Sunday, October 12, 2014

10 of my favorite off-the-beaten-path places to eat in Italy

In preparation for an interview, I was looking up places I have really enjoyed eating in Italy. Many of these places don’t even have a website, or a sign. I was lucky enough to be taken there be locals. They represent some of the best eating and drinking I have experienced in Italy. And while most of them are not fancy places, the cooking in these spots have been some of the most memorable meals in a restaurant setting. I eat a lot around the farm table and am lucky to have home cooked meals. They’re great. But if you’re looking to go to Italy that won’t help you. These following 10 spots are open for anyone. It helps to speak Italian, for sure. But it’s Italy; anyone with a little passion can communicate to most Italians.

Note: don’t go looking for spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna or grilled chicken breasts. Expect the unexpected. Donkey ragù, tiny snails, entrails, tiny piquant sausages in a fiery broth, raw things from the sea (not just fish) and that’s just for starters. You should be adventurous. And not be looking for the best hits from Italy. This is how Italians eat. I love it. If you are lucky enough to find these places, you might find you will too.

1) Bar e Caffé Gallina Luigi in Valdobbiadene, Veneto 
Paolo Bressan, a young wine importer, took me here. No sign. #8 (not #10). Luigi is the stuff of legends. Seasonal, simple, wonderful. More pictures here.

2) Cesare al Casaletto in Rome
Thanks to Katie Parla and Hande and Theodor Leimer for this tip. Locals place, very simple, great wine list, lots of natural wine.More pictures here, towards the end of the post.

3) Da Vittorio in Porto Palo di Menfi in Sicily 
One of the best meals I have had this year. Seafood. Little hotel attached. The menu is the sea, right outside the window. Great Sicilian wine list. More pictures here.

4) L’Aquila d’Oro in Ciro, Calabria  (in a new location)
Try and find this one. Paolo LIbrandi took me here and we had an amazing meal. Four tables, seating 18 people.

5) Osteria Giulietta e Romeo in Verona 
My go-to spot when I am in Verona and have a free lunch time. Not touristic. Simple. Wonderful. Get the Bigoli al torchio con ragù d’Asino.

6) Puerto Baloo in San Benedetto del Tronto, Marche
On the water. Amazing crudo and any number of dishes come from the days haul. Pasta to die for. Local wines (as they should be) from Marche and Abruzzo.

7) Ristorante Bar Sport in Cisano Sul Neva in Savona 
Fausto de Andreis of Le Rocche del Gatto took us to his sister's Bar Sport for real Liguria home cooking. Great with his Pigato. Again, nothing fancy, but unforgettable food, especially those sausages in the broth, and a real trofie al pesto.

8) Ristorante Bovio in La Morra, Alba
My fancy place in Piedmont. Not the only one, but had a great meal there last year. From the folks who used to run Ristorante Belvedere. Great wine list, classic food. Worth every centime.

9) Trattoria Vecchia Sorni in Sorni di Lavis, Trentino 
Again, small trattoria serving local fare. Worth a trip to Trento, although there is lots to do. So why not go anyway? Again, simple food. Great desserts, too.

10) Villa Maiella in Guardiagrele, in the Abruzzo mountains, the Maiella.
The Tinari family has a little hotel with a restaurant and a deep wine cellar. Some of the best pasta I have ever had in my life. And access to great meats, seafood and produce. 2 ½ hour drive from Rome. Country fancy, but really another world.

Dino Illuminati at his winery private dining room, La Luperia
These are simply 10 places I really love. There are more. You will find your own. I will find more. I have others as well that I love. As do others. This is a work is progress. Eating in Italy is a moving target with lots of moving parts. It is not a spectator sport; it is a full-action pastime. And it is a lot of fun.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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