Thursday, August 11, 2011
Even though we didn’t take a real vacation this summer, I’ve certainly managed to travel a lot. Paris, Barcelona and Sicily. And London too. I almost forgot about London.
But now it’s August and as usual we’re parked at our house in Umbria. And as usual my sister and her family are visiting. I never think of it as a real vacation. You know, the get on an airplane and stay at a hotel kind of vacation. This is just a hanging out doing summery things kind of time. I guess it's a staycation.
Swimming, long walks, visits to nearby villages. And eating. Lots of eating. And cooking. Tons of cooking. Since my sister has two little girls, it’s usually easiest to just stay at home for dinner. I don’t mind the cooking part of things and in fact look forward to it. But last night we all felt like getting out of the house and so did the next best thing to eating at home: we headed down the hill to Cibocchi.
Cibocchi is our local trattoria. Located at the bottom of the hill, between our house and Todi, it’s definitely one of the least known restaurants around. Situated right along an asphalt road, the little stone building is actually on the banks of the river, although you’d never know it. It's all about the road.
Domenico has been going to Cibocchi since the ’80’s, with our friend Edward. Back then, before either men had families, they would show up in the middle of winter and - being the only customers - sit down with Everardo and his family in the kitchen, eating with them while the TV blared.
When we started going as a family a few years later, Cibocchi was still pretty rough and tumble. If we wanted to sit outside, we had to cross the road and perch on one of the few wooden tables by the parking lot.
Over the years regulars finally convinced the family to build an outdoor terrace. And the inside dining room has been spruced up to include an even bigger TV.
But nothing else has changed. The menu remains comfortingly the same and delicious. As soon as we sit down at the table Everardo's son Fabio brings a basket of freshly baked Pizza a Testa, still warm from the pan. Primi are: fettucine, strangozzi or ravioli (all home made) with pomodoro, ragu or truffle sauce. Secondi are rabbit, chicken or wild boar, each served stewed in slightly different versions of piquant cacciatori. Sometimes there’s grilled pork or lamb chops, but don’t count on it. Want dessert? Just wander into the bar and choose an ice cream from the freezer.
And that’s it. Nothing else. For as long as we've been going. Every so often they’ll have another kind of sauce for the pasta. But they won’t tell you about it. You have to ask. In spring they often get in wild asparagus. Last night they had mushrooms.
I always go for the truffle pasta. Unlike most other restaurants around, they actually use real fresh Umbrian truffles, not a pre-made puree. A bit grainy, the gritty sauce floats on a slick of olive oil to coat the eggey noodles. My favorite secondo, which I order almost every time, is the rabbit. Seemingly hacked apart by a blind person with a huge butcher’s knife, the small boney pieces are lovingly stewed in a garlicky and spicy mix of oil, wine and tons of lemon rind and rosemary. Once you pick all the bits of meat off the fiddly bones, the pizza a testa is perfect for sopping up the pan drippings (which is of course the main reason for ordering this dish).
Tonight we’ll be eating at home again. It’s pizza night. But we’ll head back down the hill again to Cibocchi at least a few more times before the summer ends.
Via Ponte 5b
tel 075 894 2949