La Taverna Degli Orsi
“Hello my friends. Welcome back familia Slone.”
-Andrea, owner of La Taverna Degli Orsi
There is no warmer greeting that a family can receive when entering a restaurant. We are always made to feel like close friends or family as we enter La Taverna Degli Orsi or the Tavern of the Bear.
Andrea, the owner, always greets us at the door and goes out of his way to make us feel comfortable. Over the last few years of visiting Andrea’s family-style restaurant, it has become our home away from home and an undisputed favorite in Limone, Piemonte. We look forward to every visit and book reservations months in advance to make sure that we have a spot after driving over from Valbonne or after a long day of skiing at Riserva Bianca.
As Andrea tells his guests “La Taverna Degli Orsi makes a very simple, traditional mountain food from Piemonte.” The menu changes often to reflect the seasons, which means Andrea has to patiently translate his very Italian menu into English for us each time. Instead of rapidly translating Italian word for the English word, Andrea instead tells a story behind each item on the menu, playfully and passionately explaining where the meat is from, how the cheese is made, and why he is proud of his recent creations. By taking his time, Andrea has become our Italian tutor on the food and wine of Piemonte. Each time, we learn a little more by not only tasting but listening and learning.
When we visit La Taverna Degli Orsi we typically order at least three courses, a small salad or starter, a main, and a dessert. Along the way, Andrea makes recommendations for wine to pair with each course. Instead of ordering an entire bottle, we order by the glass in order to taste what Andrea feels is the best wine for enhancing the flavors of our food.
Some of my favorite starters are the flans. In the USA, we think of flans as being a Mexican desert, but in this case, we are talking about savory flans that are mixed with a vegetable and then a sauce such as bagna cauda or a fonduta.
The flan’s I have tried at La Taverna Degli Orsi include: Flan di zucca con bagna cauda. Flan di Finocchi con bagna cauda. and the Flan di Asparagi con la fonduta. I have come to really love bagna cauda with flan, but this can be an acquired taste as the “hot bath” is made with garlic and anchovies, which can be strong and fishy.
For my main, I typically take one of the unique plates of pasta from La Taverna Degli Orsi. My favorites include Gnocchi di patata con ragù di selvaggina. Gnocchi al Castelmagno, and anything with a ragu di cinghiale. For those that need help with the translation, “selvaggina” is game, probably deer, and “cinghiale” is wild boar. These are rich sauces, served over homemade pastas, and you will not be disappointed. If you don’t eat meat go for the Castelmagno, which is a local mountain cheese originating and made in Piemonte.
While La Taverna Degli Orsi has larger main courses that are not pasta, I like to save room for dessert, which is a highlight of visiting the restaurant. Andrea always has dessert specials, but I typically go for the zabaione (zabaglione), which is cooked in a copper pan right at your table. Zabaione is an extremely rich dessert that combines raw egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti. Andrea whips up all the ingredients in front of you and then serves them with a small cookie and sometimes fruit. It is a very unique dessert and one that I recommending trying for both the unique taste and experience.
The night typically ends with me making our next reservation, even if weeks away, and with a digestif made locally- sometimes a limoncello, grappa, or something new to try. When we leave La Taverna Degli Orsi, we always look forward to coming back, as it truly feels like we are leaving family or friends that just happen to know how to cook amazing and special mountain food from Piemonte.