Anne's Blog

Umbria’s Valnerina: Earthquakes and “Living Their Dream”

Date: February 22, 2019 - categories: , , , , , , , - 2 Comments

Umbria’s’ mountainous  Valnerina – Nera River Valley – unveils splendors at every curve in the road:

And at the foot of tiny mountain village Piedivalle, a small restaurant in a pre-fab now (following the October 2016  earthquake), proves to be another Valnerina “hidden treasure.”  

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.  

Inside the restaurant,  a poster depicts the tragic result:

“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.

Like others with quake-damaged homes, they live in a mustard-yellow pre-fab, too, at the foot of their nearby village, tiny Piedivalle di Preci:

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’s antipasti taste temptations continued and included a potato flan with truffles, truffles on bruschetta with local prosciutto and Norcia salamis and cheeses:

My choice of a secondo was a rather “conservative” – if very tasty –  one:  grilled local lamb and wild chicory on the side:

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”).

…and a superb pastry chef as well:  that delicate apple dessert I tried proved testament:

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.”

And they’ve  brought to life the Coelho  inscription Anita wanted on La Gaita’s wall: those two  are”living their dream.”

See Sant’Eutizio before the earthquake – and Domenico in the kitchen!

Read about Roberto who gave us the tip on La Guaita

Read more about neaby Preci

Click here to read about Preci and earthquake damage

 

2 Comments

  • Janet Eidem says:

    I love the Italian people! What a fine writing Anne. I would love to eat at their restaurant. So much love and determination in their hearts and food. I may be back in a year or two. There is only I now. Hope to see you again.

  • Anne Robichaud says:

    Janet, you summed up so well Domenico and Anita. I would love to head there with you. Please come visit us soon.

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