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Home Is Where the Truffles Grow 

A deli in south Colorado Springs serves Northern Italian delicacies

Piemonte is Italian for Piedmont, the region of Italy defined by its proximity to the Swiss and French alps. Technically, a piedmont is a land form -- a plain stretching between a mountain range and the sea. In North Carolina, Piedmont is the rich agricultural area sandwiched between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. In Italy, Piemonte comprises the northwesternmost lip of the boot, and stretches from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. At the center is Torino (Turin), hub of the region's industry and its cultural life, and beloved hometown to Rossano Bossi.

When Bossi came to America, wherever he lived he missed the treasures of Torino and Piemonte, especially the food. So when he decided to settle in Colorado Springs, which, he says, he loves because it physically resembles home, he decided to bring the food of Piemonte to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A few months ago, Bossi opened an Italian gourmet deli in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain, in the new Safeway shopping center at the intersection of Highway 115 and South Academy.

A few visits there and all I can say is, I'm ready for a trip to Piemonte -- and thank goodness I don't need a jet plane to get there.

Bossi's shop is actually a combination deli and restaurant with the emphasis on authentic Italian ingredients. Lunch is your choice from a daily menu of three pasta dishes or a sandwich made of fresh-baked focaccia and imported cheeses and meats.

I tried the lasagna al forno on one visit, and the spaghetti with a tomato-based sauce of tuna, capers and parsley on another. Both were filling and fresh, and tasted absolutely homemade. The lasagna was meticulously layered with very thin noodles, not the glutinous slabs that come in the usual supermarket boxes, and delicately flavored with fresh tomato and good Parmesan cheese. The tuna and caper sauce was a pleasant surprise, light and refreshing.

Other lunch entrees on a regular week's menu sound enticing: rigatoni with porcini mushroom cream sauce; bowties with crushed walnuts, garlic and oil; rigatoni with butter and sage sauce. Rossano says that if you don't like what's on the menu, he can usually be convinced to do a quick sauce on the spot.

Most of his sauces are sold frozen every day for takeout. I tried the porcini with panna (cream), a rich brown sauce, on pasta at home and found it far superior to anything I can whip up on the spot. Another takeout sauce I hope to try soon is the smoked salmon with panna.

Bossi's focaccia is heavily seasoned with rosemary, basil and paprika, and the sandwiches can be customized to suit your taste. I chose one of three sandwiches described on a wall plaque and the results thrilled my taste buds. Cappicola, a spicy Italian ham, thinly sliced, was married with a delicious imported provolone, and the bread was seasoned with fresh basil pesto and aged balsamic vinegar. On the side, a plump cherry pepper swimming in extra-virgin olive oil was stuffed with rolled prosciutto and provolone -- pungent, smoky, sweet and cold, it might just be the perfect munchie.

Dessert at Piemonte comes in three forms -- each imported from Bossi's hometown, because, he says, he can't do it better, and he wants dessert to taste as good as if it were served from his mother's kitchen. I tried the tiramisu and a rich chocolate ball called tartufo -- thick, frozen dark-chocolate cream surrounding a white cake embedded with walnuts. Both were divine.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Rossano serves dinner to whoever's lucky enough to get a seat -- Piemonte seats about 12 -- and often the whole place is reserved for a private party. A choice of appetizers and cold cuts from the refrigerator case (pancetta, mortadella, prosciutto) are served first, followed by your choice from four pasta dishes, then a sampler of Italian cheeses and dessert, all for one reasonable, inclusive price.

The shelves at Piemonte are crowded with imported pastas, condiments aged balsamic vinegars, fruity olive oils, and Bossi's most treasured delicacy, small jars of hand-picked truffles from home. If all goes well, he says, he hopes to be able to serve meals featuring that regional specialty and more dishes made with porcini mushrooms. He wants to hold cooking classes later in the winter, and wine tastings once he has a liquor license. And very soon, he plans to sell bread baked fresh in the store daily.

But for now, he's content to serve his mother's recipes and sell the ingredients that make them authentically Piemontese. And I, for one, am delighted to let him feed me.

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