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Sep 11, 2011 05:41 AM

FVG short-trip report

Friuli Venezia Giulia is one of our favorite regions for wine & food, we have been visiting for 12 years now (even before we moved to Italy), we recently (at the end of August) spent 4 days in the area again.

Terra e Vini in Brazzano. We had a wonderful first dinner here. There is a small, often changing (we are told) menu, with very good and mostly local products (the meat, for example, is supplied by Jolanda di Colo) and the prices are perfectly ok. We ate everything on the menu (not always full portions but tastes) and spent ca. 40 euros per person. The dishes were all based in local traditions, sometimes with modern twists, but not too elaborate. The gnocchi with susine (a primo, not dessert!) is to die for. All wines are by Livio Felluga, as the osteria is a side-business of them (there are also very cute, clean and rather big rooms, so you don't have to drive after dinner) and you can have all wines by the glass. We were sorry they didn't offer older vintages, as some of their wines have great aging potential, but this might happen in the future. Inside and outside areas are both very nice. Disclaimer: I have a business relationship with LF winery (I am a customer) and our wines were comped, but we paid for everything else (food & room).

Trattoria Barcaneta in Marano Lagunare. This was recommended to us by locals for a special occasion lunch, and after finding almost only positive reviews online (from italians, and the negatives were only about the slowness of service at peak times, which was something we were ready to risk), went there for sunday lunch. It was one of our worst experiences in Italy to date, and not because of the service but the food & wine. After a completely taste-free tuna, still frozen slices of a 2-fish "salami", uninteresting pan-fried fillet of branzino w/ redcabbage(!), and very sandy mussels with polenta (these were all part of the antipasti), we stopped the lunch. This lunch cost us an unbelievable 125 euros. The wine was also a disaster, as the owner, who takes care of wines, completely ignored our style preference and gave us something which was diametrically opposite. I have to add we are both sommeliers and usually know how to get wines we don't know but are interesting for us in any restaurant.

Campiello in San Giovanni Natisone. The highlight of this trip. Pricey (ca. 80 euros for a 5 course menu) but totally worth it; as (almost) only local, seasonal, fresh and un-endangered fish is served. This was another recommendation and we were a bit vary, as it was also a monday, but we needn't be. They get their fish daily. very interesting was the in-house warm-smoked salmon. Very good wine list, too. Nice modern art in the dining rooms. They also have rooms for the night.

We also had some smaller meals at various small places in Cormons itself, nothing worth mentioning except the unexpectedly bad price/quality ratio of the cold platter at the Enoteca di Cormons (positive: you can have almost any wine of the region by the glass); and the rather nice atmosphere and acceptable simple food at the informal Osteria Caramella.

Also want to mention three other experiences/opinions of restaurants in the area, not from this trip but last year:
Bibendum in Remanzacco has nice, ambitious food with some ups & downs and a very good wine list. Da Nando in Mortegliano, a big favorite of ours and a reference point for many many years, has lost its quality level, in food & service, and is at an unacceptable price/quality ratio. They seem to be concentrating more & more on catering. The wine list is unbeatable, though. La Subida in Cormons is following suit and is not a place we recommend anymore (although I do love sitting in the glass room and look into the woods while munching on Osvaldo prosciutto as an aperitivo). If anyone has newer experiences with these three, I'd love to hear it, as we are going to the area again soon.

Edited to add:
two helpful links for finding good food & wine in the area:

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  1. I found Campiello a revelation. We ate our first meal there and immediately decided to stay a second night. We also thought the staff was great in recommending wines, and even comped us two glasses of wine that they thought were a better match for our antipasti than the excellent bottle of wine they recommended for our primi and secondi. When we didn't recognize the name of one type of crustacean on the menu, the owner ran to the kitchen and got one to show to us. (He speaks 4 languages, but the crustacean's name was untranslatable.) As well as the food and wine, I so enjoyed the restaurant's decor. (I gather that the art is ever changing, so I don't know if you saw what I saw.)

    For Cormons, the 2011 Gambero Rosso gives Antica Trattorie all'Unione it's highest marks, followed by Al Giardinetto and La Subida. Typical prices for meals were listed as 30e, 55e and 55e, respectively. La Subida's point rating in the guide had dropped 3 points from its 2010 rating. Al Giardinetto had stayed the same.

    4 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      yes, Campiello had very nice, warm service, too.
      La Subida: as I said "not from this trip but last year".
      Antica Trattorie all'Unione was open on two nights we were in the area and both times completely empty, so we skipped it.
      Al Giardinetto was kind of a recommendation by locals, too, ("he ignores you and brings whatever he wants, but it is very good", we were warned) but the price was too high for us (as we already had other high-priced meals). Prices here were more like 125 per person, not 55! La Subida, I don't remember what we exactly paid (as it was last year) but 55-60 sounds about right.

      1. re: vinoroma


        With all due respect, now that you have your 2001 Gambero Rosso, I think the info you're presenting here is going to mislead people because it is not correct (you made a mistake yesterday as well).

        It does not give Antica Trattoria it's highest marks for Cormons. Antica Trattoria is not rated as a restaurant but as a trattoria, an entirely different category. It gets one gambero, the lowest rating of three possible ratings for trattorie in Gambero Rosso. That in itself is good, not bad, because not that many trattorie are listed. However, it is not a restaurant rating and does not mean it gets Gamebero's "highest marks." That goes to Al Giardinetto (I've eaten at Giardinetto many times, Vinorama, and 125 per person sounds like you were at another restaurant, not Giardinetto).

        The other thing to keep in mind is that a Gambero Rosso number is just a number and really doesn't mean all that much. You have to read between the lines, and ideally over a period of time. As I've said on more than one occasion here, the numbers can be inflated by any number of things or decline in any number of ways that have nothing to do with food. The raw number is like Bob Parker's wines scores... it doesn't mean very much except as an easy way for people to remember what he likes because they are most often too lazy to think for themselves or don't know much about wine and are too lazy to learn at least a little bit.

        Vinorama, thanks very much for the report. It was very good to read. I couldn't help but smile at the un-endangered fish comment.

        1. re: allende

          Okay! Sorry to have posted mistakes, and thanks for taking the time to correct the record. I can't see myself translating and posting the restaurant descriptions, so I'll forego posting info from the book and trust that people like Vinoroma will get their own copy of Gambero Rosso if they are interested in reading between the lines.

          (Edited to add: It is the 2011 edition we're talking about, just so people reading along know.)

          1. re: allende

            ups, I was not clear, we did NOT eat at Giardinetto, as the prices (as told us by the locals recommending it) were too high for us this time around (because we already had other high priced places). Good to hear they are not that high, and I'll add it to the list for the next time. If we had eaten there, I'd definitely review it, as I did with the other noteworthy places.