Bar Bianco - a 'White Bar' because the drinks on offer are milk-based and the foods are cheeses from the dairy farm.
In 1975, the dairy farm in the small village of Busche near Belluno opened a shop to sell their cheeses directly to the public. On offer were teas, coffees and nonalcoholic drinks (including glasses of milk) in contrast to the rest of Italy's 'bars', so they called it 'Bar Bianco' - White Bar.
The town of Busche is squeezed between verdant valleys at the foothills of the Dolomites on the River Piave where grazing is rich and a culture of dairy farming prevails. Lattebusche is one of north Italy's most widely-found producer of dairy products, partly due to their success after opening the first Bar Bianco in the region on Veneto. A 'bar' in Italy is not necessarily a drinking spot - you can step into a bar for a coffee, a bite to eat or a bottle of water, this particular one was built to provide easy, direct access to dairy produce, a farm-shop of sorts, with simple bakes, cakes and coffees to sweeten the all-round shopping experience. The farmers at Lattebusche had no idea their little bar would grow in fame and popularity as word quickly spread to the rest of the Veneto region.
Their customers look forward to stopping by for a slice of homemade crostata and un buon caffe as they pick up their cheeses for the week. Much like buying cheese at the market in Italy, Bar Bianco will happily shave off a slice to taste and chat about new products to try. Thus food shopping becomes a culinary experience of different tastes and fresh produce instead of a quick 'pop to the shops' and the excited discovery of a new, delicious cheese is brought home to share with the family.
And yes, we do get excited about cheese.
As a result of Lattebusche's Bar Bianco success, a few more now populate the region with the closest one to us being up on a high plateau of the Prealps at 1000m where dairy cows graze on plains in the Forest of Cansiglio. We're lucky because the Bar Bianco on Pian Cansiglio is also an agriturismo so besides coffee, cakes, preserves and cheeses, we get liqueur, local wines, abundant lunches and rooms to stay in.
The Bar Bianco of Cansiglio is a favourite stop for hikers, golfers, speleologists, cross-country skiers and cyclists, providing a central spot on the wide, open plain to stop and rest, to bask in the sunshine or to warm up beside the fireplace for both summer and winter sport enthusiasts.
We love the Beech and Fir forests of Cansiglio in every season and make a point of driving the steep, winding road behind our house regularly throughout the year for a nature escape but particularly adore autumn when we sometimes stay in a little cabin to catch the call of the Roe Deer in September and October. The deer leave the protection of the forest at night during mating season to feed on the grassy meadows and call out in courtship, named the bramito in Italian. This is also when the forest becomes a blaze of russet colour with its changing leaves and when every agriturismo and malga menu boasts a bounty of autumnal ingredients like foraged mushrooms, chestnuts, wild boar and venison.
When the mist drops low on the high plain with only distant lights from Bar Bianco to guide us through the dusk, the forest floor begins to sparkle in magical dew hiding funghi in every mossy nook.
The Pian Cansiglio Bar Bianco menu changes from season to season; in summer expect freshly-made gnocchi from foraged mountain herbs and ice cream with warm raspberry sauce, in spring, wild schioppettin risotto and ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, winter dishes are warming formaggio cotto (grilled local cheese) served with mountain polenta, venison stew and pastin (spiced sausage meat). You'll find a range of crostate shortcrust tarts up here; just the other day we were offered, plum, apple, forest berries and apricot - it was tricky to choose but I opted for berries and Francesco chose apple - both delicious with our breakfast cappuccini.
Pair your foodie journey with simple, local wines from the foothills and finish with a homemade liqueur or grappa, read up on Italian digestivi here.
Their cheeses and yoghurts are proudly produced by selected breeds of dairy cows that graze on the mountain plains in summer and kept stabled in winter. With an awareness of organic and ethical farming practices, the Centro Caseario (Dairy Centre) of Cansiglio/Tambre (as it is officially known) now focuses their entire production on organic farming in line with regulations set out by the I.C.E.A. - Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale (Institute of Ethical and Environmental Certification) who carry out rigorous inspections to ensure all livestock is bred and farmed according to nature's rhythms and fed exclusively from organic cultivations.
Bar Bianco in Cansiglio products include:
Whole and skimmed milk
Ricotta - fresh or smoked
Cansiglio Formaggio - young, 6 months matured and aged
Pannarella (creamy, soft cheese which is wonderful in pasticcio)
Aged Vecia Casera
Mozzarella and Yoghurt
Find Cansiglio's Bar Bianco on: Pian del Cansiglio, Provincia di Belluno, 32106, and on google maps here.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 to 5 and 6pm on Sundays, it's always a good idea to check the weather on the Pian Cansiglio webcam before setting off, especially in winter after heavy snowfalls.
Stay in their cosy rooms while tucking into moreish mountain foods and spend your days hiking, playing golf or exploring ancient forest settlements with your nights enjoying full-moon walks amongst the fireflies and shy roe deer...
Buon Cansiglio amici.