Black Truffles at Pepe Nero
By Janice Binkert | May 15, 2021
They aren’t pretty to look at, with their gnarly, inky exterior, perhaps most suggestive of small fossilized dinosaur eggs. But the beauty of the black summer truffle — tartufo nero — lies within, in its cream-colored core. The pride of Italy’s Umbria region, these truffles are often described as having a mushroomy, earthy taste, which makes sense, since they are a type of fungi and grow underground near the roots of old trees. Only licensed truffle hunters can harvest them, with specially trained dogs helping to sniff them out.
Giorgio Lo Greco, a native of Palermo, Sicily and chef/owner of Pepe Nero in Traverse City, is currently featuring fresh Umbrian black truffles on his restaurant’s menu. “I am dedicated to the authenticity and quality of our ingredients and our cooking,” he says. “I consider myself an ambassador of Italian culture and cuisine.”
Every year during Umbria’s black truffle season, from May to September, Lo Greco has a standing bi-weekly order for them with an importer friend. They are offered for an extra charge as an optional finishing element to complement certain dishes, shaved at the table with a flourish by your server. It’s not a low-cost indulgence, but worth it for those who savor the rare chance to taste this delicacy in northern Michigan.
$18 at Pepe Nero, 700 Cottage View Drive, Traverse City. (231) 929-1960, www.pepenerotc.com.