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Tuscany, Umbria, Urbino, Rome (Long)

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Restaurants & Bars 1

Tuscany, Umbria, Urbino, Rome (Long)

jbw | Mar 15, 2005 01:37 PM

Just returned from two weeks in Central Italy. Since we tended to go the agriturismo route, most of our evening meals were provided by our hosts or taken in our rooms (we're big fans of charcuterie, formaggi, pane, and vino) but here are some highlights, mostly of our midday pranzi, focusing on memorable dishes (usually preceded by a house antipasto misto and followed by a plate of regional cheeses):

Orvieto: La Palomba, via Cipriano-Maninte 16

This is a trattoria that's been around for some time (we were there 15 years ago and had the same meals with equal results), but it doesn't seem to be listed in many guides. In any case, we were there in truffle season both times and confined ourselves to pasta and an omelette covered with truffle freshly grated at the table, a taste we savored long into the evening.

Montalcino: Osteria di Porta al Cassero, via dalla Liberta 9

Pleasant family osteria, with probably the best house wine we had on the trip, an excellent accompaniment to their specialty of the day, polenta con cinghiale.

Urbino: L'Angolo Divino, via S. Andrea 14

Sacco di pasta: Doesn't sound like much but this is their house specialty, small pasta squares (very coarse -- heavy-duty semolina mixed with cheese and probably polenta) steamed in parchment with truffles, porcini, and a hint of lemon. Wonderful.

Citta di Castello: Vineria del Vasaio, via della Cacioppa 4

Wonderful wine cellar around the corner from the excellent Hotel Tiferna (108 eu/night, easily a 250 eu hotel in Rome). Limited selection but we put ourselves in the waiter's hands for rounds of crostini, salumi, and formaggi, with appropriate glasses of wine to accompany each. Backed by the sounds of Dexter Gordon, this was perfection for a couple who find wine bars to be a necessity in Italy and France where only so many 5-course, multi-starred meals can be consumed before satiation, guilt, and poverty set in.

Rome:

Here the wine bar of choice was Cul de Sac (piazza Pasquino 73 -- right below Piazza Navona) as it has been in the past. Glad to hear from an earlier post that Cavour 313 is still up to snuff, but we missed it this time.

We were there on a Sunday midday so we can also confirm an earlier post on Orso 80 (via Orso 80, near the Umberto Bridge). There we ordered -- along with everyone else who knew anything about the place -- the antipasto misto, an extravagant display of antipasti that certainly requires neither primo nor secondo. Not something you'd want to do every day (some of the piatti were hit or miss, but with such abundance who cares?), but certainly a classic Roman experience.

Finally, Bric, via del Pellegrino 57 (just above Campo di Fior'). Prices here seemed a bit high, particularly after our tour in the countryside, but no complaints since the pasta with 1. chestnuts/guanciale/pecorino and 2. salsicce/cinghiale were two of the best dishes we had. A wonderful marchesa with a deliciously gritty chocolate gelato made this one of our finest meals.

One final note of advice to carnivores. IMO and with some significant exceptions, most of the Umbrian and Tuscan secondi cannot compare in terms of quality and interest with the antipasti and primi, particularly once price is factored in. We were quite happy concentrating on the former two.

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