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It doesn't take much to get me to tell you that whenever I go to Italy I'm disappointed with the food. I always thought it was a function of the cooking being too simple for my taste. But a few years back, I was in the Piemonte on a truffle eating weekend and my friend Dwight Merrimen made the following observation. He said that the problem with dining in Italy was that lunch and dinner were basically the same meal. He went on to add that some restaurants try to make the food fancier at dinner and that often "screws it up even worse". His observation, although seemingly obvious, was a mild thunderbolt for me. Now that someone had said it, of course that was true. In France, it is easy to have lunch in a bistro or brasserie serving simple braises or grills, and then experience cutting edge culinary theory and technique for dinner at a multi-star Michelin rated restaurant. But in Italy, often what passed for a grand dining experience was merely a fancier version of what you had at the tratorria for lunch with the major difference being the level of refinement and the cost of the meal. Pouring salt on the wound was that in many cases the cucina at the tratorria was more enjoyable than the cucina at a grand restaurant.
It took all of one day for Dwight's theory to be proven out. On our first full day in the region, we had lunch at Tratorria dela Posta in Treiso and dinner Da Guido in Castiogle d'Asti, one of the regions most famous, if not its most famous restaurant. The menus at each of the restaurants were virtually identical, and the difference came down to the cucina at Da Guido being more refined. Unfortunately, this "improvement" made the food less enjoyable. Our rustic lunch which featured a crudo di vitello with shaved white truffles (a dish I will never forget) was highly enjoyable. But our dinner was outright uneventful. In fact I'd go as far as saying it was boring. So from this point on, I tried to avoid planning gastronomic trips that included Italy. The one time I did change my mind about it I went to Milan for a few days but my meal at Aimo e Nadia was pretty dismal.