Orvieto: I Sette Consoli
Finally, my overdue report from Orvieto:
I Sette Consoli’s unassuming front door is tucked snuggly into the corner of Piazza San’t Angelo off of Corso Cavour. Had my wife and I not read about it on Chowhound, or been told about it by our Umbrian hosts, I doubt that we would have found it, as there are no clues to its existence other than a menu posted discretely within its anonymous entry.
When we arrived, we were given a table in the rear room, which appeared to be the only indoor dining space in the restaurant. The night of May 31, 2013 was cold and raw so their garden, which we had seen in photos, wasn’t open. This was disappointing for two reasons: 1) because I wanted to see it to understand how such a seemingly large space could be so well hidden from the streets outside, and 2) because the garden’s lush lawn and delicate gazebo draped with white linens, looked irresistibly quaint and inviting. In comparison, the interior, although well appointed and comfortable, made me feel as if it was indifferent to the diners that ate within its space. This wasn’t much of a concern, as the food made me feel very welcome shortly after our arrival.
Our meal started with tripe and tortellini. The tripe, which was roughly chopped and mixed with cannellini beans and tomato sauce, was neatly piled into a disk, upon which was balanced a wide strip of crispy phyllo and a sprig of parsley. We have had tripe prepared similar ways many times before, but the addition of the crispy phyllo dough reinvented the dish for us; its satisfying crunch gave every bite a little extra interest. The addition of a texture that contrasted with that of the tripe seemed like such a simple idea, and yet we wondered why no one else had thought to prepare a dish of tripe in a similar manner. Our other primo was a shallow bowl of five plump pork tortellini, which were served under a “ratatouille” of finely diced zucchini, mushroom, and onion and a drizzle of olive oil. When it comes to pasta, we prefer those that aren’t stuffed with things, so we weren’t terribly excited about the tortellini when we order them. However, if every tortellino were as good as the five that I Sette Consoli prepared, we would feel differently about stuffed pasta. These tortellini were excellent.
In fact, both primi were so good that we took a second look at the menu to search for items that had tempted us during our first look, but were ultimately passed-over. We settled on ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms. The lightly battered and fried blossoms were very good, although I don’t think we would have missed them had we not ordered them.
If it were possible to devour things with your eyes, our secondi wouldn’t have lasted more than a minute. We shared Umbrian kid goat with roasted potatoes and spinach and pigeon with chopped carrots, zucchini, and snap peas. A roasted goat rib and chop were placed over a pile of roasted potatoes and wilted spinach, over all of which was a drizzle of sauce made from what remained in the pan in which the goat was cooked. Everything on the plate was excellent, and the goat was so fantastic that I found it difficult to not gnaw on the rib like I was at a backyard BBQ. The pigeon, which was covered in a slightly sweet and spicy glaze, was perfectly cooked: the skin was slightly crisp, and the meat was juicy and tender. The snap peas, carrots, and zucchini, which appear blanched and overcooked in the photo below, were still slightly crisp and were a nice clean accompaniment to the pigeon. We weren’t able to decide which we liked more: our primi or our secondi.
For dessert, our curiosity drove us to order a plate of creamy Gorgonzola on which was shaved dark chocolate and a sprinkle of crushed Szechuan peppercorns. Such a strange combination of ingredients, yet the three came together admirably. The peppercorns provoked an extra level of salivation that cut through the thick creaminess of the cheese, and the dark chocolate provided a bit of sweetness to balance out the saltiness of the Gorgonzola. In addition to be being very good, it was the sort of innovative dish that one enjoys eating as each bite is novel and unexpected.
The only hic-up of the night occurred when our waitress brought the check at the end of the meal. The check itself wasn’t a problem. The total, which included a bottle of water and a bottle of local white wine, was only 105€. In Rome, the bill would have been fifty percent more. The problem was that the waitress told us that service was not included. Since my wife and I spoke in Italian to our waitress all night, we thought that our waitress should have realized that we weren’t so naïve when it came to tipping in Italy. I guess she figured that it was unlikely that we’d ever return, and that she had nothing to lose by hoping that we left an additional twenty percent. Although it was an unfortunate end to an excellent meal, we’d still go back, and we’d still recommend I Sette Consoli to anyone with the caveat noted above.
Great report! I"m headed to Orvieto this week, and was thinking about where to go.
But why were you upset about the waitress telling you service was not included? It's such a mish mash here in Italy - sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't, that she just wanted to let you know it wasn't. I think that foriegners (and let's face it, you were obviously from another country) are often confused by the whole 'service included' thing. I don't think it was unfortunate at all that she mentioned that to you.
I don't think she was expecting 20%. But that you would leave something if you enjoyed her service. And as you say, the bill was reasonable.
Thanks for the reply, Elizabeth.
I used to feel confident about tipping, but now I’m confused. The Chowhound consensus on tipping seems to be that, when paying in cash, one may leave coins at a trattoria and five to ten percent of the bill at a ristorante. When paying with a credit card, one may not leave anything at a trattoria because typically there isn’t a tip line on the receipt. This generally matches that what Italians have told us, who often add that while tips are appreciated, they are never expected.
I was under the impression that service is always included in Italy, and we have never been told in any other trattoria or ristorante that service was in addition to the bill. To us, it seemed as if the waitress was trying to take advantage of us. Do you think we misread the situation?
I can count on (less than) one hand the number of times a server in Italy has approached us this way over 30+ years of visits. In each case, (all in heavily touristed restaurants) I have felt it was a pitch for a US-level tip from folks not knowing the custom of the country - and in at least one case the bill indicated that service was included.
I Sette Consoli is my favorite restaurant in all of Italy. I shall be dining there exactly three weeks from tonight.
I still don't understand why she lost the star.
For some reason my earlier reply has been scrubbed. I'd like to know if anyone knows why she lost her star. Thanks
"I'd like to know if anyone knows why she lost her star"
Perhaps they had the same bland risotto we had ;)
Our experience in July wasn't quite as memorable but I'm not surprised about the rave review. We were just not feeling it that day after a streak of amazing meals in Tuscany. We mostly shared some primis and the tortellini was just about the only thing that stood out.