Tag Archives: Italy

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.

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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

Ristorante Canoscio – high above the Upper Tiber Valley

Ristorante Canoscio (for web)Ristorante Canoscio
2 Nucleo Canoscio
Città di Castello (PG)
39-075-854-019
http://www.ristorantecanascio.com
Owners: Franco Sensi & Emanuela Ciarabelli

Open Friday, Saturday & Sunday

 

Ristorante Canoscio sits high above the Upper Tiber Valley, in the shadow of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Canoscio.  The road to reach the Sanctuary and this restaurant winds through rich farmland, and then passes through silent woodlands where the Stations of the Cross flank the country road.  Upon arrival one is greeted by a precious silence and an awesome panorama.  The dining room of this popular restaurant is anything but silent.  The cheerful interior is filled with the lively chatter of friends and family, come together to enjoy their day of leisure or to celebrate a more festive occasion.  Today is Mother’s Day and the parish priest delights the mamas present with an impromptu serenade. The family gathered at the table across from ours is celebrating an uncle’s 90th birthday.

It is fun to witness the festivities while we join the diners in savoring the four-course fixed price lunch that is offered every Sunday.  A generous array of antipasti, both hot and cold, are followed by two pastas.  The lasagna must have been brought in from the kitchen on angel’s wings.  The delicate homemade noodles are layered simply with a combination of perfect tomato sauce and béchamel.  The taglierini are feather-light as well, holding up to a fine ragú.  And even though the tris of roasted meats with patate fritte and salad fills one up, there is always room for dessert!   For those diners wishing to make a different lunch or dinner selection, there is an alla carte menu.  The owners are happy to arrange special parties and receptions for any occasion, but who needs an occasion to enjoy their simply delicious, homemade cooking.  Make this restaurant your destination, next time you are out for a Sunday drive.

The tranquil drive to Canoscio satisfies the spirit, but the food at this restaurant satisfies the appetite.

Canoscio Angels (for web)

 

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

 

Eating good in the neighborhood – Cortona’s Ristorante La Bucaccia

 

La Bucaccia

 

Ristorante La Bucaccia
Via Ghibellina, 17
Cortona
0575-606-039
info@labucaccia.it
www.labucaccia.it
Owner: Romano Magi
Chef: Agostina Magi

From Cortona’s main square, it is a steep descent down Via Ghibellina to La Bucaccia, a uniquely charming local restaurant. It is well worth the effort, because here the cuisine of Tuscany rises to unbelievable heights. This cozy restaurant was carved out of the ruins of a 12th-century palazzo, a painstaking restoration that took the owners, Romano and Agostina Magi, almost two years to complete. The stone walls resonate with history and with the Magi’s passion for preserving that history and its architecture.  They have incorporated the remnants of the old well, the cellars, the animal feeding trough and the old camino, into the décor of the intimate dining room which seats no more than thirty people.

Romano Magi is justifiably proud of this multi-tiered accomplishment and of his wife, the chef responsible for La Bucaccia’s famed cuisine.  One is not likely to meet a man more passionate about Tuscan cooking or cheese-making, in particular, so it was with immense pleasure that we got to know Romano over a lunch that literally burst forth with flavor, one course after another.  Romano entertained and educated us as he made fresh cheese at our table, one of several cheese offerings that he produced and presented throughout our meal.   There is nothing like newly made ricotta drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and cracked peppercorns.  Or a plate of cheese arranged in a circle, that invites one to taste in clockwise fashion the stages of its aging, each accompanied by a different garnish or marmalade.

But, oh, the pastas!  Romano introduced us to a sampling of three different kinds – boasting that over the course of the seasons, they alternate between no less that 67 pasta dishes.  The pici, made green with fresh herbs rather than spinach, topped with porcini mushrooms, was the stuff of celestial banquets.  We were content, but Romano insisted we sample Agostina’s bistecca of the local chianina beef.  Mamma mia!

Agostina and Romano’s daughter, Francesca, has been learning on the job since she was six.  She smiles an angelic smile from behind the bar; she de-corks the wine, and can explain anything on the menu.  She is as sweet as any dessert Agostina can create!

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

A View over Florence at La Loggia

Ristorante La Loggia

Ristorante La Loggia
Piazzale Michelangelo, 1
50125 Florence
055-234-2832
www.ristorantelaloggia.it
booking@ristorantelaloggia.it

 

 

History, Location, Cuisine… La Loggia has it all.  In conjunction with the creation of the Piazzale Michelangelo designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, La Loggia was originally built in 1865 to house a Michelangelo museum.  The tree-lined avenues leading up from the banks of the Arno to the impressive piazza, the square itself, and the Loggia were all part of an ambitious plan to give the city a facelift following, and in celebration of, the unification of Italy and the establishment of the new government in Florence.  Instead, in 1876 this lovely neoclassical building became the Panoramic Restaurant destined to become a historical institution, not only for its architectural beauty but also for its cuisine, and the part it still plays in the social life of the city, drawing Florentines and foreigners from all over the world to its tables.

From the tables in the dining room, and through the arches of the loggia, or from the rooftop terrace, La Loggia offers incomparable views of the city – the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the turrets and towers and domes of Dante’s city – most spectacular of all the Duomo, especially when softly illuminated at night.  This evening the dining room tables are graced with silver chargers set on fine table linens, with fresh flowers.  The atmosphere is relaxed, yet elegant.  Our waiter opens a bottle of Chianti Classico, Tagliafune 2005, produced for the restaurant by the University of Florence’s Agricultural Department.  It has earned a DOCG classification, and it is well merited.  La Loggia has a team of six chefs, and during high season, six more join the team.  Tonight Franco Carnivale has prepared some marvelous dishes, but the filet mignon of Tuscan beef, made with lardo and a reduction of Chianti wine is superb.  In fact, Chianti also starred in our pasta course, flavoring the very tasty ragú that topped fresh pici.

Soft music makes conversation easy and silent moments enjoyable.  As we sip the sweetness of Passito di Pantaliera, Sicily’s noted Moscato, it is easy to understand why La Loggia has remained popular for 130 years, whether one comes to dine or to simply enjoy an aperitif as shadows lengthen and day turns into dusk.  Claudio Nobbio, in his poem entitled “Aperitivo sulla terrazza di Firenze” ends his day – and his verse – with these words:

In the meantime, they bring me an iced aperitif

And it is in these moments that I love Florence

Even more…

 

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

Antica Trattoria Polese – A Roman Tradition

Antica Trattoria Polese

Antica Trattoria Polese
Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 40
Rome
06-686-9543
www.trattoriapolese.com
Owners: Paolo & Lorenzo Polese

 

For a typical Roman meal, Antica Trattoria Polese is a good choice.   In business since 1960, it is now managed by the second generation of the Polese family, brothers Paolo and Lorenzo.   Located not far from Piazza Navona, in the historic 15th-century Palazzo dei Borgi, the restaurant includes several intimate rooms inside on the ground level as well as a beautiful basement level with vaulted ceilings. It also has a characteristic canopied dining area set up outdoors in the piazza for fair-weather dining.

The trattoria’s history started in 1961 with a dream and plenty of hard work by two brothers from the province of Molise.   Biagio and Vincenzo ran the eatery until the 1980’s.  Paolo and Lorenzo carry on the dream and the hard work began by their father and uncle, with the assistance of ten employees, half of which are immigrants from other countries, reflecting the changing faces of the Italian population in general.  What hasn’t changed is the quality of their culinary offerings, which have earned them the Cucina Romana Award in recognition of their long-standing tradition of typical Roman cuisine. Giovanni, the chef who produces these many flavorful dishes, began as a dishwasher in 1965.

Paolo Polese is a gracious host, and a very busy one.   The trattoria attracts a large crowd of both Romans and visitors to the city.  We followed his recommendations for our dinner selections and it was a good decision on our part. The tonnarelli (fat spaghetti noodles) con cacio e pepe were delectable, the tagliata (thick beef cutlet) was grilled to perfection and was as tender as can be.   The meals ended with their homemade specialty dessert, semifreddo al amaretto, a frozen cream dessert made with amaretto.  The house wine, a white wine from the Castelli Romani near Castel Gandolfo was a tasty companion to our meal.

Trattoria Armando al Pantheon – the art of la cucina romana

Trattoria Trattoria Armando al PantheonArmando al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi, 31
00186 Rome
06-688-03034
info@armandoalpantheon.it
www.armandoalpantheon.it
Owners: Fabrizio & Claudio Gargioli

 

When a family can claim a Roman ancestry that goes back to the 1700’s, and said family loves to cook – they are bound to have mastered the art of “la cucina romana.”  Armando Gargioli established this popular restaurant, located in the shadow of the Pantheon, in 1961, when friends encouraged him to take on an older establishment that was failing.  Under Armando’s direction, the trattoria was an immediate success with the locals and remains so today.

Armando’s two sons, Fabrizio and Claudio, are the reason why one is well-advised to reserve a table at this quaint trattoria.  These two brothers grew up in old Rome and tenaciously cling to the traditions of old Roman recipes, to the delight of the locals and enlightened travelers.  In an area, hemmed in by “tourist” eateries, Claudio, the cook, goes about the business of dishing up authentic fare that caters only to the standards that he sets for himself, replicating the dishes that his family and neighbors have enjoyed for generations.

Fabrizio knows people and his wines, blending his passion for both in welcoming and guiding his guests in selecting the best wine to accompany their meals.  Claudio’s daughter, Fabiana, has also mastered the sommelier art and now works side by side with her uncle.  So, what does one order from the kitchen?  We let Fabrizio take over – very wise of us – and we sampled two different primi, both Roman specialties – Bucatini all’Amatriciana with a zesty tomato sauce flavored just right with guanciale and pecorino and Pasta e Ceci, the chickpeas golden and velvety smooth, drizzled with a peppery green-gold olive oil.  Claudio’s bollita di manzo was simply divine, slices of tender beef stewed in a delicate tomato sauce.  We ended with Torta Antica Roma – a cake made with a filling of ricotta cheese and strawberry preserves.

Auguri, Claudio and Fabrizio, don’t change a thing!!!