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Nov 22, 2008 01:16 PM

Paradise on earth found in Umbria

So I walk into this place IL TARTUFO in Spoleto's Piazza Garibaldi.
And I boast of my truffle expertise. Yeah, right!

As most super restaurants in Italy, this is a two people operation.
Husband runs the front of the house, wife the kitchen.
Regular menu, plus the truffle menu: truffle appetizers, primi & secondi.
Separate White Truffle & Black Truffle pages, mind you.
I, pretending I know much, ask: so what local wine is good with truffles, Sagrantino?
He says: no way. For truffles you want something less overpowering.
Like... a Montefalco Rosso, Antonelli di San Marco.
I, pretending I know much, ask: how does Antonelli compare with Caprai?
Answer: on a QPR, no comparison! And then again, you want a Rosso, not a Sagrantino.
OK, bring it!
I must add, this it the time of the year when people in Spoleto press and bottle their olive oil.
IL TARTUFO serves their own olive oil freshly pressed. I mean, pressed today.
I drunk it off the plate, couldn't believe how sublime an olive oil can get. Coupled with the Antonelli? WOW!
Antipasto: Fiore di Zucca w/ricotta & shaved black truffles.
Primo: Tagliatelle w/ Tuber Magnatum. I didn't -obviously- weight, but must 've had at least 10 grams. As fresh, fragrant, ripe & sublime as I've ever had. Nothing in Piemonte or Croatia gets even close.
Secondo: Filet Mignon w/ black truffles.
All three above with the Antonelli Rosso, just Paradise on Earth.
It can get different, but no better.

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  1. Hi RicRios,

    Just curious: How did you get to Spoleto? Its kind of out of the way...

    Good tip!

    9 Replies
    1. re: girobike

      You mean, out of the touristy way?
      Well, guess what: Italy extends waaay beyond Rome / Florence / Venice.

      1. re: RicRios

        Aware of that. We go to small villages in Südtirol and the Dolomites often because its close to us.

        Was pleasantly surprised that you went off the beaten track. An 8+ hour drive is a bit too much for us - we'd have to plan a week+ long trip in advance.

        If you can give tips on how to get there, we'd appreciate it.

        1. re: girobike

          Geez, it's a snap....Take A1 out of Roma. At Orte, take the turnoff for SS3 towards Terni to Spoleto. That's it!

          Ric, by the way, I had a similar truffle experience in Umbria.

          1. re: girobike

            There are also several trains a day. The one-way trip from Rome takes about an hour and a half, a bit less on Eurostar.

            1. re: girobike

              Giro, I realize you may be coming from the north...Take A1 Bologna-Firenze-Valdichiana to SS 75B to Valdichiana-Perugia-Foligno, then SS3 Foligno to Spoleto. A friend used to run the Arts festival there, and from my visits there, I know there are always lots of things going on. Check the listings for the events throughout the year. Very sweet town.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Hey Maria,

                Good to hear from you again.

                By car for us will definitely be at least 8 hours from Germany. Tried to look into options to fly to Perugia, but its... ...spartan.

                Rome seems like the only option for flight/rental.

                Have taken note of your recommendation. Will tag it for next year.

                1. re: girobike

                  Actually, if you're in the neighborhood, hit Gubbio and Todi, too.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Well informed as usual, la lorraine!
                    Exactly 150 km from Fiumicino, A1 exit Orta verso Foligno.

                    Yesterday (Sunday) lunch again at Il Tartufo, this time strangozzi verde al tartufo nero. Wine paring ( always based on the owner's recs ): orvieto. Sorry, didn't ask for the producer/year, will get next time. Tricky the orvieto. Takes 15~20 min in the glass to open up. Very subtle, elegant, no wood here, perfect match with the strangozzi and BLACK truffles, I wouldn't dare with tuber magnatum.

                    Owner promised two small half liters of his unbelievable olive oil before I return.

                    BTW, forgot to mention: the Montefalco Rosso from Antonelli is a VERY humble wine, 10 Euro restaurant price. Tasting word that comes to mind: sottobosco.

                    Plan for today Monday: La Bastille in Spello, about 30 km north-northwest on Via Flaminia verso Assisi (of San Francesco fame). Will see what Bacchus brings in this second station of my Via Dolorosa, carrying the heavy weight of my truffle addiction.

                    A side note, illustrates the pristine character of the environment: signs posted all around the gorge where the Ponte delle Torri (ca.1130) glows in its millenial majesty, read "Permit required to collect truffles".

                    1. re: RicRios

                      My favorite in that area is the Chianina beef carpaccio with the shaved black truffles on top...accompanied by either the Rosso or the Sagrantino di Montefalco. The wine itself smells of truffles.

        2. Thanks for bringing back memories of my trip to Spoletto RicRios. I was there with a college art group back in 2001, before they switched over to the Euro. Beautiful area...crossing that aquaduct to get into town. Simply beautiful. You are 100% true on that comment about Italy being more than just Rome, etc. If I had the opportunity to go again, I would def go back to Umbria. I stayed in Todi, Spolleto, Spello, etc. and loved the fact that it was off the tourist path. Very few people spoke English which gave me a chance to use my Italian that I had studied for almost 12 years. Great food, great wine, great memories. funniest memory in Spoletto was getting clipped by one of those tiny cars, I think it was called a Punto. Good times!

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            1. So here's the second station report.
              "La Bastiglia" in Spello, province of Perugia.
              People in Spoleto warned me it was a turisty place.
              I'd call it "medieval soigné", if I may. Very romantic, I guess.
              Anyways, here's the beef.
              Young chef Marco Gubbiotti from Spoleto, incredibly talented.
              I chose "L'Umbria secondo noi" ( Umbria according to us ) 4 course tasting, with wine selection by sommelier Ivan Pizzoni.

              Amuse: a pumpkin-ricotta-mussels zuppetta.
              The bubbly 2003 ( dégorgé 2008 ) Riesling Brut La Palazzola from Casina Gilli ( in Vascigliano di Strancone, near Terni ) was fantastic, by itself worth the 30 km trip under heavy rain and snow.
              Earthy, not visible bubbles but certainly a very present & agreeable frizziness, full bodied, ligthly yeasty stuff as a pedigreed millésimé is supposed to be.

              Next came a 2006 Montefalco Rosso from Fratelli Pardi.
              Very greenish to my taste, like lots of stems in the mix, although sommelier says no stems. I doubt.
              Anyways, the sublimity of the dish masked away any defects: Piccione, petto rosolato, salsiccia di coscia, marmellata di rabarbaro, pasta dolce.
              When asked re. the pasta dolce ( a small crispy sheet of fried pasta, red-sweet on one side ), Chef says it comes from a medieval Umbrian recipe. Se non è vero...

              Most memorable dish next. The lorraine's favorite chianina, but in raviolo shape:
              Ravioli di coda di Chianina, passatina di rapette, patate chips.
              Accompanied by the 2006 Rosso Spina (IGT) from La Spina. A Montepulciano 90%, Merlot 5%, Gamay 5% mix.
              The match with the ravioli di coda was ultraperfect, the marked vanilla tones, perfect acidity and balanced, round tannins of the Spina matching the deep meaty richness of the Chianina.

              Last course, agnello. In two shapes: morbida, and in terrina crocante, plus topinambur.
              The terrina crocante was out of this world, the agnello pieces oozing from inside the dry crispiness of the wrap.
              The wine was a bit of a letdown, Falesco's 1999 Marciliano, an "internationally" styled mix of CS and CFranc.

              Excellent dessert the gateau di fagioli neri di Poggio Aquilone, mele & gelato di cannella.
              Washed down ( if I may get brutal at this point ) with a 2003 Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito from Scacciadiavoli.
              Mamma mia, what a passito! Pomegrenate juice would be a close description. VERY powerful stuff.
              Sommelier says the 2005 (just released) is undrinkable, needs to wait at least a couple years in bottle. I strongly agree.
              Stuff "à oublier dans la cave", as many times the Hachette guys dictaminate.

              Asked re. truffles, Chef Marco says he does them sometimes, sometimes he doesn't.
              Asked re. the strangozze, Chef Marco says he does them sometimes, sometimes he doesn't.
              OK with me.

              Total damage, including wines: 90 Euro.

              Restaurant got one Michelin star ( it deserves two ). But more important ( secondo me ) is their 4 starts in the Duemilavini guide.

              1. Hi RicRios,

                Great topic and interesting read,

                I love going to Umbria and yes, Sagrantino is a beautiful wine. I prefer the DOCG Sagrantino, but the restaurant owner is right... you don't want to battle two powerful aromatics. That is why the rosso being more subtle would complement the truffles.