Valtopina: Grandissimo Eating in a Small Town
Pino has to head to Valtopina often these days as his team is doing earthquake restoration work on the nearby tiny hamlet, Giove. There’s only one restaurant right in Valtopina’s centro – Ristorante La Gabella – and it makes every Valtopina jaunt an experience, a culinary one. “La gabella” was a 16th – 17th c. tax on goods and inside the restaurant near the wine racks, you’ll see a small nook, once the place where the onerous gabellieri collected the monies owed. Take a table nearby and if he’s not already in the kitchen, host/chef Domenico will welcome you, telling you enthusiastically about the day’s choices.
He won me over with a seasonal specialty, homemade tagliatelle with wild asparagus from the surrounding woods. Pino opted for the snails, gathered by Domenico that morning, black truffle generously grated by him right on top. A truffle as big as an apple: luck had been with the local tartufaro (“truffle-hunter”) who’d sold it to him earlier that day. When we saw it – and sniffed it – we knew we’d also have to have scrambled eggs with truffle as an antipasto – and Domenico convinced Pino to try the wild mushrooms (with grated truffle added, logicamente!). Another winning antipasto? That divine liver pate’.
We had company with us for lunch that day: Ugo, the public works director in Valtopina who supervises Pino’s restoration work. Ugo chose the homemade cappelletti (“little hats,” ,i.e. a local stuffed pasta) filled with porcini mushrooms and topped with shaved black truffle (grated by smiling waitress, Serena….and then Domenico added a few extra truffle swipes!)
The description of the tasty desserts was enticing. But we were satiated. (Perhaps for another visit…..?)
I hope we’ll go often before Pino’s team wraps up restoration work in Giove.
Read about the Giove restoration here
Read about – and see! – a feast during Giove restoration
Click here to read about the truffle-hunters
Read about the Valtopina truffle festival here
Read about the white truffles festival
Click here for more on truffles
Read about truffles in a US cooking class
Read about a favorite place to eat snails near Bevagna