Sant’Anatolia di Narco’s TreasuresWarmer weather prompted our first motorcycle “uscita” this year and what better destination than the panoramic Valnerina? Hanging on the mountainside in the Val Nerina, Sant’ Anatolia di Narco is one of Umbria’s many “hidden gems” and we headed there, curious to visit the new hemp museum, il Museo della Canapa. After a tour there with appassioned young custodian, Eva, we headed outside the medieval walls to explore the stunning 12th-c Benedictine abbey church on the banks of the Nera River. What treasures in this tiny mountain village!
And Sant’Anatolia di Narco has another treasure: Trattoria da Franchina. Young Marco welcomed us with a shy smile as he slipped into his white chef’s jacket. His Nonna Franchina once cooked here (“she comes in now and then to help”) – and her grandson Marco joined her in the kitchen as a young man…and almost never left it.
He cooks “con passione” – and you can almost taste it in his fettuccine agli asparagi con barbozza (Nonna Franchina made the tagliatelle and Marco, the sauce of wild asparagus and pork cheek). Pino (from Sicily!) seeks fish wherever we head – and though no seafood here, the Nera River grilled trout did not disappoint. Savory, too, were the Nera River crayfish with a parsley-capers sauce I ordered. Marco served us wild greens tossed in garlic, olive oil as a side dish. I thought I had no room for dessert – but who could resist Nonna Franchina’s almond crostata (tart)?
Only one other diner when we were there, intent on his grilled lamb chops rubbed with garlic, seasoned with rosemary. From Rome, he told me that he had detoured on a business trip in the area just to eat at the Trattoria Franchina. (As Marco filled the signor romano‘s wine glass with a robust vino rosso locale, he beamed).
As we paid our bill, I asked Marco how he had fallen in love with good flavors: he told me that – as a child – he accompanied his grandfather to the mountain-area farms to buy prosciutti, salami, capocollo, lamb, sheep’s millk cheeses, and poultry for his grandmother to cook at her little trattoria. When I asked him if he missed staying at home to play with the other children he replied, “it’s never a sacrifice to go on outings in these mountains – but it would be to have to walk around a shopping mall.”