Tag Archives: food

Ristorante Monna Lisa – where hospitality is a sacred art

Monna Lisa

 

Ristorante Monna Lisa
Via del Forte,
Castiglione del Lago (PG)
39-075-951-071
monnalisa@simail.it
Owner: Maurizio Bracci

 

 

Hospites sacri sunt.  Ristorante Monna Lisa’s owner, Maurizio Bracci, holds true to his restaurant’s motto, espousing the sanctity of hospitality.  Maurizio is a warm and welcoming host, who turns hospitality into a fine art.  The atmosphere is casual, familial – we are at home at his table.  The dining room, with walls the color of corn and table linens the color of wheat, sets the tone for meals that celebrate the bounty of the “territorio.  Below is another dining room, an old-fashioned taverna where private parties can be accommodated and simpler, traditional peasant fare is offered.  The centuries-old wine barrels were impossible to move from the structure where they began their life, so when Maurizio restored the tavern, he simply incorporated them into the walls, where, he says, they will remain. 

Menu offerings include both fish from Lake Trasimeno, specialties from the sea, or dishes typical of the Umbrian-Tuscan region of Italy.  Their tagliere antipasto, a wooden platter with a bounty of local salami and cured meats, bruschette and variously aged Tuscan pecorino cheeses, could have easily been subject for a still life painting, had we left it untouched.  Not possible.  Choosing to sample a little of the sea, a little of the land was a good way to proceed.  Most memorable were the gnocchetti all’ortica con polpa di granchio e capesantetiny green gnocchi bathed in a creamy tomato sauce made with crabmeat and scallops.  We did not stray far when selecting a wine.  The hillside vineyards of the lake region, Colli di Trasimeno, produce a grechetto that is superb – a dry, white wine that whispers of white fruit: peaches, pears and even of bananas.

Ristorante Monna Lisa is a family-run restaurant, with wife Josefina in the kitchen making an art of her cooking.  Each course arrives at the table, skillfully prepared and artfully plated.  Her dessert of macedonia spills from a waffle cone reminiscent of a cornucopia, accompanied by ice cream, whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar – not simply served, but presented as a gift!

Gift yourself a meal at this delightful restaurant!  

 

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

 

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Ristorante Pascolò – by the sea

Ristorante Ristorante PascolòPascolò
Via Giuseppe Pellegrino 154
Vietri sul Mare (SA)
39-089-763-062

http://www.ristorantepascalo.com
Owner / Chef: Pasquale Vitale

Pasquale confesses to having been a vagabond for many years – traveling and learning his craft as chef.  He worked in many fine hotel restaurants in Italy’s famed resorts.  Then he spent six months in Miami, where he admits to acquiring excellent organizational skills.  These same skills and his love for adventure is what he brought with him when he returned to his hometown of Vietri sul Mare.  He opened up his restaurant in 2006, giving it the name Pascolò, with a subtitle “Arte in Tavola.”  Art is what he brings to his tables.

PasqualeLocated directly on the marina of Vietri, his family-style restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining in season.  Naturally, his cuisine is primarily seafood-based, featuring the freshest catch of the day.  In addition, Pasquale loves to “revisit” some Campania classics, adding his special twist.  We tried his version of spaghetti alla chitarra, traditional pasta of the region, usually served with lamb.  His is dressed up with the frutti del mare – a dish that appeals to the eye, as well as the taste buds.  Pasquale loves to save his pièce de resistance for the meal’s end. We had a pastry-like cake made called scomposta al limone made with limoncello – Pasquale’s creation meant to leave its sweet taste lingering in his customer’s memory.    Remember we will.

 

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

 

Ristorante San Martino 26 – a “towering” cuisine in San Gimignano

San Martino 26 (16)Ristorante San Martino 26
Via S. Martino 26
53037 San Gimignano (SI)
0577-940-483
http://www.ristorantesanmartino26.it
Owner: Fabio Pernarella
Chef: Ardit Curri

Fabio Pernarella and his family bring 27 years of restaurant experience to this relatively new enterprise in San Gimignano. Perucà is their other ristorante, where their entry into the restaurant business had its humble beginnings. For over two decades it has been a most popular Tuscan restaurant, not to be missed. But in this city of fabled towers, Chef Ardit Curri, a true culinary artist, offers a cuisine that towers above the rest, taking a traditional way of cooking to new and creative heights at Ristorante San Martino 26. Like the cuisine, the ambiance is a harmony of light and contemporary décor, blending beautifully with its ancient stone walls and cellars.

San Martino 26 (3)The only way to really explore these tempting innovations is to sit back and enjoy one of their seasonal tasting menus. Journey along with the chef and let your waiter pair the wines with the various courses, making this adventure a celebration of all that is good and beautiful in Tuscany. Each course was brought to the table like a small gift, beautifully presented, familiar yet surprising: like Il Fegatino Toscano, chicken liver with vin santo on a home-made pan brioche or the poached egg yolk hidden in a mound of whipped egg-whites and Parmesan, topped with truffles. We particularly enjoyed La Chitarrina, fine hand-made egg noodles made spicy with aglio e olio then coated with a more delicate creamed anchovy and shrimp sauce.

Our wines included the famous Vernaccia wine of San Gimignano, a crisp white wine locally produced from the Vernaccia grape. Earliest mention of this wine dates back to records from the 13th century, but since the Renaissance, it has been considered one of Italy’s finest wines. With our main entrée, roast pork with steamed carrot and purée of green beans, we sipped a Super Tuscan Peperino. The sweet Moscadello di Montalcino, with its gem-like topaz color, accompanied our dessert and it was a match made in paradiso. In spite of what seemed like an endless parade of dishes, because portions and flavors were balanced to perfection, we left completely satisfied at meal’s end, ready to explore the treasures of this medieval city.

San Martino 26 (10)

Chef Ardit Curri

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ristorante Pomarancio – a riverview restaurant

Ristorante Pomarancio

Ristorante Pomarancio
Via Gabriotti, 14
Umbertide
(near the historic center)
39-075-941-5886

info@ristorantepomarancio.it
http://www.ristorantepomarancio.it/

 

 

At the confluence of the Upper Tiber River and its smaller tributary, the Reggia, sits the town of Umbertide.  Ristorante Pomarancio is across the river, a stone’s throw from the historic city center and is named after the 16th century artist whose paintings can be found in the nearby octagonal church known as la Colleggiata.  Ristorante Pomarancio offers outdoor dining on a delightful patio overlooking the river with a view of Umbertide’s ancient dwellings, their muted colors softly reflected in the waters below the city’s old stone walls.

Pomarancio’s large interior dining room has a contemporary, understated elegance, featuring pure white china on linens in shades of khaki and off-white, accented by napkins the color of pumpkins.  Soft music plays in the background, but at least twice a month, the restaurant offers live music.  Just recently, on Valentine’s Day, they hosted an evening of jazz to their 120+ diners.

We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch.  A pleasant Rosso di Montefalco wine kept us company through a four-course meal that began with a mound of porcini mushrooms on a bed of watercress and rucola greens, topped with shavings of pecorino.  A light primo of spinach-filled crepes was followed by stinco di maiale al vino rosso, tender pork shank braised in red wine.  Pomarancio’s chef is from Puglia, bringing a little southern zest to the more traditional dishes of the Umbria region.  Enrico Bacchetti, the restaurant’s manager is a man of vision, each new idea simmers until it is a fait accompli.  Expect to eat well and be entertained on a regular basis at the Pomarancio – a successful part of Umbertide’s restaurant scene.

view from Pomarancio (sm)

View of the River and Umbertide from restaurant

 

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

 

Scimitar – a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea

SciScimitar 1mitar
Banchina no. 13
Darsena Centrale
Porto di Fano
39-0721-831-473
info@scimitar.it
www.scimitar.it

What could be more enchanting than to dine in a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea?  Add the glow of a fading sun, followed by the glimmer of the port lights reflected in the water, and the scene becomes unforgettable.  Built in 1970, Scimitar was once a ship in the British Military Navy, serving in a variety of capacities before eventually “retiring” in the port of Fano.  Damaged by fire, it remained anchored for ten years.  Then, following ambitious plans and years of careful restructuring, undertaken by Marco Pezzolesi, Director of Fano’s Fisherman’s Cooperative, it was given new life in 2007 as a floating restaurant.

There’s more than just panoramic scenery here – the food is excellent too and the fixed priced menu is easy on one’s wallet.  The all-seafood menu, featuring four courses, changes slightly each day, according to the daily catch.  To begin with, a trio of cold antipasti, fresh marinated anchovies, chilled salmon with arugula and cherry tomatoes, and a “salad” of diced potato and octopus.  This is followed by a warm antipasto of steamed clams and mussels.  There are two primi – a pasta and a risotto and finally, the centerpiece of the meal – a huge platter of fritto misto, calamari, shrimp and sardines, fried in a batter so delicate, they nearly lifted themselves off the plate before we could dish them onto ours.  This abundant mound of fish comes with a crispy fresh insalata mista.  We choose a local white wine, Bianchello del Metauro, and it is a perfect choice for one of the best seafood meals we have had in Italy.

Scimitar is moored at Fano Port, on the central dock between the fishing port and tourist marina.  Beautiful views, soft music, excellent cuisine and choice wines – ingredients that will keep the Scimitar afloat for many years to come.

Scimiar 2

 

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

L’Osteria in Aboca – a family legacy in Tuscany

Osteria in Aboca - terrace
L’Osteria in Aboca
Frazione Aboca, 11
Sansepolcro (AR)
39-0575-749-125
http://www.losteriainaboca.it
info@losteriainaboca.it
Owner/Chef: Massimiliano Giovagnini

Owner/Chef Massimiliano has a story to tell; his gentle words describe a rich family history of genuine food hospitality and his dishes tell the rest. It was his great grandmother who wisely began serving simple fare in a little store that sold foodstuffs in Aboca, a hamlet where there was not even a paved road. Nevertheless, she saw the need to offer sustenance to the woodsmen, coal-workers, and passersby at this isolated intersection where mail was delivered. This was in 1944. Over the course of the following decades, his grandfather enlarged and improved the little store to meet the needs of a growing community, but it was Massimiliano who took his passion for what they had begun and in the mid-1980s turned it into a full-fledged restaurant, ever popular with the locals and visitors to this lesser-known part of Tuscany.

Suspecting that our portions are going to be generous, we practice some self-control, skip the tempting antipasti and start by sharing two primi: handmade ravioli stuffed with mashed potatoes and Parmesan, topped with wilted fresh spinach leaves and tagliatelle al ragù bianco di Chianina, delicate noodles with a simple “white” sauce, meaning no tomatoes, flavored with ground morsels of the prized Chianina beef of this region. For our secondi we celebrate where we are: mixed grill of pork for Umbria and tagliata of Chianina beef for Tuscany, of course. The platter of fried zucchini and eggplant is simply a celebration of what is in season. Valentina suggests that we choose the house wine, a robust red, Pian di Rèmole, from the Frescobaldi vineyards of Tuscany.

Even without dessert, our meal has a sweet ending as we visit with Massimiliano who spends time with us in spite of a large lunch crowd. We savor his enthusiasm for his family’s history and presence on this spot, for countless seasons, through times of want and times of plenty. A humble beginning made rich through love and hard-work. What a legacy!

Osteria in Aboca - Massimiliano

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

Ristorante Le Scuderie – what hand and eye can achieve

Ristorante Le ScuderieRistorante Le Scuderie
Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, 226
63100 Ascoli Piceno
39-0736-258-779
http://www.lescuderieristorante.com
info@lescuderieristorante.com
Owner: Guido Manocchio

The historic residence of Palazzo Malaspina and its stables have been converted into one the most charming restaurants in the heart of Ascoli Piceno. Enter through its covered passageway, and discover an atmosphere that enchants, whether you dine in the handsome, rustic interior of the converted 17th century stables, or in the enclosed garden courtyard, softly illuminated to hint at romance. Upstairs in what was the piano nobile of the palazzo, are private dining rooms, one of which is the Salone delle battaglie with exquisite vaulted, frescoed ceilings. Here private parties as well as business or ceremonial banquets can be arranged.

Antipasto at Le ScuderieWe dine at a corner window table from which we can admire the lovely garden or the large stone wood-burning camino in the adjacent room where one of the cooks skillfully grills the meats. The cestino of Ascoli fried specialties is superb – the traditional fried Ascoli olives nestled among batter-fried artichoke hearts, zucchini and cremini are crisp and savory. To have them along side a platter of famous Norcina salumis is the ultimate indulgence. The house Maccheronicini Scuderie, features the tartufo nero and local sausage. Finally, we get to taste the mouth-watering lamb chops that we witnessed being grilled. A hearty red wine, Rosso Piceno, from neighboring vineyards is perfect for our cena ascolana.

Guido Manocchio, the owner, is an accountant by profession and a restaurateur by passion. He is a man who lives up to his name. I suggested to him that he did indeed put his hand and his eye into creating and opening this restaurant. “And my wallet too!” he quipped. I have no doubt that his investment will reap many rewards – it has all the right ingredients – great food prepared by a fantastic chef, a well-trained staff, and a captivating ambience.

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