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Lunch in Umbria

It was a trip to Rome a good 4 or so years ago that first brought me to Chowhound. Back then, I thought we had to have a place to eat for every conceivable meal and drove myself literally bonkers posting, reading posts, rereading posts, compiling lists, etc. I've finally realized that while that may work for a lot of people, it does not work for me. Now, I like to have a few places in mind and go with a couple of reservations, leaving the rest to intuition and "feeling" while out and about during the day.

That said, we will be in Umbria for 5 days in October. From the web site for the agroturismo where we will be staying, our location will be:

"...in Umbria, central Italy, near the border with Tuscany, about half-way between Rome and Florence, 20 km from Lake Trasimeno and 25 km from Perugia. The closest town is called Tavernelle di Panicale (5 km)." (see the attached map)

We will have a car and plan to take day trips each day. Given all this information, does anyone have a stand out place for lunch? We'd like to have at least 1 or 2 days where we know we will be eating. Our thought is to make lunch our main meal each day and for dinner have a light selection of whatever meats, cheeses and produce we pick up on our travels back at the agroturismo (they do not provide dinner).

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. Here are a few of my favorites:

    In Orvieto, I Setti Consoli. A woman chef who just lost her Michelin star. I can't imagine why. Right on the main street and if the weather is favorable seating under tents available.

    At the top of Spello, La Bastiglia. Plenty of parking, great views and a very adventurous kitchen. Bring money.

    At the central square of Montefalco, l'Alchemista. Go into the little store and down a flight of stairs to the basement. Extra fine local food. Beware: too much antipasti may be all you can consume.

    In the center of Bevagna, Osteria Piazza Onofrio. Good local food and wine. Parking nearby.

    Just south of the hilltown of Trevi and on the other side of the road is Taverna del Pescatore. There will be one small sign. Its a right turn into a gravel parking lot. There is a small stream with rapids and a swan. Lunch under the big tent is memorable.

    There's no place like Umbria!

    2 Replies
    1. re: DaleJ

      It all sounds wonderful! Thank you @DaleJ. We just started making our flight and accomodations arrangements for this trip after months of planning and I am really starting to get excited.

      May I ask how you got by with the language? Do you speak Italian? Between the 2 of us, we definitely get by, but we have found some places are easier than others when one has a limited grasp on the language.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: DaleJ

        Taverna del Pescatore's website has been down for some time, leading me to think it may be closed. I haven't bothered to check, though, when passing by on the highway to Spoleto.

      2. My wife and I have traveled to Italy twenty-some times in the past fifteen years so I know enough Italian to order a meal, etc. But, I find that most Italians I interact with would rather show off their English than endure my "Italian". The only places where some sort of English is not spoken is in small out-of-the-way villages.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DaleJ

          We've been 5 times and like I said, we do get by with no trouble. Thanks for the input... and encouragement!

        2. Are you looking for upscale or home-style food?
          For home-style and autentic (and a bit off the beaten path) head to Osteria del teatro in Foligno, the apetizer is spectacular, so it's the beef tagliata and the molten chocolate cake

          In Valnerina, Ristorante del Ponte Scatolini in Scheggino for truffle dishes and trout

          Near Poreta (Trevi) Le Casaline has a unique selection of cured goose meats and lovely outdoor seating

          For a modern food but quite a bit more affordable than the famous guys, NanĂ  in Perugia is a favorite

          Enjoy !

          2 Replies
            1. re: madonnadelpiatto

              Glad to have a recommendation for trout in such a pretty town the Valnerina. It is a unqiuely tasty fish. (ttoommyy take note!)

              Also, everyone I know tells me Foligno is the town to go to eat exemplary traditional Umbrian food.

            2. It's been quite a few years now, but my most memorable meal in Umbria was at Taverna del Lupo in Gubbio (a town you should definitely not miss).

              1 Reply
              1. re: rrems

                Gubbio is definitely in our plans and we will add this restaurant to our list. Thanks.

              2. Closest to you, I really like Osteria a Priori in Perugia- they only have Umbrian products and are open all day so you can easily pop in anytime for just a snack.
                Definitely check out "da Marisa" in Torgiano - the restaurant is really ugly from the outside, but it is just an old traditional trattoria. Marisa, who is around 80 yrs old cooks lunch and dinner every day - and it is great!
                If you want a truly stellar meal, go to Villa Roncalli in Foligno. Just one caveat, the meal/service is veeeerrrrry long, but it will almost assuredly be the best meal you have, as the chef makes everything by herself, to order. The only reason they don't have a Michelin star is because of the service.
                Here's a link to my complete list of my favorite Umbrian restaurants: http://www.lifeitalianstyle.com/where...

                Don't forget that October is prime truffle and olive oil time - the BEST time to be in Umbria! The town of Trevi comes alive this month with lots of festivals.

                1 Reply
                1. re: LifeItalianStyle

                  "Don't forget that October is prime truffle and olive oil time - the BEST time to be in Umbria! The town of Trevi comes alive this month with lots of festivals."

                  Yes, and we are looking forward to it!

                  Grazie mille! That link is very helpful.

                2. If you're in Perugia, I would recommend a stop at Sandri Pasticceria. I must admit that I'm not a huge chocolate fan myself, but I live with three chocolate fiends, so of course we had to check out Sandri on our last trip. Even I succumbed to the wonderful chocolate there! We visited in the summer and concentrated more on the gelati, but everything looked and tasted wonderful. In October, I'm guessing that they'll be offering some splendid hot chocolate.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: lisaonthecape

                    Lisa, you will be very disappointed to hear that Sandri has closed indefinitely as they were having economic difficulties. The fact that they closed just before Umbria Jazz shows just how bad the Italian economy is right now - it was in all the papers. So sad.


                    1. re: LifeItalianStyle

                      I am very sorry to hear that Sandri may have permanently closed. I hope the closure is only temporary.

                      I am quite the chocolate lover and I was startled to find so much good chocolate in Perugia, even beyond Sandri. I was there in October, and walked into a few no name places along the Corso Vanucci, and bought little slabs and chunks of this and that, all so freshly made, it was memorable. Perugia chocolate, fresh in the city, remains my all-time favorite chocolate in Italy.

                    2. re: lisaonthecape

                      Even if you aren't a chocolate fan (I'm not especially either) Sandri has traditional Umbrian pastries. And it is such a splendid ancient, traditional place.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        But as others have stated, it's closed. So I won't be going whether I like chocolate or not. :)

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          I'm VERY sorry to hear that. Missed it above. Read a few stories in Italian; found one in English, it also has a couple of photos: http://www.i-italy.org/36369/tale-two...

                    3. If you have any interest in wine, you should visit the town of Montefalco, which is less than an hour from where you are staying. When you are there, eat lunch at L' Alchemista, which is located on the main piazza. I believe all the seating is outdoors, so pick a nice day to go there. The menu is a bit more creative than most in the area, yet relies on fresh, local ingredients. Great wine list, too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cmm2

                        We have all intentions of going to Montefalco, so thanks for the suggestion.

                      2. i liked Il Coccorone in Montefalco, but that was several years ago, and it was a long vinous dinner, non lunch


                        1. We have a house near Lago Trasimeno, and have spent the last 5 summers in this area. We both like food and wine, and we've checked out a lot of the local restaurants. We usually go out for lunch, not dinner, and we never book ahead: in this area the restaurants are never full. The only caution is each restaurant will have it's day that it is closed, and so you just need to make sure it's open the day you're going.

                          Very close to you, in the square in Panicale, is a restaurant called Lillo Tatini (closed Monday). The food here is amazing: one of the pasta dishes is an "Umbrian carbonara" which is ravioli with soft boiled quail's egg inside, and with a sauce of cinta senese (pancetta from the very best Italian breed of pig). The owner, Patrizia, is very interested in wine and has a very good wine list with a lot of both local wines and unusual wines sourced from around Italy.

                          For a fancy lunch I would suggest La Grotta (closed Wednesday) on the outskirts of Montepulciano - it is opposite the large church of San Biaggio. It has a lovely garden courtyard and very nice food. The antipasti of aubergine, balsamic and speck is mouthwatering, and the pici (local handmade pasta) with rabbit and peas is fabulous.

                          For a more relaxed lunch try Piccolo Trattoria Guastini in Valiano (closed Wednesday). They source good organic (in Italian "biologico") oil, wine and produce and have some very interesting dishes. They have a terrace with a nice view over the countryside.

                          If you want to be adventurous, you are staying in the "tre lagi" (3 lakes) region, and the local specialty is lake fish. Our village, Mugnanese (on Lago di Montepulciano), has an osteria (open by appointment - Fabrizio on +39 347 330 7452) that is quite well known amongst Italians. There is no menu - it is 3 courses (though you can choose to have any 2 - just let them know when booking). Antipasti is "brustica" - small perch that are cooked on a fire of the lake reeds. They are then put under oil and lemon juice and served at room temperature. Pasta is spaghetti with a sauce made of the roe of the queen carp with tomatoes. Main is tegamaccio, a stew of lake fish (tench, pike, eel) in a very rich, almost caramelised tomato sauce. It is served over bruschetta. Fabrizio only speaks Italian, so if you want help booking let me know, or you can text in Italian (I find it gives you time to translate).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Mugnanese

                            What a wonderful response! Thank you very much, Mugnanese. Everything you described sounds excellent and I'd love to try it all. When the time gets closer to our leaving in October, I just may take you up on your offer to book that osteria in Mugnanese. Thank you again!

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Happy to help, let us know. And if you need any other information just ask. I forgot to say if you go to La Grotta, you should also go to the farm shop of Cugusi. It is further past Montepulciano, a few km along the road towards Pienza. They make the best pecorino (sheep's cheese) in Umbria by far. As well as the classic pecorino they have a brie style, a blue (peconzola), truffled, unpasteurised (latte crudo) etc. We always stock up when we're over there. Great for your evening picnics.

                              1. re: Mugnanese

                                "They make the best pecorino (sheep's cheese) in Umbria by far. As well as the classic pecorino they have a brie style, a blue (peconzola), truffled, unpasteurised (latte crudo) etc. We always stock up when we're over there. Great for your evening picnics."

                                All I can say is... wow! Grazie mille!

                          2. Does anyone have a recommendation for lunch tomorrow in Assisi?
                            We took your advice LifeItalianStyle and had lunch at a Priori in Perugia today. It was wonderful! Thanks.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Try Osteria Piazzetta dell'Erba, La Stalla, or Trattoria La Pallotta. See you on Tuesday! :-)

                              1. re: LifeItalianStyle

                                (This saves me a call to let you know we are here and looking forward to Tuesday!)