Trattoria Volpelli – truffle treasures

Trattoria VoTrattoria Volpelli - winelpelli
Via Cortonese, 14
Loc. Calzolaro
06019 Umbertide (PG)
39-075-930-2305
http://www.trattoriadavolpelli.com
info@trattoriadavolpelli.com
Owner: Marco Caproni
Chef: Irina Caproni

Some of Umbria’s most precious gems are wrapped simply and hidden in the most unexpected places. Trattoria Volpelli is one of them. In the tiny town of Calzolaro, on the outskirts of Umbertide, this family-owned trattoria is unpretentious, its owner modest, its food genuine. Owner Marco is a tartufaio, which means he knows a thing or two about truffles, taking time to explain to us the varieties and their seasons. And he is deeply passionate about preparing dishes that celebrate this prized tuber. He is also knowledgeable about the meats, especially pork, and wild game of the Umbrian/Tuscan countryside and he knows just how to grill them. Simply.

An antipasto platter of hot and cold crostini and salumi is as colorful as a painter’s palette, brought to our table as an introduction to Irina’s culinary talents. The best part of the meal, without a doubt, are our primi, a half serving each of hand-made tagliatelle al tartufo – featuring the Scorzone, or black summer truffle – and delicate gnocchetti with fresh porcini. “Add nothing but un filo, a ‘thread’, of olive oil,” Marco advises and we know not to add any Parmesan, even though he has placed some on our table.

A bottle of a Sangiovese under their own label serves us well. We share a portion of Marco’s mixed grill of pork as he shares the secret to grilling meats to perfection, using lard flavored with sage for chicken, with rosemary for lamb, and with wild fennel for duck. I think we are going to have to return!  Irina, his foreign-born wife, has learned well from her time in the kitchen with Marco’s mother. Thank you Irina, for your skills, Marco for your truffle passion, and the dog who helps you find them.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

A memorable dinner at the Pauline Borghese Restaurant

Pauline Borghese Restaurant

 

Pauline Borghese Restaurant
Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa
Via G. Frescobaldi, 5
00198 Rome
39-06-854-421
http://www.parcodeiprincipi.com

 

Located in the quiet residential area of Parioli, the Parco dei Principi garden offers a beautiful haven from the bustle of the city center.  Just one street separates its garden from the world-famous Villa Borghese Park, designed as a formal garden in 1605 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the first of its kind in Rome.

We enjoyed a pleasant passeggiata through the Borghese gardens on several occasions during our stay at the Principi and particularly enjoyed our visit to the Villa Borghese Galleries to see the Canova sculpture of Pauline Borghese.  This we did before dining at the hotel’s Pauline Borghese Restaurant, named after Napoleon’s famous sister.

Taking inspiration from traditional recipes, Chef Gianfranco Calidonna uses regional ingredients in simple yet unusual ways, never compromising their flavors or textures.   Like a master conductor, the Maitre D’ arranged our travel from appetizer to dessert wine, as we sampled the chef’s variations of specialties from more than one region of the Italian peninsula.  Sommelier Riccardo helped select the wines that were to accompany us on our journey through the menu.  A glass of chilled Agricanto from the Veneto was a perfect ending to a thoroughly delightful meal, one of the best we have had in Rome.

During the summer months light lunches and snacks are available every day beside the pool.  From 12:30 until 3:30, a poolside Sunday brunch is offered.
copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Golden Moments – Golden Views

Golden View Open Bar

Golden View Open Bar
Via dei Bardi 58r (Ponte Vecchio)
50122 Firenze
39-055-214-502
info@goldenviewopenbar.com
www.goldenviewopenbar.com

A golden moment, a golden wine, and above all else, a golden view – of the Ponte Vecchio and its shimmering reflection in the waters of the Arno.  This Florentine restaurant/wine bar opened in 2001, dining rooms perched over the river, offering unobstructed views of the old bridge.  The décor is contemporary, sleek yet understated; a perfect visual balance for the fabulous view framed by large windows that slide open this evening to welcome a summer breeze.

Golden View -Chef Edo diGiulioChef Edo di Giulio manages to keep everyone happy with his culinary skills and cheerful presence in the dining room when he comes to check on his dinner guests.  His cooking is superb, novel re-creations of traditional Italian dishes, featuring specialties from the land and the sea – a spaghetti with shellfish for my friend while I feast on tagliolini Amiata, a thin pasta with a beef and veal ragù, and peas and porcini mushrooms, a dish inspired by nearby Monte Amiata.  A Pinot Bianco sees us through to meal’s end, desserts that were stellar creations made by their in-house pastry chef.

Golden View Bar - fruit dessertThe young waiters and waitresses are friendly, energetic and speak enough languages to communicate with an international clientele. The Golden View is open from 11:00 a.m. until the wee hours of the morning – continuous hours to cater to every wish – a family craving pizza in the middle of the day, business friends discussing their affairs over a glass of wine, ladies enjoying a sweet pastry and a coffee together, or sweethearts celebrating a romantic evening.

Golden moments…

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Buca di San Francesco – Echoes of the Past

Buca di San Francesco
Buca di San Francesc
Via S. Francesco, 1
52100 Arezzo
39-0575-23271
inbuca@tin.it
www.bucadisanfrancesco.it
Owner: Mario De Felippis

 

 

Echoes of the past… An ancient road, left behind by the Romans?  The Etruscans?  How many individuals have tread across these timeless paving stones that make up the flooring of this 14th century structure?  For the past eight decades, these worn stones have been polished to a warm patina by the tread of diners at the Buca di San Francesco.  Opened by Mario De Felippis’ father-in-law, Buca di San Francesco is now owned and managed by Mario, who is proud to announce that they have been in business for over 80 years.

Upon entering, I am drawn through arches from one intimate dining room to another, each one with walls that are frescoed and softly lit, inviting one to linger at a table and sample the traditional Tuscan cuisine that has made this such a popular place.  As we sit and sip their house wine, the rooms quickly fill with locals who know good food better than any of us.

The tables are set simply, graced with rustic table linens calling to mind a farmhouse kitchen.  The menu is extensive and the offerings are pure homemade goodness – the kind of fare Nonna would have made for a Sunday lunch.  The heart and soul of this restaurant, Mario moves swiftly from table to table, and I am amazed by his energy.  Is it fueled by three espressos, his natural good will or simply his passion for what he does?   Perhaps all three.   Running the restaurant is a family affair; son, Davide, is one of the chefs in the kitchen and his daughter is waiting tables.  Like her father, Barbara ensures that each diner feels welcome and leaves satisfied.

Pampered first with Pappa al Pomodoro, we move with ease from mixed antipasti to a sampling of “Bringoli fatti in casa condite con le briciole,” homemade noodles with a sprinkling of crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs.  Good is better when it is pretty, and these are garnished with one green and one white heart-shaped spinach ravioli.  Everything that comes to our table is prepared with care and a bow to the time-honored cuisine of Tuscany.  Bravi!

 

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Celebrating Life at Ristorante Umbria

Ristorante Umbria

Ristorante Umbria
Via S. Bonaventura, 13
06059 Todi (PG)
39-075-894-2737
http://www.ristoranteumbria.it
ristoranteumbria@gmail.com
Owner: Alessio Todini

Who needs wine when you can drink in these heart-stopping views of the valley below? We are perched on the terrace of the Ristorante Umbria in Todi, a Ristorante Umbria Terrace 1family-owned restaurant that has been wowing diners for three generations. In 1954, Nonno Todini opened the restaurant and was himself chef extraordinaire, followed by his son who is still in the kitchen, and now by his grandson, Alessio, an energetic man who does his family proud.

Their menu is extensive, featuring the bounty of Umbria in all their dishes whether pasta, soups, meat or game and, of course, what comes in fresh from the surrounding fields and orchards. Even when pared down to the Ristorante Umbria tableofferings on the menu of the day, the selections are many and all tempting – it is a tough decision. We choose the home-made linguine made with the famous durum wheat of Gragnano, and then tossed in a delicate mixture of fresh herbs, asparagus, pancetta and pecorino cheese. Pappardelle are one-inch wide flat noodles made by hand and in the Todini hands, this dish totally satisfies in a heartier way. Pappardelle al sugo di lepre show off what can be done with a tomato sauce flavored with hare. These dishes lead up to our secondi: braised pork ribs with polenta and lamb cacciatore-style.

Ristorante Umbria interiorJust as inviting as the terrace, the interior dining rooms are cozy, one with a large camino for fireside dining during the cooler months. The other retains its frescoed walls, beneath vaulted ceilings, a room that dates back to the 1500’s when it served as a meeting place for the Accademia dei Convivanti, a group of literati of the time.

We lunch slowly on this sun-lit day, fully mindful of the blessing of this outstanding meal delivered to our table where a soft breeze caresses our shoulders and the views renew our spirits. We do drink wine – a local Sangiovese. After all, it feels like a celebration, if for no other reason than to honor the Todini family and their dedication to the traditional cuisine of Umbria. Perhaps we will stop at their newly opened Caffetteria Beganti to enjoy our after-lunch coffee, or we may just want to linger here for awhile…

Ristorante Umbria - owner Alessio & waiters

Alessio Todini (center) with his waiters

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

 

Bevagna at its best – Enoteca di Piazza Onofri

Enoteca

Enoteca di Piazza Onofri
Piazza Onofri
Bevagna
39-0742-361-926
info@enotecaonofri.it
Owners – Angelo & nephew Nicola Santificetur
Chef – Nicola Santificetur

One expects good wine from an enoteca, and surely good food to go with the grape.  But food prepared by the extremely deft hands of Nicola Santificetur surpasses all expectations.  He could not have learned his craft solely in hotel school.  His culinary talents are a gift!

We wisely followed the advise of our waiter, Alan, who suggested one superb dish after another.  Panzanella, a traditionally “poor man’s” salad utilizing bread crumbs, was a tribute to the simple goodness of a varied garden salad and great bread, when combined and presented to perfection by this young man.  His real triumphs were in the artistry and flavors of his game dishes.  I had tender pheasant prepared in a crunchy potato crust with a contorno of zucchini, while my husband enjoyed duck breasts, the meat rare and juicy, topped in a crust of pistachios.  This was accompanied by couscous with apricots and almonds.   Our wines were all selections from Umbrian vineyards: a Palazzone white from Orvieto, a Lungarotti Rubesco Reserve and a Colpetrone Sagrantino from Montefalco.  Excellent choices, thanks to Alan’s guidance.

The enoteca opened ten years ago in a 12th century building that previously housed an old olive mill.  The candlelit tavern-type tables lend special warmth to the dining room with its vaulted ceilings.  Soft music, great Umbrian wines and excellent cuisine – Bevagna at its best.

Chef at Enoteca

Chef Nicola Santificetur

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ancient baths – renewed spirits: at Hotel Posta Marcucci

pm 5

Albergo Posta Marcucci
Via Ara Urcea 43
I-53027 Bagno Vignoni (SIENA)
39-0577-887112
http://www.postamarcucci.it
albergo@postamarcucci.it

My eyes are closed and I am melding into a lounge chair, the gentle May sunshine warming my shoulders. The sounds of silence contain a quiet concert of birdsong, of glasses being clinked at the bar counter, of a murmur of hushed voices, pierced by the occasional burst of a child’s laughter. With eyes closed I could be in a sanctuary, a refuge infused with reverence. Resting. Peaceful. I am in the garden of the Hotel Posta Marcucci, having just enjoyed a dip into their thermal pool.

The thermal baths of Bagno Vignoni, enjoyed by the Romans who consecrated these waters to the Nymphs, became even more popular during the Middle Ages, thanks to their proximity to Via Francigena, an important thoroughfare connecting Northern Europe to the Italian Peninsula. From the 12th century and throughout the 13th century, Bagno Vignoni became a stopover point for Christian pilgrims traveling this route on their way to Rome. Bagno Vignoni is described in a document dating back to 1334 as a “thermal spa arranged and surrounded by buildings and taverns with a chapel in the middle. It has a very beautiful square layout, with the spring divided in two parts and a roof for protecting the infirm…” This pool, no longer used by the public, is a massive basin of steamy water, which forms the main piazza, creating an element of pleasurable surprise. Warm reflections of stone buildings, tiled roofs and potted geraniums dance across its surface to delight the visitor.

bv1

When I first visited this hotel, nearly 14 years ago, I was intrigued by its history of hospitality and by the surrounding landscape. In the 1800’s, the Marcucci family operated a small inn with ten rooms and a tiny store. Then in the 1950’s, Grandpa Marcucci dug up his vineyard and began construction of what is now the main hotel. Grandma’s cooking drew guests from the area and eventually from afar. It was Aunt Licia’s idea to create the swimming pool using the mildly sulfurous geothermal waters of Bagno Vignoni. The large pool was dug from the hillside and became a major attraction to their hotel. Guests could swim in the comforting waters, bask in the warmth of the sun and look out over a captivating landscape, a magic potion of beauty and silence that heals the soul.

Ownership has changed and the hotel has been renovated, with interior improvements to the rooms and the spa. There are now ten suites and 26 double rooms, spacious lounges filled with cherished family furnishings and artwork and a terrace where breakfast is served in the summer. The Water Rooms bring the thermal waters into a smaller pool inside the building. A Jacuzzi, a sauna and a Turkish bath complete this complex where various types of massage are offered. The restaurant walls were opened up to accommodate panoramic windows, allowing diners to never be far from the breath-taking views. The half-board plan includes a dinner that reflects a refined cuisine of Tuscan specialties, accompanied by an extensive wine list.

The “cure” begins with the journey itself – the road to Bagno Vignoni traverses the Val d’Orcia, past undulating fields of wheat, vineyards, olive groves and verdant hills where green-black cypresses stand tall. It is a visual treasure chest accentuated by dazzling yellow broom and brilliant red poppies scattered along the roadside like precious gems dropped extravagantly by some benevolent prince. This exquisite landscape accompanies you to the nearby towns of Pienza, San Quirico, and Siena. Ancient baths – renewed spirits…

Tuscany 10

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com