Trip report (long): Bologna, Ravenna, Umbria, Rome
I promised a few folks a trip report, which I nearly completed a few days ago and lost the entire report just before posting. So this time, I’ll take the wiser option of writing in Word first. This was perhaps our 15th trip to Italy. We spent two-and-a-half weeks, dividing our time among hotels, rented apartments, and an agriturismo, so we cooked at “home” part of the time and dined out other days. This was a belated 50th birthday present for my husband—just the two of us while our teenaged sons were home with Grandma on Cape Cod, working their summer jobs.
We started in Piemonte, near Mondovi, where we mostly dined with friends. Next, we drove up to Costigliole d’Asti, where we visited the Boeri winery, then had a lovely, winey lunch at a nearby restaurant whose name I can’t remember (I’ll edit later if I find it).
On to Bologna. Our first night there, we dined at Serghei. We didn’t have the stellar experience with the pasta that madonnadelpiatto recently reported—I found the tagliatelle with ragu, as well as my secondo of rabbit, a bit dry, although my husband liked his gnocchi. The next day, we had lunch at Teresina: a plate of salumi and cheeses to start, followed by tortelloni with butter and sage for me and tagliatelle with ragu for Matt. Again, nothing transcendent, but a perfectly fine lunch on their pretty terrace. Our best meal in Bologna, though, was what we prepared in our cooking class at Il Salotto di Penelope: gnocchi, tagliatelle, and tortelloni, each with a different sauce. It was my first experience making hand-rolled pasta and Matt’s first ever cooking class. There were two teachers with only three of us in the class, making for lots of hands-on experience at a very reasonable price.
Next destination was Ravenna. My husband doesn’t like seafood, so that took a fair number of potential dining spots out of consideration. We had a very enjoyable lunch at Trattoria al Cerchio—simple, homey, very good food in a cozy setting. It was cooler that day, so I started with passatelli in brodo, then roasted rabbit, both of which were delicious. I didn’t keep notes, so I forget what Matt had, but I do remember that he was very happy with both his pasta and meat choices. We ate another meal at Ca’ de Ven, which is a cavernous space and always seems to be bustling. Our pastas were fine, but what I liked best there were the piadine. Our last night in Ravenna, however, was our favorite. We booked a dinner with one of the Cesarine from HomeFood in Santo Stefano, a few miles outside of Ravenna. This was our first HomeFood experience, and it turned out to be theirs as well, since their location makes a car a necessity. We had a salad, strozzapreti, piadine with various accompaniments, and a crostata with homemade jam. Everything was delicious, and we really enjoyed having dinner in a family setting. We knew enough Italian, and they knew enough English, to make for an excellent evening. Matt and I would definitely recommend trying a HomeFood experience if you have a chance.
The next day, we drove from Ravenna to Assisi and stopped in Urbino to break up the drive and also to visit the Galleria Nazionale. We had lunch at L’Angolo Divino on the pretty terrace outdoors. Matt and I shared a lovely plate of carpaccio, followed by pasta. Mine was pasta con sacco, which was cut into small cubes, cooked in a meat broth, and smothered with truffles.
We spent the next week at Brigolante, an agriturismo outside of Assisi, so we did much of our own cooking, with a few lunches out. One of our favorites was at Antica Hostaria delle Valle in Todi. I had a wonderful dish of tagliolini with gamberettini, zucchini and pomodorini. Matt had pasta cacio e pepe topped with truffles, which didn’t appeal to me, but he liked the combination. We shared a secondo of mixed grilled meats, also delicious. Another day, we had planned to have lunch at Locanda del Cantiniere in Gubbio, which was unexpectedly closed, so we ate at Ristorante del Taverna del Lupo instead. The food was fine, with a nice outdoor terrace and good service, but I think they were a touch more formal than we generally prefer. Another fun experience we had in Umbria was a day with Gusto Wine Tours. Mark, a transplanted Brit, picks you up mid-morning and drives you to several small wineries—places that you wouldn’t find on your own and more personal and intimate than the big, corporate producers. Pours were generous (and thankfully generally served with food), Mark was very informative and great company, and a stop for lunch was included. You can also purchase wine, which Mark and his wife Giselle will ship home for you.
Finally, we headed to the last stop on our trip—Rome. Unfortunately, we had only three full days there, but we managed to squeeze in some memorable food. This trip, we decided to branch out and try places new to us, starting with Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi. Although we just had a light lunch of prosciutto and melon, followed by a cheese plate, we really loved this place and the wide selection of cheeses. Matt used to work in Piemonte and was thrilled with the variety. That night, we had our first dinner at Cesare al Casaletto, which wasn’t difficult to reach at all. We started with the gnocchi fritti, then pasta cacio et pepe, and finally grilled veal. Really enjoyed the food here, except that it was just too much food for two. I think this place would be best with a group of 4-6 people so you could try a wider variety of dishes to share. The next day, for Sunday lunch, we splurged a little at Al Ceppo. (I had been looking for something a bit special for Matt’s birthday, but he is a fairly traditional eater, so most of the usual suspects on this board like Glass or Metamorfosi just didn’t appeal to him.) Al Ceppo was a perfect choice, with its lovely setting and service and wide selection of wines. I had a delicious tagliolini with mixed seafood, Matt had paccheri cacio e pepe (delicious sauce!) and we shared a secondo of tagliata di manzo from the grill. The meat was so good that I almost wish we had each ordered a full plate. After a large, leisurely lunch, we didn’t want a full meal that evening, so we did return to one old favorite—Al Vino al Vino—which was just down the street from our hotel. We shared a plate of mixed meats and cheeses, as well as the yummy caponata, over a bottle of wine. On our last full day in Rome, we stopped at Supplizio to sample the suppli (delicious!) and then to Pizzarium. There, I have to admit that my husband was the first person I ever heard of who didn’t care for the pizza. Matt makes his own pizzas at home in our small, wood-fired oven, and I think he just likes his own style better. I thought the pizza crust was excellent and, while I was disappointed that they didn’t have the potato topping available that day, happily settled for zucchini flowers instead. Our last dinner was at Sorpasso, where we started with a selection of prosciutto followed by plates of pasta—can’t remember exactly what we chose, but this was definitely someplace we would try again.
All in all, we had some excellent food and wine during this trip. There were, as always, so many places that we had hoped to try, but they will have to wait for our next trip. Special thanks to Vinoroma for her suggestions—Litro is definitely on our “next trip” list.
Thanks for your report. I am happy to hear that Antica Hostaria delle Valle is still good. We ate there in 2011 and really enjoyed it.
The class was about 3 hours, plus lunch afterwards. The sauces were very simple--a basic ragu (simpler than the recipe I usually make at home), a simple tomato sauce for the gnocchi, and butter and sage for the tortelloni. Most of the focus was on the pasta making. I wrote a more detailed review on Trip Advisor, if you're interested. I cook quite a bit at home, so I would say that the class is for entry- to mid-level cooks and not for sophisticated cooks. What was most useful for me was getting a feel for the consistency of the pasta and the experience of hand-rolled, rather than machine-made, pasta.
Thanks so much for the detailed report! I"m so glad you found Mark and Giselle, in Umbria, since they are wonderful.And Hosteria delle Valle is great in Todi too, one of my favorites.
Your description of Ceppo makes me want to go back soon. I haven't been there in at least two years, and I miss it. I think I'll wait till the fall though, since just the idea of getting near that grill in a Roman summer makes me swoon.
Thanks for the report, it's a pity that Sergei did not live up to expectations but I am happy you liked you experience Umbria. Rebecca of Brigolante and Mark and Giselle are definitely among the best hosts you can have during a stay here!