Nordelaia, the new independent 12-bedroom hotel in the Italian wine country of Piedmont reopened on March 17th with a renewed food and drink offering, as well as an update to one of its two destination restaurants. Set within five hectares of agricultural land, Nordelaia includes a carefully restored 800-year-old farmhouse, and a striking new three-tier building adjacent to the hotel which houses the dining spaces. The hotel invites guests to disconnect and reconnect with themselves and nature, whether they are staying at the hotel or visiting to dine.
Resident Chef Charles Pearce trained under Michelin-starred chef Andrea Ribaldone and worked with him to create the original concept for the menu. He focuses on sustainable and locally sourced ingredients for his menus both in the fine-dining L’Orto restaurant, as well as the more casual Bistro. Over the last three months, Charles has spent the time developing two brand new set menus for L’Orto. A light-filled and clean-lined space located on the first floor of the building, L’Orto serves an experimental menu that has a notable absence of meat – a significant departure from the traditional Piedmontese fare. Nordelaia’s proximity to the sea has inspired Charles to create a dedicated seafood menu (named ‘Aqua’) alongside ‘Terra’, a vegetable-focused menu. A combination of both menus will also be available.
Choosing not to serve meat has allowed Charles and the team to simultaneously cut the hotel’s carbon footprint, using local vegetables and fish from nearby Liguria, creating some close to zero-waste dishes. One of Charles’ signature dishes – a zero-waste cabbage dish – is a surprising yet elegant combination of barbecued cabbage, pear compote and double chicken jus. Other highlights on the ‘Terra’ menu include Carrot, hazelnut, pink grapefruit and olive; Celeriac, Fiandino Riserva [Piedmontese Parmesan cheese], pepper, fermented raspberry; and a caramelised onion tart with three ages of local cheeses.
Seafood dishes from the ‘Aqua’ menu include Broad beans and calamari; Tajarin [a typical Piedmontese pasta], brown butter, lemon and caviar, and Risotto with Sicilian avocado and prawn crudo. In the Tajarin dish, Chef Charles has used Italian sturgeon – a meaty fish with a beautifully delicate flavour which isn’t commonly used in cooking. Charles uses the protein of the fish by slowly cooking it in brown butter to develop nuttiness before searing to create a barbecue-like, smoky flavour. It’s the perfect technique to ensure any carnivorous guest is satisfied and doesn’t notice the absence of meat. The caviar from the sturgeon is used to add elegance to a simple Piedmontese dish, the humble tajarin.
Left: Barbecued cabbage, oxidized pear and double chicken jus. Right: Risotto, leek and oyster
One noteworthy factor of the risotto is the use of a Sicilian avocado which allows Chef Charles to almost entirely reduce the content of animal fats (like butter and parmesan) in the emulsification of the traditionally prepared risotto rendering the avocado risotto much more light and exciting.
The more casual offering, the Bistro, on the ground floor will be reopening with a new look and feel as the restaurant concept at Nordelaia continues to evolve. Guests will still be able to enjoy the expansive view of the Piedmontese countryside through tall arched windows, allowing in plenty of natural light. Large wicker armchairs and garden-style furniture will give the impression of sitting outside, while an open bustling kitchen will give the space a buzzy, convivial atmosphere. The menu will offer a lighter, fresher iteration of traditional Piedmontese cuisine, whilst retaining the celebrated cooking techniques and ingredients of the region. Guests can expect a traditional Vitello Tonnato, as well as barbecued artichoke risotto with hazelnuts and citrus, and sliced Piedmontese beef steak, Fiandino Riserva cream, local bitter leaves and demi glace sauce.
Joining Bistro on the ground floor will also be a new welcoming Lounge bar, acting as an extension of the reception area for late arrivals, and where guests will be able to enjoy a pre- or post- dinner drink in a warm and casual space. It will also have a snack menu available throughout the day. The Lounge bar will be cosy and atmospheric, using darker colours and rich materials such as Verde Alpine marble. Taking inspiration from the ground root networks of trees and plants, two intricate hanging dried flower installations will hang from the middle of the ceiling, over large comfortable sofas. More traditional looking tables and armchairs will be positioned next to the large windows, ensuring the views of the valley below are never compromised.
The extensive and carefully curated wine list includes the hotel’s own wine produced from the surrounding five hectares – which were planted with Pinot Noir, Dolcetto and Barbera grapes, as well as an extensive list of bottles from local small vineyards.
Speaking about the updated menu and restaurant concept, Charles comments, “I was really proud of the menus we created when we opened last year, however having the three-month closure over the winter has allowed me to finetune the concept even further and I’m so pleased with the results. There are so many elements in Piedmontese food to celebrate and enjoy, throughout all seasons, and I’m looking forward to sharing this with our guests as the concept continues to evolve. I wanted to create something that appeals not only to hotel guests, but local visitors too, and I hope they all come away feeling that they have experienced something truly unique for this part of Italy.”
Upstairs on the first floor L’Orto’s design will remain largely the same as before in keeping with the rest of the property as envisioned by British studio These White Walls, known for the award-winning interiors of HIDE restaurant in Mayfair.
Open year-round and with a focus on natural relaxation, Nordelaia has plenty to inspire and explore. Easily accessible from Genoa, Milan and Turin, guests can enjoy countryside walks or cycles in the rolling hills, wine tastings and winery tours at local vineyards, truffle hunting, foraging and cooking classes using local ingredients and traditional techniques. Beyond the hotel, the destination offers ancient castles and picturesque villages, hot sulphur springs – as well as under-the-radar Genoa, with its art, historic centre, fabulous food and the transformed Renzo Piano port.
All About Charles Pearce
Charles was born in London and he trained in hospitality college Eastbourne, before moving on to work in a local gastropub in Mayfield, The Middle House. Working his way through the sections he found his feet in a professional kitchen. After working in various local restaurants and gastropubs, learning about local produce, respecting seasonality and obtaining techniques, Charles decided he wanted to broaden his knowledge and skills outside of the UK.
After a short stint in California, he moved to Italy and started working in a buzzing modern Italian restaurant and bar in the centre of Milan. Bringing to the table international flavours, Charles began experimenting with Italian classics and gaining interest from the press for his creativity, including articles in Vanity Fair and IoDonna. He was promoted to head chef within the first year.
After numerous interviews and collaborations, Charles received an award for “most creative and original plate” at the international competition “Girotonno 2018”. In the same year, he received an offer to relaunch a small modern restaurant in Sitges, Barcelona, Spain. During this year in Spain, he really wanted to put his skills and knowledge to the test, managing to create lots of hype and interest from the local press and authorities, bringing a relaxed fine dining experience to the small seaside town of Sitges.
In 2019 he began working with Andrea Ribaldone in Identità Golose Milano, the first gastronomic hub where each week different Michelin starred chefs from Italy and across the globe are hosted. When Andrea Ribaldone took on the reopening of Garage Italia Milano restaurant, he didn’t think twice about putting Charles at the helm of it all. From VIP events, to the Garage Bistrot and Gastronomic Restaurant, Charles was in charge of a ten-man kitchen brigade.
Most recently, Charles starred in an Italian TV cooking competition hosted by Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix, going on to win the show. After one year stint at Garage Italia, whilst waiting for his newest adventure, Charles worked as sous chef of Ristorante Lino Pavia alongside chefs Andrea Ribaldone and Federico Sgorbini.
FOUR Questions with
What is your culinary philosophy?
Be elegant, let the ingredients speak for themselves maximising flavours, respect traditional techniques because these are the foundation for what we can achieve in the kitchen, have fun and, more importantly, cook like your mum is watching you.
What is your greatest inspiration and how do you incorporate this into your cooking?
The whole culinary world, different cultures, different ingredients, different flavours and, at this moment in time, I would have to say my biggest inspiration has to be nature and all she has to offer. Treat a humble vegetable with the same love and respect you would give to a piece of meat or fish. That’s what I do.
If you could take a plane to any restaurant in the world, where would you go and why?
There are hundreds of restaurants I’d love to try, but I’d have to say for now it would be “L’Enclume” by Simon Rogan for his hyper-seasonal menus and the way he innovates on sustainability.
Who is your culinary hero and why?
I know it sounds cliché but it would probably be Gordon Ramsay. For all his insane success he has still stayed true to the game.