), Umberto Rizzi, chef Federico Gallo, Mattia Melchionna

Being a poised and duteous young man – he’s the kind of student who takes lots of notes and is well prepared for the exam – he treasured these experiences. But do not think he lacks in inventive, or that his table is grey and finicky. In fact, it is even thrilling at times, and it warms your heart: except it places frills on a sound bases, in a disciplined way. Hence there’s no space for mistakes. He uses all the colours available, without overdoing it. He knows cooking is about creativity: but also – and mostly – neatness, harmony.

His dishes are abundant, at least judging based on our dinner: ten courses, more or less, with no bad comments to be made. There was plenty of praise, instead, to note down in the notebook. As in the case of La nostra finanziera with red prawns from Mazara: I love the Piedmontese dish and found Gallo’s version very appealing. He’s not afraid of presenting even the most difficult parts – brain, rooster crest, sweetbreads. All cooked separately – so the result is very balanced, with dried powdered lemon, plus the delicious Sicilian crustacean, perfectly used together with its bisque. Impeccable.

There’s lots of elegance, which he spreads in abundance. In Ramen Piemdontese style (egg white tagliolini with lemon, shallot, chards, dehydrated pioppini mushrooms and tinca gobba dorata filets) he cooks with the utmost respect for the ingredient, «neither hot nor cold, at 60°C» - plus its broth. This recalls what Gallo used to do with similar fish in Sorano, near Lake Bolsena, when he was working in a tavern specialised in freshwater fish.

The meat is also excellent: the two servings of  Partridge and whisky, black truffle and chanterelle mushrooms, or Duck leg confit, cherries, hazelnuts and stewed lettuce. It ends with a delicious Lemon pie: Gallo has no flights of fancy, but a real talent.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Sections

Carlo Mangio

An outdoor trip or a journey to the other side of the planet?
One thing is for sure: the destination is delicious, by Carlo Passera


Photogallery

Our dinner at Locanda del Pilone, depicted by Tanio Liotta. First the appetizers: Chips of sweet potatoes, sour cream and salted cod carpaccio
Sandwich with almonds and octopus pâté
Bau (or baozi, that is to say the Chinese steamed roll stuffed ) with a sauce of hare. Excellent
Sphere of olives with Aperol spritz
The real beginning: Carpaccio, rocket pesto, hazelnut, snow of Parmigiano
Raw scallops and beetroots, with lime zest, leaves of radish and sauce of scallop coral
La nostra finanziera with red prawns from Mazara
Ramen Piedmontese style
Duck leg confit, cherries, hazelnuts and braised lettuce
Partridge and whisky, black truffle and chanterelle mushrooms, first serving: the breast in whisky and black truffle
Partridge and whisky, black truffle and chanterelle mushrooms, second serving: the leg with a sauce of chanterelle mushrooms and sautéed chanterelle mushrooms
Lemon pie: a tart with flambé lemon cream, cream, burnt meringue and meringue ice cream