Just came back from a last minute long weekend trip in Senigallia. We ate and drank exceptionally well, much better (and definitely cheaper) than in Rome, it seemed even. Here is our list and comments.
Saturday lunch, Clandestino in Portonovo. Moreno Cedroni's second restaurant (after Madonnina del Pescatore, which we did not try to get into). The most beautiful location for a fish restaurant that i can imagine. a white and light-/grey- blue wooden "shack" placed at one end of a white pebble - turquoise sea bay. Servers dressed the same colors. I admired the various guests dressed in combinations of blue, beige and white while i stuck out with my black & grey. Did everyone know or was it a coincidence? If there ever was a dress code for a restaurant that made sense, then it would be here :) As we often do in fine dining restaurants, we got the tasting menu, as we believe it is (or should be) a "calling card" for the place. Unfortunately, the only tasting menu available was the Renaissance menu, which is very interesting in theory but in actuality did not match our tastes. The fish were all of very good quality, no doubt about that, but we felt that except for 2 (out of 8) plates, the spices and other ingredients completely overpowered the fish and many times didn't work well in general, either. And the beginning of the menu was definitely a mistake - a sweet sorbet on a stick of Lacrima di Morro d'Alba wine with galangal, ginger, clove, cinnamon.... starting any meal with a cold, sweet and spiced dish would be difficult, starting a fish meal like this was bad, and bringing it before our chosen wine came to the table for a taste was horrible.... The meal was not bad per se (as mentioned, fish quality, whenever we could perceive it under all the other ingredients, was good) and we did not regret it, thanks in large parts to the setting and excellent wine list which had many natural and local options that were very fairly priced. But we wouldn't return. Paid €210 for 2 (menu is €85pp).
Saturday dinner, Enoforum in Senigallia. A gem. Reminded us of our beloved Litro in Rome, but at about half the price. The owner Marco took time to explain each dish from the short blackboard menu, made suggestions, opened a wine we were interested in to be served by the glass... We had amazing raw Iberico sausage on pizza bianca (which is called stirata romana here), a homemade duckliver terrine with brandy, artichokes prepared similar to alla romana but served on a puree of artichokes (who can say no to double the artichoke?), and an amazing cheese platter that showcased two Italian, two French and two British examples. Along with 6 glasses of excellent Italian and French natural wines, we paid €57.
Sunday (and Monday) breakfast, Caffè Portici in Senigallia. Best cappuccino I had in a long time (even better than at my beloved Roscioli Caffè in Rome). 15 different coffees to choose from (but only traditional Italian preparation, no pour-overs, etc). Excellent pastries. We have been told gelato is great, too but will try that next trip.
Sunday lunch, Trattoria da Maria in Fano. Words fail me. The most eccentric and absurd setting and people ended up giving us our best meal. We were on the waiting list for Uliassi but couldn't get in. I was at first very sad about this, but after our meal at da Maria, am not anymore, not at all. I had suspected that our very last minute (6 days before the date) try at Uliassi wouldn't succeed and had started to try out for da Maria. Yes, you go through a procedure. She tries to understand if you will appreciate what she is doing before she tells you yes. And there is the added difficulty/uncertainty of whether she'll have anything to serve you - if weather conditions do not let the fishermen go out, there is nothing to eat. I will copy & paste from what I wrote elsewhere about this meal:
"On the third phone call, Maria said "we'll give you whatever the sea gives us. If that is fine with you, you can come tomorrow for lunch". I really tried hard to be here, went through a three-part phone interview series and prayed for the winds to calm down so the fishermen could go out to sea. I have no adequate words to describe this once in a lifetime lunch in this very eclectic trattoria run by Maria and her daughter. It is clear they are doing this out of passion. As we chatted after the meal, i told her where i come from we say "may your hands remain healthy" to the cook, which she loved. There really is nothing more i can wish her. They are some of the last people to still believe in non-farmed fish, real food, made simply.
Not only is there no menu, you are not even asked anything. You just get the dishes of the day. First was a stone-ground polenta, made very thin like a farinata, with vongole (clams) and tiny pink shrimps on it. Then came a huge platter with sole (two regular, two darker ones with their eggs/roe still in - delicious), turbot and mantis shrimp, which were the sweetest i ever had. We were then brought "due pesce in guazzetto" - there were so many different fish in that stew i do not even know, among others there were again sole, turbot and also little sharks. The tomatoes were conserved last summer by Maria using her neighbor's tomatoes. We drank a bottle of slightly aromatic, skin contact natural Verdicchio 2010 that we bought at enoteca Galli in Senigallia and brought with us, as Maria only has jug wine."
Sunday dinner, Nana Bistrot in Senigallia. The team had guest-cooked a dinner last summer in Rome (at litro) and we were pretty smitten with what they did. Visiting them in their own place is even better. Beautiful location, amazing very young waitress who found the exact sweet spot between friendliness and professionalism, with extensive knowledge about every detail of everything they served, and with the grace to say "I am not sure, let me ask and clarify" in the one instance she didn't. Kitchen serves a limited number of dishes that were all prepared very well with a very good ingredients. A tajine of tubers, roots and vegetables was what hubby needed, an "old cow" tartare with bottarga and its (much bigger than expected) marrow-bone was an umami bomb, an order of small ravioli filled with artichoke/fava bean/sweet pea puree and sauced with the local vongole came already divided in two plates without us asking and was so delicious i will try to recreate it. A not too sweet tiramisu of creme catalan was perfect. Excellent bread, very good single origin coffee (maybe the best i had in a restaurant, and it comes with the recommendation to not add sugar to it), a very good natural wine list. A very good meal indeed, at €60 (including a bottle of wine). Amazing for us Romans.
Monday lunch, Aniko' in Senigallia. Cedroni's fry-shack, if you will. It was very nice to sit in the spring sun, enjoy a nice glass of wine, and have a light lunch. Prosciutto and melon with a twist (it was tuna prosciutto), fish and chips which used excellent fish and was fried expertly, polenta (this time in the "normal", more liquid, form) with a slightly spicy tomato-y vongole sauce. Ideal for a light lunch outside. Paid €60.
Other mention worthy places: enoteca Galli has an excellent selection and great prices. Brunelli has very delicious gelato, especially if you like the creamier flavors. Saltatappo has excellent natural wines and craft beers and offers a pretty substantial aperitivo platter during the aperitivo hours.
We loved Senigallia so much that we already booked our next trip in 6 weeks. It has excellent wide and sandy beaches like many other places on the Adria coast but is not just a ghost tourist town like many of them, has a real and historic old city with apparently enough people who are asking for good food and wine. When we return in June, we'll go back to some of the places above but also try out a couple of new places that have been recommended, so stay tuned.