Pondering what to blog about this week, I realized that on my latest trip to Italy, in May, I experienced several new restaurants which are worthy of mention. European travel and especially “slow travel” is not complete in my estimation, without much attention to food and restaurants.
It’s interesting to note that personally I think of small family restaurants as long term ventures but just like any business, these are prone to the whims of the economy and other challenges, so new ones tend to pop up periodically and I’m always ready to see what they offer.
In Civita Castellana, which is about an hour away west of Rome, the one hotel (owned by a French company), hosts a new restaurant started by a young couple with culinary talents that run in their family. The name, Le Scuderie, denotes the original use of this part of the palazzo housing the hotel which is “the stables”. Of course, though there are no longer signs of horses, the booth-like table arrangement gives a sense of its former use. The new incarnation is tastefully recreated in an elegant setting that is quiet, comfortable and makes one feel like staying until closing. The lighting is low and the use of windows for summer light is magical.
What about the food, you ask?! Fantastic! We opted for “tastes” or appetizers as they looked so tantalizing and we were not disappointed. A foie gras plate with home-made crusty breads and a cheese plate with six local specialty tastings. Of course, the wine was a moderately priced but elegant, full-bodied sagrantino from the Umbria area. The service was exemplary, our wait person attentive but not intrusive and the prices were as reasonable as any local trattoria. It may be that the prices will inch up as it becomes known for its excellence, but that is as it should be. Next trip I will try one of the entrees as I’m convinced this restaurant can do no wrong.
La Taverna Dell’Estrusco, in Orvieto is a great place to offset the usual and ordinary fare found in many of the restaurants there. I was pleasantly surprised when I snuck off from the group one day to have a quiet lunch and found this particular eatery, that was new to me. The decor is contemporary even though it has a bit of a “cavelike” feeling to it. The tables are made with lovely inlays, but it was the food that caught my attention. The fungi pasta plate I ordered had the freshest of mushrooms and the homemade pasta was just the right texture with a delicate drizzle of olive oil, not overkill, and plenty of the season’s best vegetables. The salad was also made with the freshest of ingredients but the real treat was dessert. The panne cota, topped with a compote made from wild berries that came out of this kitchen, exceeded all of my expectations.
We will keep you posted about other new restaurant sightings. Italian Excursion will be hosting its tours for autumn starting mid-September. Our 2014 tour schedule is posted on our website: www.italianexcursion.com. Happy traveling, everyone!
Cheryl has been traveling to Europe, particularly Italy, for more than fourteen years. Her interest in Italy, its history, art and rich culture led her to purchase property near Orvieto, allowing her to spend more time there. Cheryl’s exploration of Italy include the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, as well as the areas around Venice and south towards Sorrento. She continues to travel into Italy’s less traveled regions, and enjoys sharing her discoveries with others. Relaxed, leisurely tours are her specialty with an emphasis on the comfort of her guests.
Cheryl spends the rest of her time near the beach in San Diego, cavorting with her two small grandchildren. She’s an avid reader, health advocate and community volunteer. Her career as a social worker brings an understanding of people’s needs to the tour business.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.