This restaurant, which seats 60 people in two separate dining rooms, in an old mill dating to 1450, has a family feel. The owner, Mario Valle is aided by his wife Maria Grazia. As it is located on the border between Lombardy and Piedmont, the food served offers the best of these two territories. Rice recipes are the house speciality, both in its “paniscia” version “alla vercellese”, and also in risottos with leeks, hops, or asparagus. The starters hail from the classic Piedmont repertoire: cold meats, vegetables, Russian salad, veal with tuna sauce. Main courses include ravioli and handmade pasta. Stews, braised meat, traditional goose “ragò”, tripe, in winter, and roasted and grilled meat, in summer, complete the vast menu. Many wines are on offer from the Oltrepò and Monferrato areas.
History and legends from the area
Salame d’Oca – Charlemagne’s Goose
The city of Mortara was once called Silvia Pulchra, which in Latin means Beautiful Forest. In the year 773 AD, the Franks of Charlemagne, future Holy Roman Emperor, met the Longobards of King Desiderius in battle there. The Franks massacred the Longobards, both warriors and civilians, and so great was the killing (perhaps 70,000 lives were lost) that the region changed its name in Mortara, from the Latin Mortis Ara, or Altar of Death. Charlemagne also suffered losses, including two of his brave Paladins, Amicus and Amelius. These two young knights were close friends in life, and when they were buried at the church of Sant’Albino, near Mortara, in two separate tombs, that night their tomb miraculously joined together. Recent excavation beneath the altar of this church discovered the bones of two young men from the era of Charlemagne mixed together. They are now preserved in a glass casket that visitors can see. This Church is one of the stops of Via Francigena.
Charlemagne conquered a land where geese had been raised since Roman times, and already in the 13th century the goose salami of Mortara was famous. No doubt Cahrlemagne’s great successor, Barbarossa, tasted it when he visited Pavia. Today it is one of our most important delicacies.
In memory of the ancient name of Mortara, the main square of the city was named Piazza “Silvabella”, the Italian translation of Silvia Pulchra. Every year, in September, Piazza Silvabella become the center of the Sagra del Salame d’Oca, a festival dedicated to goose and goose-based delicatessen.
The goose of Lomellina Countryside
In the old days, geese were kept by women in rural families, and with a stick in their hands they would take the flock out into countryside, where they helped keeping the fields clean by eating weeds, rotten fruit and nuts. Documents from the early 1800s reveal that there were thousands of geese in the area, and the excess meat was kept under goose “lard” to preserve it for the family, and goose fat could be used to make ciccioli, just like pig fat. The goose is like pig in many ways, but it is acceptable to Jewish community. In fact, it is no coincidence that there was a strong Jewish community in the area of Mortara from early 1700s.
The Wedding of Theodolinda and Agilulf in Lomello
It was the Dark Ages, after the Roman Empire… Theodolinda was the widow of Authari, King of the Longobards. She chose Agilulf to be her new husband and the new King. He fell in love with her. Theodolinda was a Catholic Christian, and wanted to convert the Longobards, so the Devil was afraid of her and wanted to stop the wedding. The night before the wedding, the Devil destroyed the church of Lomello with a violent storm. Theodolinda prayed God, and God forced the Devil to rebuild the church. The Devil is not a good builder, so the church is very strange…
Places linked to Theodolinda and Agilulf
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Lomello is where the wedding happened, according to the legend. The present church is more recent. Theodolinda married Agilulf in 590 AD. The church was built around 1040. According to legend, the baptistery is where Agilulf was baptized a Catholic. It looks like a church built by the Devil, because it is irregular and has ruined sections. It is very “haunting”.