Wining and dining in Oltrepò: Ristorante Selvatico

On our way to Voghera for an afternoon work appointment, today we can afford to take our time and dine out. The opportunity is perfect to enjoy an early summer meal in one of the oldest restaurants in the region.

Restaurant Selvatico today is indeed on our way but even if it weren’t, it would be well worth a detour for its excellent food and its very interesting wine list.

Located in the center of Rivanazzano, a lively town placed on the river Staffora where the hills flatten into the Po Valley, Selvatico is named after the family that founded it in 1912 (over a century ago!) and still runs it.

The restaurant is preceded by a nice and shady courtyard where you can occasionally have a meal outside. The interior is spacious and traditionally furnished, with elegantly laid tables. Its cuisine focuses on fresh, top-quality ingredients from local farms, used to prepare both traditional and modern recipes. The menu varies with the seasons, although some specialities (e.g. the typical Varzi salami) can be found all-year long. Pasta and bread are rigorously homemade.

When we enter the restaurant, we are usually welcomed by Sergio or his wife Francesca. They are both very attentive to guests and they really go beyond the professional explanation of recipes or the suggestion of the best wine-pairing. When asked, they take pleasure in describing the ingredients and their origin. They are generous with information. Sometimes they tell you stories. They provide food and conversation.

Today we are not taking a full Italian meal, but we are getting pretty close. As a starter we are having a local beef’s carpaccio and little rolls with ricotta, ginger and saffron. Our main course is a pasta: dumplings filled with braised meat and flavored with butter and sage, and malfatti made with herbs and ricotta. Today’s wine is rosé, and a peculiar one at that, as it is made from grapes typically used for red wine (instead of white).

In spite of being already full, we are tempted by one of their desserts. As we have a bit of time, we decide to wait some fifteen minutes and then we go for an apple sorbet and a baked peach filled with amaretto biscuits and sided by a scoop of ice cream.

After the final coffee we are still on time for our meeting in Voghera. Well actually we run into some traffic and we end up a bit late. But it’s definitely our fault: rather than sticking to our usual route we should have followed Francesca’s directions, and we would have been on the dot. Giving up on the dessert to leave earlier was absolutely not an option.