The Vecchia Locanda in the historic center of Castagnole delle Lanze has become a popular stop for lunch dating back to the late ‘90’s when CycleItalia first began.
The Vecchia Locanda in the historic center of Castagnole delle Lanze has become a popular stop for lunch dating back to the late ‘90’s when CycleItalia first began. Our first visit was semi-planned, as we never know exactly where we and our cyclists will be when the bells start ringing in the church towers. We call them the “lunch bells” as they remind us to start thinking of lunch. If you’re planning on a picnic you’d better get to the alimentari store before they close for the long lunch hour. If a sit-down meal is more your style, you have an hour or so to find a good place before they’re filled up.
With various routes through this gorgeous countryside over the decades, we always try to make sure we pass through this area around midday. Quite often the faster riders will ride a longer loop while the slower ones take a shorter version, with the plan to have everyone arrive at Vecchia Locanda around the same time.
They have no issues with sweaty cyclists clambering in wearing cycling shoes and colorful outfits. You’re just as welcome as the businessman in the Zegna suit and tie. On our most recent visit we arrived a bit early while the family was still enjoying their own lunch. Sometimes we ride with more urgency if a great meal awaits! Our support van usually arrives first just to make sure the place is open and can seat us, but no matter what, these nice folks always find a place for us, most preferably on their sunny terrace out back, where we can keep an eye on our bicycles while dining.
This one time in particular our small group filed in past a larger group of cyclists sitting inside at a long table. I noticed this group looked more like a racing team. Not because they looked faster or fitter than our little group, but because their table had no bottles or glasses of wine and they all looked a little somber. We took a table outside as other diners began to arrive. At first our waiter seemed to forget who we were, despite our yearly visits and started describing rather bland-sounding pasta dishes. We quickly stopped him and made it clear that we were there to DINE rather than simply to refuel. A big smile then came over his face as we started to ask about their specialties, in particular their Insalata Langarola, with chicken, apples, arugula, hazelnuts, celery, fresh red peppers. It was one of our favorites.
His smile quickly faded as he rather sheepishly responded that it wasn’t available on this day, with the excuse that one of the ingredients wasn’t available for some reason. Our sadness upon this news really seemed to affect him as he then replied he’d talk to the kitchen and see what they could do. Meanwhile, what else could he bring us? “First, we need some wine and water” was our response and that smile returned as he realized again we weren’t like those other folks who it seems where there merely to refuel, with as much enthusiasm as you witness with motorists refueling their cars. A couple of bottles of Dolcetto as well as water quickly arrived along with the classic Piemontese grissini, those super-long breadsticks that come wrapped only in a cloth napkin and are set down on the table.
Soon enough a pretty close match to Insalata Langarola arrived along with an array of cold antipasti. A few clients new to us eagerly dived in, thinking this was our lunch. We had to slow them down a bit with the news that we’d at least be ordering a first course as well, as Vecchia Roma’s tajarin with butter and sage is something special, as is their risotto. But first a plate of sliced salami and some prosciutto and melone arrived, just to tide us over until those pasta dishes could be ordered and prepared!
We did throw up the white flag when it came to second courses. After all, we DID have to ride back to our hotel about 40 kilometers away. But not before dessert. Well actually I should say desserts as the first to arrive was a kind of dessert antipasto with tiny servings of chocolate and orange mousse along with tiny bits of hazelnut cake. Of course a chilled bottle of Moscato then had to be ordered to properly complement these delights before we concluded with traditional espresso. We then started the procedure about getting the check and saying arrivederci until next time, but not before a couple of bottles of Dolcetto were offered as parting gifts. Luckily we had the support van there, as the pockets in a cycling jersey tend to get a bit stretched carrying wine bottles and they don’t often fit that well in the bike’s bottle cages!