Category Archives: Restaurants

Trattoria La Palazzina – a proud heritage

Trattoria La Palazzina smTrattoria La Palazzina
Via Angelo Maria Ricci, 107
02
100 Rieti
0746-271-111
http://www.lapalazzina.it
info@lapalazzina.it
trattoriapalazzina1910@gmail.com

The Amici family have been in the business of offering refreshment to weary travelers since 1880, and so we have chosen well to stop here for lunch in the town of Rieti in the Lazio region of Italy. The trattoria’s long history began with the current owner’s great, great grandparents, the first of several generations who inherited both their energy and their vision, establishing more than one restaurant and hotel in the area. In 1880, Emilia Ricci in Amici managed this small trattoria which, at the time, was positioned close to the public baths. Her hand-written recipe book is on display today in the main dining room, along with many framed photographs that capture the long history of the family and its association with the world of home-cooked food and hospitality.

Cucina casareccia, authentic home-cooking, is what continues to draw hungry travelers and locals who appreciate the freshness and full-flavor of the cuisine. The menu offers a generous array of selections. Following an antipasto of traditional cured meats, we sample mezze maniche alla gricia. Everyone is familiar with the classic dish, spaghetti all’amatriciana, but way before tomatoes were introduced to Europe, the local shepherds prepared this dish without a tomato sauce. Using what they carried with them while they were pasturing their sheep – pasta, aged pecorino cheese, and guanciale – they made this simple dish to sustain themselves. The bacon is chunky and fried to a crisp and the resulting dish is both simple and divine.

Trattoria La Palazzina - Giuseppe Ricci sm

Giuseppe Amici – owner

The surrounding countryside inspires visions of these shepherds gathered together to enjoy una grigliata, a mixed grill of lamb, pork and poultry, accompanied by grilled garden vegetables. Again, simple fare in the hands of the right cook, who knows how to use the local herbs and spices, is elevated into an abundant feast. And feast it is. No room for dessert, but sweet memories of a sun-filled day and a visit with proud owner Giuseppe Amici at his restaurant.

copyright Ginda Simpson

http://www.rooms-withaview.com   –   http://www.menus-and-memories.com

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Simplify, slow down, savor… Lunch at Ristorante Nicolao

Park Hotel Ai Cappuccini - GubbioRistorante Nicolao
Park Hotel ai Cappuccini
Via Tifernate
06024 Gubbio (PG)
39-075-9234
http://www.parkhotelaicappuccini.it
info@parkhotelaicappuccini.it

Our inner wisdom (and life coaches too) remind us of our need to simplify, slow down, savor… Sunday is the perfect day to put this into practice and lunch at Ristorante Nicolao in Gubbio offers the perfect venue for doing just that. The interior of this restaurant belonging to Park Hotel ai Cappuccini is simple in its décor, nothing to distract from the experience of dining. We allow our waiter to suggest our luncheon menu, never a regrettable decision when in Italy. We linger after our antipasto of scrambled eggs with summer truffles. We are in no hurry as we await our first course. Freshly made lasagne and a plate of handmade tagliatelle al ragù arrive filling the air with the scents of an Italian kitchen, a bouquet of tomatoes, basil, garlic and aged pecorino. Simple ingredients transformed into something sacred…

 

My granddaughter and I slow down even more and spend our time in quiet conversation. Our waiter brings us the main course which he has chosen for us – tagliata of beef, rosemary-infused medium rare slices fan out on our plate, paired with perfectly grilled zucchini and potato slices. The restaurant has filled up with couples and families savoring moments together as well as the flavorful offerings of an extensive menu.

 

It is time to choose a sweet ending from a very tempting dessert menu and our waiter leaves the difficult decision to us. A sour cherry topped cheese cake for my granddaughter and a trio of made-to-order fresh fruit sorbets for me. We have chosen wisely by having lunch here, we have slowed down and savored the chef’s cuisine. Thank you, Ristorante Nicolao, for providing all the ingredients for a perfect Sunday afternoon.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.menus-and-memories.com

Osteria dei Re – Farm to Table dining in Gubbio

Osteria dei Re - signOsteria dei Re
Via Cavour, 15/B
06024 Gubbio (PG)
39-075-922-2504
http://www.osteriadeire.com
info@osteriadeire.com
Owner: Moreno Brunelli

Osteria dei Re is on the only true osteria in Gubbio, so it is important to owner Moreno Brunelli, that it maintain its authenticity. What is an osteria? In the past, it was a simple tavern where the townsfolk would come mostly to drink wine together, enjoying whatever simple fare was offered on the side. It was never a restaurant, and therefore, the offerings were few – simple, local, and freshly prepared. Moreno adheres to this, offering a limited menu that celebrates a tradition his grandmother enjoyed in this very same osteria nearly eighty years ago.  It is like a step back in time to be having lunch in this rustic tavern.  There is also outdoor dining in the piazza.

This is truly a farm to table experience, with ALL the products carefully selected from local farmers who do not engage in raising factory-fed animals, but rather on a small scale, practice sustainable, organic farming. From the olive oil to the wine, from the pork to the poultry, Moreno personally knows the source or he would not be serving it. He even barters wine and bread with a local peasant who brings him fresh rosemary, sage, and other herbs from the mountainside. No elaborate recipes are needed to show off this cuisine.

Osteria dei Re - Piattone del Re

So what better way to experience what this osteria has perfected than to indulge in the Piattone del Re – otherwise known as the King’s Platter? Serving two persons, but enough for four, the platter is about 18 inches in diameter and is a feast of flavors. Starting with the warm crescia, the traditional flat bread of Gubbio, we first sample the two small bowls of cottiche e fagioli, an immensely flavorful bowl of borlotti beans in a tomato sauce with pork rind. Going clockwise around the platter, there is bruschetta with crispy thin slices of quanciale, polenta with lard, puréed zucchini, roasted potatoes, fried sage, prosciutto and caciotta cheese with truffles. How we had room to share a decadent chocolate dessert is a mystery.

Osteria dei Re - birthday board

The Osteria dei Re recently celebrated 18 years in business. Moreno does it right and his grandmother would be proud!  Congratulations!

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.menus-and-memories.com

5eCinque – To our health!

5eCinque5eCinque
Pza.della Passera, 1
50125 Firenze
39-055-248-0582
http://www.5ecinque.it
info@5ecinque.it
Owners: Silvio Varando & Mariolina Garau

We set out in the neighborhood of Oltrarno,  on the “other side” of the river, our favorite part of Florence. We are in search of something different for today’s lunch, something light and healthy and we find it at 5eCinque, a small family-owned vegetarian restaurant, where we are smart to arrive early as it fills up rapidly. With our early arrival we have the pleasure of meeting the owner, Silvio, who shares some time with us explaining their unique cuisine. Mariolina, his wife and chef, is Sardinian, and Silvio is Ligurian and together they have created a unique vegetarian cuisine that celebrates both regions of Italy.

Silvio loves people and makes us and every other diner feel welcome at 5eCinque, but I get to hear the story of how the restaurant got its name. As a child, Silvio would often go to market and order a five lire wheat bun in which was sandwiched a five lire farinata, a typical Ligurian flatbread made with chickpea flour. The fondness with which he holds this memory inspired his restaurant’s name.

5eCinque - Silvio Varando

It is a treat to explore and sample Ligurian and Sardinian-inspired vegetarian cooking. The flaky foccaccia topped with Ligurian cheese looks almost too good to eat. And of course, an introduction to Liguria would have been lacking without a taste of the famed farinata. Our main dish is Polpettone di fagiolini, a “cake” of chickpeas, potatoes and blended green beans, made savory with a perfect mix of fresh herbs. Because the cuisine is light, we manage to leave room for dessert, an almond milk flan with sweet toppings, one of chocolate and the other a sweet sauce made with peaches.

The tables are few here, so we do not linger. A small group waits outside its door. Not at all surprising.

copyright Ginda Simpson   http://www.rooms-withaview.com   http://www.munus-and-memories.com

La Terrazza del Principe – an unforgettable view

La Terrazza del PrincipeLa Terrazza del Principe
Viale Niccolò Macchiavelli, 10
50125 Firenze
39-055-224-104
http://www.laterrazzadelprincipe.com
info@laterrazzadelprincipe.com
Owners: Sabina Stiehl & Nicolo Reina

I had meant to ask why the name The Terrace of the Prince, but with the intake of every breath I know that it is a princely view. We are lone diners at the moment and therefore have the entire terrace to ourselves as if we are private guests. It is a purely Tuscan scene that includes olives and vineyards, tall cypresses, medieval stone walls, and the elegant villas of the Boboli Gardens. Wow!

We have brought our appetites for this sun-blessed al fresco lunch. The cuisine interweaves the traditions of both Tuscany and Sicily, reflecting the marriage of the owners, Sabina and Nicolo. Vine-ripened tomatoes burst with flavor in a Caprese salad, an antipasto to be savored slowly, like the aging of the wine we drink. Our first course sings of Sicily with a sampling of Pasta alla Norma, made with tomatoes and eggplant, and Rigatoni al pistacchio in a cream sauce. A shared secondo of polpette alla nonna, grandmother’s meatballs is simple and satisfying, transporting me back to my own grandmother’s kitchen.

We have left no room for dessert, except for the sweet memories and a longing to come back before we even leave. An aperitif with a friend at sunset? Or a romantic meal for two just because…

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

Caffe Desiderio – Cooking as Art

cdc1Caffe Desiderio
Piazza Niccolò Tommaseo, 5r
Settignano (FI)
39-055-697687
http://www.caffedesiderio.com
info@caffedesiderio.com
Owners: Michele Busanero & Francesca de Gasperi

What a pleasure it is to sit with Michele, chef and owner of Caffe Desiderio, an unpretentious yet inviting wine bar/restaurant in the center of Settignano outside of Florence. Caffe Desiderio indeed was a locale as far back as the end of the 18th century when artist Desiderio da Settignano opened it as a tea room and exhibit space for his paintings.

cdd1Today the art that is offered is of the culinary variety, attractive to look at, and most satisfying to consume. Seasonally fresh ingredients and innovative recipes make Michele’s cuisine a special treat on this summer evening. And Michele shares a moment with us expressing his knowledge and passion for his Tuscan cuisine, inspired by his childhood in Florence and his travels to other parts of Italy.

Take for example, traditional prosciutto of Tuscany served with milky fresh stracciatella cde1and fritters made with grano arso, or burnt grain, a tradition that has its modest beginnings in the southern region of Puglia. In the 18th century villagers would harvest the scorched grains that remained after the farmers had burnt the fields in preparation for the next planting. For the poor, nothing went to waste not even burnt grain, and Michele’s efforts to introduce burnt grain to his customers are not wasted either. His liver paté, on the other hand, is as rich as fois gras, made so with lots of butter and an extra amount of vin santo, making a superbly rich spread for his fried polenta wedges.

cdf1The menu at Caffe Desiderio changes often, according to the season, and sometimes daily depending on what is offered at the market that day. We got to try fagottini (little egg pasta knapsacks) stuffed with lampredotto, or tripe. Lampredotto is a Florentine specialty that shows up as popular street food when stuffed into a crusty panino. Tonight’s pasta dish is topped with delicately sweet red onions and a spritz of green sauce. I would not have known any of this, nor had the courage to try it, if it hadn’t been for our chef introducing us to this unusual, yet totally delicious specialty. I love being cdg1introduced to the local cuisine in this way.

Our wine is local too, a Chianti Ruffina from the Frascole estates. Grazie, Michele and Francesca, for a delightful meal.

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

A Simple Feast at Il Granaro del Monte

Il Granaro

Il Granaro del Monte
Hotel Grotta Azzurra
Via Alfieri 7
06046 Norcia (PG)
39-0743-816-513
info@bianconi.com
www.bianconi.com

We feasted at our hotel’s restaurant, Il Granaro del Monte, considered a national culinary monument.  I was in agreement from the very first savory bite.  What makes their cooking so extraordinary?  Ordinary, wholesome ingredients prepared with a love and respect for the land that produces them – Norcia!  The Black Truffle is king and is an essential part of the cuisine of Umbria.  Truffles are best consumed shortly after being extracted from the ground, as their particularly strong scent and taste fade quickly.   At the Granaro, the chef does not allow this to happen and he prepares the truffles in countless ways.  For me, they are absolutely divine simply perched on a mound of handmade tagliatelle.   But a meal would not be complete without sampling Norcia’s lamb and cured pork specialties, the lentils of Castelluccio (presented here in a velvety soup), the spelt, the cheeses…

Picture the sheep as they graze in the flower-filled meadow of Castelluccio, the cheeses made from the sheep’s milk, the honey of a thousand wildflowers.  These are the elements that are used to recreate traditional dishes following ageless recipes, held dear by the Bianconi family and presented daily to their guests.

 

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