Umbria’s Valnerina: Earthquakes and “Living Their Dream”
We only found Ristorante Guaita Sant’Eutizio thanks to a tip from Roberto at the alimentari of Preci (not far away).
Across from this small ristorante, the fenced-off ruins of the the 12th-century Benedictine abbey, Sant’Eutizio, stand as a forlorn reminder of the 2016 earthquake devastation: the bell tower rising proudly above the abbey (near the cemetery bordering the abbey church) collapsed, sliding onto the nave of the abbey church along with a rocky slab of the mountain which had detached.
“The cemetery, too, slid down into the collapsed nave – and exists no more,” young hostess, Anita, told us soberly as she handed us menus. We’d asked her about the abbey earthquake damage – and also the earthquake after-effects on the people, on the local economy.
She and Domenico – in the kitchen at the burners – are living the reality, forging ahead with optimism: hoping for the earthquake restoration of their former ristorante. From 2012 to 2016, they had served up Umbrian mountain goodness to guests in a spot attached to the abbey (perhaps in the Middle Ages, a restorative point for pilgrims?). I remember now eating there with a friend. They worked in another area for over a year after the earthquake and just re-opened in the pre-fab module on April 1, 2018.
But after chatting with Anita, we realized that this appassioned young couple spend little time at home and many hours at La Guaita: in the morning before lunch service, Domenico makes all the pastas and gnocchi as well as cooking all the dishes on their tempting menu. After the lunch guests have departed, he bakes all the breads. Anita served us that buonissimo bread with a smile:
Behind her was a quote of Paul Coelho that she wanted on the wall to spark them both – and their Valnerina neighbors – to forge ahead. Rough translation: “The world is in the hands of those who have the courage to dream and to run the risk of living their dreams.”
This wise young woman was ready to take our orders. At her suggestion, I decided to try as a primo, a Domenico pasta creation: strangozzi (homemade thick spaghetti) with black truffle, porcini mushrooms and sautéed wild chicory:
Squisito. Spettacolare. Incredibile.
Pino opted for a medley of antipasti – and as Anita had invited me into the kitchen to see Domenico make Pino’s black truffle frittata, I couldn’t resist sharing a taste of that start to his antipasto:
Pino dared to try a secondo of Domenico’s creation that Anita had described to him: coratelle di agnello in camicia (literally, “lamb innards wrapped up in a shirt”): lamb innards wrapped in lamb intestines and then grilled:
Pino’s comment upon eating: “Domenico e ‘un grande cuoco davvero” (“Domenico is truly a great chef”).
Before we headed back to Assisi, Anita took me into the kitchen to thank Domenico.. He was baking his bread and proudly showed me his lievito madre (sourdough starter). This was a “new” one: he had lost the starter he’d had for years in their earthquaked restaurant adjacent to the Sant’Eutizio abbey church.
As we left, we noticed the handprinted wooden sign out front bearing a whimsical rhyme. The rhyme is lost in translation but the thought affirms why we’ll return soon to eat with Domenico and Anita: “If you have an appetite and love life, welcome to Domenico and Anita’s.”
See Sant’Eutizio before the earthquake – and Domenico in the kitchen!
Read about Roberto who gave us the tip on La Guaita
Click here to read about Preci and earthquake damage