Shrimp in garlic sauce
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Chiusa is an alpine village with pastel-coloured houses and birrerie. It has a special eatery with typical hearty fare of the Sud Tirol region where, if you’re lucky enough, you can eat in a booth made from a giant wine barrel. Located in Via Tinne, Hotel Schmuckhof Torgglkeller (marvelous name) is tucked away in a courtyard, the entrance concealed by trailing branches. In fact it seems like a little hobbit house, or something from Snow White. The traditional ‘stube tirolese’ (Tyrolese room) features rustic wooden furniture and a characteristic blue and white stove of dolls' house perfection.
The restaurant was, a century ago, where artists of the Colonia Artistica loved to paint. The inner part of the restaurant, Torgglkeller, is housed in the old wine cellar. In the dim interior you eat at pitted dark wooden tables beneath rugged beams and partitions made from logs. Some of the furniture is made from tree trunks, and the walls are crowded with wooden barrels, funnels and other wine-making equipment. There are a few booths made from wine barrels, which are accessed by little wooden ladders. The candle-lit interiors are inscribed with years of signatures. From within one of these little cubby-holes you can have a secluded dining experience. An added charm is the necessity to help out the waiters as they climb the ladder while precariously balancing plates. There are other rooms too, a large wood-panelled room with a giant wheel on the ceiling is reserved for groups, and upstairs you can find the Sala Cavaliere in a more elegant style with some intriguingly shaped copper lamps.
Torgglkeller has a range of artisan beers produced in-house, as well as local wines. Starters include a plate of Tirolese cured meats or soups from pumpkin or chestnut (a particularly important produce in Chiusa). I highly recommend trying the ‘canederli’, which are similar to dumplings and made from left-over bread, speck, and cheese. They have a bis or tris (two or three different ones) with other flavours such as green spinach or pink radicchio, all coated in a thick cheesy sauce. The seconds are heavy on pork, with a choice of home-made sausages, ribs or ‘carne salmistrata’, a typical cut of pork from the Alto Adige region. Naturally the meat is accompanied by cabbage. Desserts focus on autumnal flavours such as chestnuts, apples, walnuts and berries.
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