People who know my husband marvel at his voracious appetite for delicious food. Prior to departing the US for our Italian Wine Tour, he had inquired about places to eat from a local chef who had acquired his culinary training in Italy. Armed with the list of restaurants, his goal was to eat in as many of the suggested places as possible. One such place was Trattoria La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe, located south of Alba in the Piedmont region.
As we arrived, one of the three brothers who own and run the restaurant greeted us and immediately ushered us to our lunch table set with crisp linens. The fragrance from the kitchen, where a second brother works as the chef, was heavenly. Brother number three quickly appeared to wait on us and suggested that we order the roasted onion stuffed with liver, onion, and parmesan cheese.
Normally, I am not a liver eater but when I travel I throw caution to the wind and dine on whatever the locals have prepared since the ingredients typically arrive at the back door of the kitchen that morning while still at the peak of their flavor. Armed with this awareness we all agreed to the specialty. With the order placed, he brought a decanter of a neighboring vineyard’s Barolo wine and began to fill our glasses in anticipation of the wine’s perfect pairing with our meal. Its velvety texture softened our pallets as we awaited our dining adventure.
When our antipasto course arrived we were each served three large cipollini onions (approximately the size of shallots) still wrapped in their roasted skins, carefully perched bottom side up on the plate, with the top ⅕ of the onion carefully hinged, comprising a cap to cover the hulled out core which was now stuffed with the liver mixture. Our first amazement was being served a whole onion (granted it was on the petite size) with its skin left on. Our second observation was that the cap had been cut with intention to allow for it to cover the opening while roasting but upon service it was opened to reveal the warm, rich stuffing.
Curious, we scooped the first spoonful out and carefully tasted our culinary risk only to be rewarded with a rich flavor somewhere between a warm Pâté and a parmesan/liver dip. Upon his first bite, my husband froze – it was a shock and awe culinary moment. As he told us later, “This may have been the best dish I have ever had!” And, paired with the local Barolo wine it was perfection. As our small spoons, perfectly sized for the opening of the onion, started to come up empty we proceeded to dig into the roasted onion serving vessel savoring each and every morsel. Enthused by his find, my husband wanted to know how to make it whereupon our waiter verbally shared the recipe while I, in a wine-induced haze, attempted to scribble the directions down on a scrap of paper (which we carefully protected throughout the trip and still have to this day).
The remainder of our 5-course meal was equally as delicious but it was the stuffed onion that created a lifelong memory for my husband. As we prepared to leave La Coccinella, he asked to have his picture taken with all three brothers (as well as Nicola, the owner of La Villa) who had made this memory possible.
While the brothers generously provided the recipe we have struggled to replicate the flavors. I think it may have something to do with not being in Piedmont where we have access to the type of onions, parmesan, and liver. If you are curious about this dish, here is the only recipe that I have found that it is even reasonably close to what we ate. My recommendation is to make the trip to Serravalle Langhe to eat at Trattoria La Coccinella with an advance email to ensure they will be preparing the “Cipolla ‘al Sale’ Ripiena di Capocollo di Maiale” on the day that you will be dining!
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.