Tell anyone you’ve been to Italy and, inevitably, a variation of the same question comes up: how was the food? I can honestly answer that, on this last trip to Italy, the food was phenomenal! Well, phenomenal minus one mediocre meal but we won’t focus on that. Some of the best meals we had in all of Italy were at these restaurants in Orvieto:
Trattoria del Moro (Via San Leonardo, 7). I went to Umbria for the cinghiale (wild boar) and as soon as I saw it on the menu at Trattoria del Moro, I didn’t look any further. I had it with pappardelle and could have had about three more plates of it. That’s how delicious it was. Lucia’s entrée was also quite scrumptious: spaggheti with pachino (type of tomato) and pecorino. I finished what she couldn’t and wanted to lick the plate when it was all gone. Trattoria del Moro gets extra points for having one of my favorite wines, Vipra Rossa (a delicious red from Umbria that I drank a lot of the last time I was there), and for being so awesome with Lucia. Our server and other restaurant workers did not speak English, but they made it a point to play with Lucia and keep her laughing. It was a marvelous dining experience.
La Bottega del Buon Vino (Via della Cava 24-26). Open only for lunch (as of March 24, 2011), La Bottega del Buon Vino was worth the walk down and back up the steep Via della Cava. For one, it occupies a section of an excavated Etruscan cave, which is also a museum (it was not open at the time of our visit); second, the food was mind-numbingly delicious! The dining area is not very large, maybe seven tables, and is accessed by walking through the bottega (store). We were the only guests and there was only one worker that we could see – an elderly gentleman who was minding both the store and the restaurant. He would disappear through an unseen door (we heard it opening and closing), visit the secret kitchen, and return with plates of deliciousness for us. I had gnocchi with butter and sage and it is near the top of the list of my most memorable meals ever. It didn’t look like much but the taste was extraordinary! The gnocchi just about melted in my mouth. I wish I had some right now.
Trattoria da Carlo (Vicolo del Popolo, 9). We had such a blast at Trattoria da Carlo! The food was amazing, yes, but it felt like we were having dinner at a relative’s home. We were welcomed warmly, and instantly the owner/cook, Carlo, and our server began to dote on Lucia. Carlo brought out a large sheet of butcher paper to put on the table, and gave Lucia a pen so she could write and draw and, basically, remain occupied while we waited for our food. The front dining area, where we sat, has just a few tables and offers prime views of the kitchen. Carlo was talking to us from the kitchen while he stirred the ragu, and even allowed me to take some photos of him in action. Carlo’s mom spent a great deal of time talking to us (in Italian) and also fell in love with Lucia. At one point I thought she might pull up a chair and join us! Just an overall wonderful experience. And the icing on the cake? The next night we were walking through town, Lucia riding on Mark’s shoulders, when we see, in the dark, some figures approaching us from a distance. All of a sudden we hear, “Lucia! Lucia!” I started freaking out; I thought someone was after my daughter! No, it was just Carlo, our server from the night before (whose name we never learned), and Carlo’s mom. They remembered us, and now I’ll never forget them.
One note about dining in Orvieto: like many other places in Italy, restaurants close in the afternoon, about 3:00, and reopen for dinner at 7:30. It was a jolt for us, a change in the schedule we’d grown accustomed to while in Napoli. We had to make some adjustments to Lucia’s meal schedule so she’d be able to make it until 7:30, at the earliest, to have dinner. She was unfazed by the schedule change, and she loved every one of her meals. So did I and, because of these restaurants and dining experiences, I absolutely loved our time in Orvieto. I’ll definitely make a third trip to Orvieto at some point in the (hopefully not-so-distant) future.