Tuesday, August 28, 2012
It used to be that the point of any day trip around Umbria was ending up at Salvatore Denaro’s restaurant in Foligno, Il Bacco Felice. Ever since Salvatore closed his place a few years ago I have a reliable back up plan: I call Salvatore and ask for his advice.
So when I headed to Bevagna a couple of weeks ago I just did what Salvatore advised: head to Antiche Sere. "It’s an honest place” said Salvatore. And when Salvatore says a place is honest, he’s not talking about the final bill, but about the integrity of the ingredients that go into the dishes. "And tell Luciano I sent you."
Located beneath the Porta di Canara, at the East end of town, the unpretentious spot was just what we were looking for. The olives that came to our table immediately were a good sign: firm and obviously Italian (not the mushy Tunisian olives that are turning up everywhere these days).
While settling into a crisp and cold glass of Umbrian white, we ordered off the day’s menu. Emma, Gillian and I decided to split a couple of appetizers To start: a simple plate of sardines topped with red onions and a sprinkling of parsley. A bit of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, and it’s kind of the perfect first course that I’m definitely going to be copying. Next up, Luciano’s minimal version of panzanella: chopped tomatoes tossed with a sliced onion and a handful of torn bread.
After our long walk through Bevagna Gillian and Emma decided they had earned a big bowl of pasta. Emma, being Emma, went directly for the truffles, which were heaped on freshly made fettucine. Even though it was about 100 degrees out, Gillian chose the area specialty: gnocchi al sagrantino. Plump little potato dumplings in a bright purple sauce made from the local wine.
My roast beef was definitely the lightest of the dishes. Sliced thinly and dressed in a lemony vinaigrette, it was draped over a bed of fresh greens and was exactly what I wanted.
Even though Salvatore couldn’t stop by and join us for lunch, he made sure a plate of his heirloom tomatoes, straight from his nearby garden, did.
One tiramisu to split three ways, some coffee and we were ready to say goodbye to Bevagna.
And if you're wondering what the weird symbol is on the place mat, it's the logo for being an anarchist. So I guess Luciano is an anarchist, and proud of it. And a black sheep while he's at it. But whatever he is, Salvatore was right. He runs and 'honest' restaurant. Good to know.
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi 10