On meeting restaurateur Vince Hawkins I couldn’t help but ask: “How did a man from Halewood in Merseyside end up amid the historic charm of Sauze d’Oulx?”
We were dining at Ristorante Del Falco which Vince runs with his wife Annette and the ever-attentive waitress Petra, where we were enjoying another night of delicious food and entertaining tales. You see, Vince may have lived in Sauze d’Oulx in Italy for the past 31 years, but he hasn’t lost his distinct accent or the renowned Liverpudlian ability to tell a story.
A Brit opening a restaurant in Italy, a country where respect for food and the delicacy of ingredients is as treasured as Mama’s tomato sauce, is quite unusual we mused. Vince explained that this is the second restaurant he’d owned in the town and that Del Falco is actually very popular with Italians who throng to town on weekends from the nearby cities of Milan and Turin.
Having eaten there on three occasions we can understand why. Ristorante Del Falco serves an interesting variety of dishes which are superbly cooked and all at surprisingly reasonable prices.
While the menu is as international as the visitors to Sauze D’Oulx, Vince explained Italian diners are particularly partial to some British favourites such as apple pie, roast beef and Yorkshire puddings and Stilton and a glass of port, as well as Del Falco’s most unusual dish – pappardele pasta with shrimps in a creamy Kashmiri curry sauce. It sounded odd, but tasted delicious – the curry adding a just a hint of the exotic to this comforting Italian dish.
Del Falco manages to blend a formal dining experience with an informal, friendly atmosphere. Diners on different tables were all engaging each other in conversation about the day’s skiing on Sauze d’Oulx’s slopes, a day trip to Turin or perhaps a tale of old – so many people visiting Sauze d’Oulx return year after year. And it was Vince and Petra’s cheery front-of-house personalities that proved instrumental to this.
Vince is so much a part of the local community that he was even elected to the town council and considers himself “blest to live in Sauze d’Oulx”.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Sauze d’Oulx and dine at Ristorante Del Falco, don’t forget to ask about the stuffed hawk which proudly adorns the bar, Vince will regale you with a great tale.
We travelled by train from London to Sauze d’Oulx with Snowcarbon, an aid to booking rail travel to the Alps from the UK, conceived on a tedious flight and transfer to Sauze d’Oulx. The website provides information for skiers to plan their rail journey to a large selection of Alpine ski resorts including resort, rail and transfer details. It not only allows for easy recognition of which train to take but also allows booking of rail journeys to the Alps and features tour operator deals in selected resorts. Fares to Sauze d’Oulx start from £121 standard class return with RailEurope.