Culinary Musings from Silvia Altare


The glue that has held cultures together through time has been food, most importantly the family meal. The energetic dynamic in the kitchen as the food is prepared is matched only by the enjoyment of traditional dishes shared around the dining table. I’ve been blessed to be a guest around several family tables in Piemonte which is a quite an honor and evidence of acceptance. Those are epicurean memories I shall cherish forever.

Given the beauty of the simplicity and flavors of the cucina piemontese, I asked some of my wine families to share with me their favorite recipes for traditional dishes. Silvia Altare, one of Lucia and Elio Altare‘s two daughters, shared with me her recipe for one of the classics of cucina piemontese Vitello Tonnato. 

I don’t just love vitello tonnato because it’s such a delicious dish, but it reminds me of the cultural importance of gumbo in bayou country Lousiana where I was born and raised. Everyone has their own twist on the dish and the recipe becomes part of a family’s heritage as it’s passed from generation to generation.

Lucia Altare with her daughters Elena (left) and Silvia Photo Credit - Elisabetta Vacchetto
Lucia Altare with her daughters Elena (left) and Silvia
Photo Credit – Elisabetta Vacchetto

So here is Silvia’s recipe in her own words:

Silvia Altare’s Vitello Tonnato

I have learned cooking and from my mom and I love it!

Actually, both Elio and Lucia are good cooks. Lucia can set a wedding lunch for 30 people in 1 hour!

Here is the recipe of Vitello Tonnato, super quick and easy, everyone loves it. Even vitello tonnato sandwiches are a big deal here in my family, sometimes that’s what you get when you don’t have time to sit down for lunch!


1 big chunk of ”girello di vitello”, which I think translates in English with veal roast beef, to be either roasted in the oven or boiled with water and vegetables (carrots, celery, and onions)

The time of cooking is always suggested by the local butcher, very important you want the meat to stay pink inside.

Let it rest until cold, so any extra juice or blood is eliminated. When cold and dry then you can slice it very thin, if possible with a slicer.


2 eggs (1 yolk and 1 full egg)
Pinch of salt
Sunflower oil

Put eggs and salt in a mixer glass, and start mixing with an immersion blender, start adding the sunflower oil very little at a time, and you will see your mixture texture magically turn from liquid to thick. Keep adding oil until the quantity of mayo you want is made. Finish with a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. It adds a little acidity and makes the mayo taste “lighter”

On the side chop:

A few salted capers
A few salted anchovies
A can of tuna in olive oil (Suzanne’s note – I use Genova wild caught yellowfin tuna!)

Add all these chopped ingredients to the mayo

TADAAAA! Take the veal slices, put the sauce on top and your vitello tonnato is done! Piece of cake!!!

Silvia’s Wine Pairing Recommendation – Elio Altare Barbera d’Alba

(Wine buying note: In Colorado, Giuliana Imports represents the Altare family and many other Piemontese wine families. And they also import fabulous artisanal olive oils that are available direct to consumers.)

Elio Altare with oldest daughter Silvia. Photo Credit - Elisabetta Vacchetto
Elio Altare with oldest daughter Silvia.
Photo Credit – Elisabetta Vacchetto

Suzanne’s Note – Silvia didn’t have any photos of her dish to share in time for me to post, so here is one of Villa Tiboldi’s Vitello Tonnato.

Vitello Tonnato at Villa Tiboldi (Roero)
Vitello Tonnato at Villa Tiboldi (Roero)

Read more about the Elio Altare family of Barolo in my upcoming book Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. 

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