Three Hens, an Earthquake, and a Book

The History of Restaurant Tre Galline in the Valle de Guadalupe

By W. Scott Koenig

 

Raviolis of beef, spinach and sweet potato. Photo: W. Scott Koenig

 

When we visited Tre Galline in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur in 2012, we had no idea that chef Angelo Dal Bon and his family were opening a new location later that year a thousand miles to the north in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California’s wine country. What we did know was that that location — an old house and former painter’s gallery — was charming, Angelo and his family were friendly and attentive, and their northern Italian cuisine was sublime.

We also didn’t know that Dal Bon, his wife Magda and son Constantino had arrived in Todos Santos just six years earlier after a devastating 5.3 earthquake leveled his family’s restaurant in the town of Solana, Italy in 2004. “In 22 seconds, we lost everything,” Dal Bon recalled during a recent visit to his Valle location. “We had only been open three weeks. One night after we closed, I mentioned to Magda that we were fortunate to be so busy. Right after I said that, the earthquake started, the restaurant split open and the roof crashed down.”

Restaurante Tre Galline. Photo: Ursula Koenig

 

It was providence that led the family to Baja California Sur. Dal Bon says, “After the earthquake, Magda cried for three months. We’d lost all of our money. Our dreams. One day, we opened a cupboard (in our house). A Baja California travel book fell out. We’d visited the region in the nineties and liked it there. I asked Magda what she thought about moving to southern Baja. She thought I was crazy!”.

“The earthquake leveled our restaurant in Solana, Italy in 22 seconds. We lost all of our money. Our dreams.” – Angelo Dal Bon

After an exploratory trip to Todos Santos — a quaint, coastal Mexican town populated by locals and a growing number of expat bohemians — the Dal Bons fell in love with the house that eventually became Restaurante Tre Galline. “A painter owned it and used it for an art gallery,” Dal Bon reminisces. “He’d painted hens all over the interior. We found three of them painted on the front door and decided to call the restaurant Tre Galline.”

In 2012, Angelo and Magda traveled north to the Valle de Guadalupe to visit their friend chef Drew Deckman, a colleague in the international Slow Food movement — which Dal Bon helped found in 1989. He knew Deckman from restaurant Deckman’s in Los Cabos before Drew closed up shop and moved to the Valle full-time.

 

Patio at Tre Galline. Photo: W. Scott Koenig

 

“That was when we met Paolo Paolini (of winery Villa Montefiore), another Italian immigrant,” according to Dal Bon. “We opened Tre Galline there and operated seasonally for five years.” When Paolini decided to convert the restaurant space to a larger tasting room in 2018, Tre Galline moved to its current location, just down the road on Highway 1.

Dal Bon continues to serve hearty, innovative northern Italian cuisine crafted of local Baja California ingredients. Raised in the kitchen of his grandmother’s restaurant, La Campiñola in Solana, Italian cooking is second nature to the chef. His mastery of its technique and love for his country’s gastronomy is on display with every dish served in Tre Galline’s dining room and on its lush, inviting patio.

 

Raised in the kitchen of his grandmother’s restaurant in Solana, northern Italian cooking is second nature to the chef.

 

I typically don’t spend more than $30 on a bottle of wine. But during our visit to Tre Galline, we felt that Villa Montefiore’s deep, dark-cherry Neroni ($80/US) would not only pay homage to Dal Bon’s relationship with Paolini, but would pair very nicely with the anticipated feast.

 

Chef Angelo Dal Bon. Photo: Ursula Koenig

 

Pouring the ruby-red wine into a decanter, Dal Bon deduced, “This wine calls for our house-made salami.” He disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a cylinder of his fatty, firm and rich pork sausage. The salami was accompanied by links of what the chef refers to as “Nutella” — a decadent, house-made concoction of beef shoulder fat, rosemary and chili de arbol that’s melt-in-your mouth delicious.

 

Salami and beef shoulder fat “Nutella”. Photo: W. Scott Koenig

 

Tre Galline’s handmade pastas are not to be missed. We were presented with a plate of three raviolis of savory beef, herby spinach and a lightly, but not cloyingly sweet, batata (sweet potato). All three were delectable and acted as the perfect primi.

We’d enjoyed Tre Galline’s calabaza (squash blossom) and burrata in 2017 during our first visit to the restaurant, and were thrilled when our friendly server delivered the familiar dish to our table. The calabaza is lightly battered and fried, layered with burrata — stacciatella cheese mixed with cream and encased in mozzarella — and served with tangy red baby tomatoes and a sprig of fresh basil. It’s one of the best dishes here or anywhere in Baja California.

 

Fried calabaza with burrata. Photo: W. Scott Koenig

 

When Dal Bon rolled out a very large wheel of Italian grana adano on a cart, we knew we were in for a treat and a tableside show. For their pasta de formaggio, the server melts the cheese in a hollowed-out section in the top of the wheel, ladles in a bowl of cooked macaroni, then stirs the pasta in the round until it’s well coated with thick, creamy, nutty cheese that leaves a pleasantly acidic and agreeable aftertaste.

 

The calabaza and burrata is one of the best dishes anywhere in Baja California.

 

Other dishes included an umami-rich linguini in butter, garlic and wine with musky white truffles and eggplant parmesan bathed in a tangy sagu of tomatoes, layered with burrata and topped with crispy fried leeks and jalapeños — a nod to the local Mexican culinary culture.

 

Linguine with white truffles. Photo: W. Scott Koenig

 

If you’re craving a change of pace from the campestre-style fare typical of the Valle de Guadalupe, Tre Galline satisfies with its delightful northern Italian gastronomy, old-world history and wine-country allure. “I like the Valle de Guadalupe, because it’s an agricultural region like Italy,” Dal Bon concludes. “We have good red wine here and cheese. It feels like home.”

Tre Galline is located at Blvd. Emiliano Zapata, 22755 El Porvenir, Valle De Guadalupe. Call for reservations +52 612 119 9718 or visit them at www.facebook.com/osteriatregalline. Open Tue & Wed from 1-7PM, Thu-Sun 1-8PM, closed Mon.

 

 

scott-koenig-gringo

San Diego-based lifestyle writer W. Scott Koenig is founder of the blog AGringoInMexico.com, author of the book 7 Days in The Valle: Baja California’s Wine Country Cuisine and has written for Discover Baja Travel Club, Destino Los Cabos, DiningOut San Diego and SanDiegoRed. Scott organizes and conducts professional and private culinary tours of Baja California and has assisted with film and video productions in the region. He has worked with the Food Channel, the BBC, KPBS and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

 

 

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