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03 February 2010
WanderFood Wednesday: a few of my favorite things, part four
small-town sustenance

mmm, ravioli with duck ragu
mmm, ravioli with duck ragu (Taverna della Rocca, Frontone)

This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series of my favorite Italian food porn from our recent trip. The other three parts are linked below.

Part four: small-town restaurants
One could argue whether or not some of these sites are actually small towns... it's all relative once you start traveling through the Italian countryside. All of these sites were reached via daytrip from our agriturismo in Le Marche, and each had its own distinct charm. In contrast with our culinary adventures in Florence and Venice, visiting these smaller cities was much more about slow food and slow travel, sampling the local fare, and taking a deep-deep-deep breath to soak it all in. In some cases, we had a recommendation for a specific restaurant. More often than not, we followed our nose and found a place that suited our needs in the moment. Regardless, each of these towns had their own stories to tell; links and recommendations are provided below.

cantucci e vinsanto
cantucci e vinsanto (Vineria PerBacco, Anghiari) 

heart attack on a plate, om nom nom
heart attack on a plate, om nom nom (Agriturismo Olivetano, Perugia) 

panini-licious (Caffe Duomo, Assisi)

Zuppa della Luna
Zuppa della Luna (Osteria Della Luna, Gradara) 

sadly, not the mixed grill… awesome piadine tho
sadly, not the mixed grill… awesome piadine tho (Taverna della Rocca, Frontone)

Hop on over to Wanderlust & Lipstick's WanderFood Wednesday for more mouth-watering pics.

Vineria PerBacco
Galleria girolamo magi
52031 - Anghiari (AR)
+39 0575 788893

Agriturismo Olivetano
Strada dei Cappuccinelli, 18
S. Lucia - Perugia
+39 075 44235

Caffe Duomo
Piazza San Rufino, 5
06081 Assisi
+39 075 81 55 209

Osteria Della Luna Di Ercoles E Cimarelli
Via Umberto Primo
61012 Gradara (PU)
+39 0541 969838

Taverna della Rocca
Via Leopardi, 22
61040 Frontone (PU)
+39 0721 786109

* A few of my favorite things, part one: big-city restaurants
* A few of my favorite things, part two: festival snacky-treats
* A few of my favorite things, part three: handmade with love

* Anghiari: Tuscan daytrip
* Perugia: full of surprises
* Assisi: saints and sinners
* Frontone: can you smell what the Rocca's cooking?
* Gradara photos

* browse photos by region: Le Marche | Umbria

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 1 comment

30 September 2009
LOCKED UP ABROAD: Piobbico Edition

Oh my, friends and neighbors, what a day.

It was one of those episodes you might read about in travel-gone-wrong books like "There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled" or "No Touch Monkey." Or, in another reality, we might have been featured on that terrifying NatGeo series "Locked Up Abroad."

close call!

Fortunately, things worked out well enough that we're able to laugh about the whole incident. But it was a close call.

Part One: lunchtime FAIL
Taverna della RoccaThe day started out with a second attempt to get our grilled-slabs-of-meat fix at Taverna della Rocca. Though we'd been unsuccessful the prior evening, we'd noticed a sign stating that the restaurant would be closed "for holidays" the entire month of October. This is a pretty common thing in Italy, where merchants will often close up shop for weeks or months at a time, seemingly on a whim. We counted our blessings that we had one last day left in September, and carefully made sure that the Taverna would be serving lunch on September 30. One last chance to avenge our salumi mistake from the night before!

We drove to Frontone at breakneck speed, because we'd learned the hard way that lunch is rarely served beyond 2pm, and we didn't want to miss the narrow window. Arriving at the top of the mountain, we tore up the street only to find Taverna della Rocca completely closed up. No evidence it had been open at all that day. Ehm, excuse me? What gives??? Nothing. Not a salsiccia to spare.

(We learned later that the proprietors had decided to shut down a day early. I guess anyone who would close their restaurant for an entire month isn't too concerned with precision. Typical!)

Part Two: in and out of tight spaces
this is where the car almost got wedgedBorghettoAfter a brief stop in the scenic town of Cagli, we continued on to Piobbico to check out Castello Brancaleoni. This 13th century castle was another spot that had peaked our interest after we'd read about it in the Tavola Marche blog. In an attempt to get as close to the castello entrance as possible, however, we found ourselves driving around Borghetto, the tiny medieval village that surrounds the castle grounds. Gradually the streets got narrower and narrower, until finally we reached a tight corner that it just didn't seem possible to fit the car through. Well, now what? Go for it, and risk getting completely wedged in? Or try to drive in reverse, uphill, with about two inches of clearance on either side of the car? The latter seemed the lesser of two evils. So, under the watchful gaze of two alley cats, and with Mark doing his best air traffic controller impression, I sl-l-l-l-o-w-w-w-w-ly backed the car out of the pinched lane, managing to neither knock down the several nearby motorcycles nor scrape any paint off the car.

Crisis averted. But the best was yet to come.

Part Three: (almost) locked up abroad
this was almost our room for the nightWe finally made it to Castello Brancaleoni, perched on a hilltop overlooking Piobbico and Monte Nerone. It was no surprise that the castle museum was closed, it being the slow season. But the sign out front said the castle grounds were open until 6:15. So we wandered in, poked around a bit, admired the views, horsed around. I was in the middle of snapping scenic shot #3042, when Mark paused and said "I think they're closing up. We should get out of here." We both heard a clanging sound, like a heavy gate closing. Hm, guess it's time to leave.

Castello Brancaleoni's main gateAt that point it seemed wisest to haul ass towards the main gate, which was now closed and locked with a huge iron padlock. Merda!!! Fortunately I noticed someone on the other side of the gate, just about to drive off. Mark and I both waggled our arms frantically through the bars, now in a mild panic, trying to get the attention of the person who'd just locked us in the castle for the night. How could she not know there were still visitors inside??? The place is not that big, and we'd been behaving like our typical rambunctious American selves. It didn't add up, but we had little time to ponder this and life's other mysteries, as our entire energy was spent flagging down the keymaster before she drove off.

the keymaster returns!Thankfully this woman spied our deranged wiggling appendages, and, looking somewhat surprised and just a tad chagrined, she came back up the hill and opened the gate. "Oh," says she, "I didn't know you were in there." Really. You don't say. Apparently there's some kind of motion-sensor alarm system in the castle, so we probably wouldn't have had to spend the entire night on the chilly stone floor. But how much fun would it have NOT been for the cops show up to bail out the stupid American turistas who got themselves stuck in Castello Brancaleoni?

So, in the end, we made it out alive and mostly unscathed. As you can see from the photos, it wasn't even 6pm yet. Which is a laughably rational and American thing to say, given that (a) who even knows if that clock has the right time on it? and (b) just because the sign says something is open until 6:15 has absolutely no basis in Italian reality. They open and close whenever they feel like it!

After that series of heart-pounding experiences, we decided to cut our losses and head back to the farmhouse for a nice mellow meal in our apartment. Yikes. All's well that ends well, but this was more excitement than even *we* had bargained for.

* all Piobbico pics
* all Frontone pics
* Can you smell what the Rocca's cooking?

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

29 September 2009
Can you smell what the Rocca's cooking?
Castello di Frontone & Taverna della Rocca

On recommendation from the LTM blog we decided to drive to nearby Frontone to check out the castle. It looked like an excellent place to check out the sunset, and indeed it was!

Castello di FrontoneThe castle itself is not open in low season (September-May), except for weekends. So we weren't able to climb to the very tippy-top of the mountain, but we got pretty close. Frontone is located in the Cesano Valley, less than an hour's drive from LTM. I couldn't say whether or not there's anything worth seeing in the town proper, because we headed straight for the castle, which is perched atop a singular hill and surrounded by an ancient medieval hamlet. Coolness!

Mark on Frontone's main dragWe wandered around a bit, admiring the back alleys and as much of the castle as we could see. The astounding views were nearly 360°, with Umbria just off to the southwest, and the hills & villages of Le Marche in all other directions. And then the sun began to set. It was one of those jaw-dropping sunsets where the light just keeps getting more and more gorgeous. Where you can't decide whether to sit and drool, or take *one more* beautiful picture. (So, of course, we did some of both.) We enjoyed a front-row seat to nature's spectacular lightshow at Ristorante Amabile, over limoncellos and a plate of formaggio misto. Very civilized, indeed.

golden hour in the Cesano Valley I kept promising to put my camera down, but couldn't! going... going... one last blaze of glory

those griller ladies move fast!Dinner was just up the "street" at Taverna della Rocca, former stables carved into the side of the mountain. What a show! The dining room centered around an enormous wood-burning grill, with ladies in white uniforms tossing huge logs into the fire and jostling beds of coals on which they grilled sausages and other meaty goodness. We couldn't tell under the long sleeves, but guessed these gals must've had huge guns from endless hours of cooking. The smells coming from the grill were tantalizing to the max.

sadly, not the mixed grill (awesome piadine tho)We started off with a lovely plate of ravioli with duck ragu, plus some house wine, of course. But then, for the next course, we made a fatal blunder. We saw cinghale (wild boar) on the menu and were immediately intrigued, but mixed up salsicce (sausage) with salumi (thin-sliced cured salami) and wound up with something more akin to an antipasto plate. Rookie mistake! In our defense, this particular item was mixed in with the main courses, on a totally different page from the antipasti. But it was still a crushing defeat after sitting next to the grill all evening and watching plate after plate of meat go by. In retrospect, we could probably have asked for just one or two sausages, but instead we opted for a decadent dessert of profiteroles. And vowed to come back the next day, perhaps for lunch, to avenge our error.

Ristorante Amabile
Via Leopardi, 2
61040 Frontone (PU)
+39 0721 790710

Taverna della Rocca
Via Leopardi, 22
61040 Frontone (PU)
+39 0721 786109

* La Tavola Marche blog - Frontone
* all Frontone pics


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments