The Truffle Chef
Set in the heart of the serene, timeless town of Cortemilia in Cuneo, Piedmont is Villa San Carlo. Owner and hotelier, Carlo Zarri and his family have been welcoming and pampering guests with Piedmontese cooking and hospitality for four generations. Carlo took over the family business in 1997 — first working at the front desk, and later in the kitchen where he honed his culinary skills with his dad as his mentor. In 2000, he took over the reins from his father, and has been cooking ever since.
A Multi-Linguist, Chef Carlo Zarri has been travelling the world to promote Italian cuisine over the past decade including his involvement in the managing of the Italian House at six Olympic Games. His cheerful, creative personality shows in his cooking. More aptly named the “Truffle Chef” as his unique talents and broad spectrum of experience makes him as rare and sought after as the truffles that grow in Piedmont. In his cookbook, Piedmont Sensations – A Journey through the Garden of Delights, Zarri provides readers with informative descriptions of food and wines produced in Piedmont, the various attractions, restaurants, accommodations and itinerary ideas.
A supporter of the Slow Food Movement, he strongly believes in the farm-to-table concept. Carlo creates his dishes using fresh, locally grown Piedmont products like truffles, hazelnuts, mushrooms, chestnuts, cured meats, cheeses — and adds a modern twist to his traditional Piedmontese recipes. Over the last 15 to 20 years, he said, “There has been an evolution in Italian food, however, the basics of Italian cooking is still maintained. A chef does well if his or her food is appreciated by diners.” Every dish is prepared and presented with great care and attention. The secret to his scrumptious dishes — a dash of love combined with fresh, quality Piedmont ingredients. A happy, innovative chef using high quality products equals a happy belly and contented diner.
It’s no surprise why diners travel to Cortemilia just to experience the cuisine and hospitality at Villa San Carlo — an award winning 21-room boutique hotel with a cosy 25-seat restaurant set in the countryside of the Upper Langa. Villa San Carlo is a gourmet destination in its own right. When a guest reserves a room, he or she also books a restaurant table. Carlo chuckled, “We care about the number of tables we sell, not the number of rooms.”
His restaurant’s wine list is rated among the top five best in Italy with a selection of over 1,000 wines from Piedmont and round the world. Their growing client list includes celebrities like Sophia Loren, Giorgio Armani and Ferrari.