HUNDRED DOLLAR BREAKFASTS
We were fortunate enough to spend a night at L’Albereta, a lovely villa-like hotel with impressive vineyards, a magnificent sculpture garden, pool and spa in Erbusco, Italy. Our hotel room was small but beautifully decorated. From our third floor window, we had a view of the Italian countryside and could see Lake Iseo, one of the lesser known Italian lakes, in the distance.
L’Albereta is big on service; they simply can’t do enough to make sure you are happy. Obviously, this kind of service comes at a price. Plan on spending over $350 a night for a room and an equal amount for dinner. Believe it or not, breakfast is NOT included in the room rate.
Besides the gorgeous (and ultra pricey) accommodations, the reason people come here is for the cooking. Running the show is Gualtiero Marchesi, a deconstructivist at heart and a master of Italian “nuova cuicina.” The dishes he creates at L’Albereta are done with stunning craftsmanship which explains why it has become a “temple” of Italian cooking.
When Lynn was an exchange student living in Florence in the 1980’s, he would tell me stories that his “house mother” would leave him a thermos of coffee and a bag of dry melba toast for breakfast in the morning. Italians just aren’t that big on breakfast. Usually, they grab a sweet brioche or piece of bread and wash it down with a cappuccino. They don’t even sit down to eat it since standing up at a café rather than grabbing a table (and being waited on) is cheaper. Obviously, Chef Marchesi needed to do better.
To this day, I haven’t had ham as succulent or mozzarella as fresh as what we tasted that morning at L’Albereta. Breakfast, while not in the stunning loggia where dinner was served the night before, was in a comfortable room facing the garden. Placed around the room were tables filled with different types of bread, pastries, and tarts; there was yogurt and homemade jams and honey. There were berries and peaches and melons and figs and really almost any kind of fruit you could imagine. An entire table was filled with no less than five different types of cheese in addition to the mozzarella. There were also platters of both sunnyside up and scrambled eggs. The pièce de résistance however was a huge ham, still on the bone. This was obviously one very special pig because it had its own table and was right next to a very expensive meat slicer.
L’Albereta has a maitre d’ for breakfast. He is in a tux. He was also the one who would occasionally go over to the ham and slice more pieces off of it. The slices would then be gently placed on its own platter and put under a glass dome. I went back for three servings of the ham alone.
Breakfast was an extra 30 euros per person. When we traveled with our daughter Rachel the following February on our way to Venice, we stayed overnight at L’Albereta again and had breakfast, too. At the time, the exchange rate was close to $1.60. You can do the math.