Food & Wine
Eating Out – Abruzzo Style
Abruzzo is an Italian foodie paradise. If you stayed at Villasfor2 for a month and ate out somewhere different every night, you’d hardly scratch the surface of places round here offering good food and wine at great value for money.
Round here, there are no ‘tourist restaurants’ serving indifferent, over-priced food. Instead, you’ll rub shoulders with the locals who love eating out regularly, and don’t regard it as just a treat for special occasions.
Because there’s such a wide choice of places to eat in this part of Abruzzo, competition is fierce, and anywhere that starts charging too much, or serving sub-standard food isn’t going to last that long.
So you’ll enjoy excellent meals wherever you choose to eat – and at a fraction of the prices you’re probably used to paying back home.
In our area alone, you’ll find Michelin-starred fine dining; a locals’ favourite where you can eat – and drink – for €10 each; and everything in-between.
And when it comes to eating we’re not just talking about restaurants, because Abruzzo has a great tradition for street food too.
The two staples are Porchetta and Arrosticini. On any given night of the week, we seem to be circled by food trucks selling Porchetta – a whole young pig, boned and very slow roasted to crunchy golden perfection.
Each truck has its own devotees – you might find your own favourite too – but what they all have in common is that €10 buys a meal for two.
Abruzzo’s other great street food love affair is with Arrosticini – pencil-thin kebabs of barbecued lamb.
Arrosticini are the great staple at Abruzzo’s regular fairs and festivals, where enormous quantities are devoured.
You might catch the famous yellow Fiat500 bbq which has twin burners down each side, producing 200 Arrosticini at a time – and repeating the cycle at least five times in an evening.
The home-produced Lamburgers (not Hamburgers !) are cooked under the bonnet. (And they’re delicious too…)
Who Wants Pizza ?
The answer is usually “Everybody !” because pizza is by far and away Italy’s favourite fast food – and Abruzzo’s no exception – though you won’t find stuffed crusts, thick bases; or pineapple included in the toppings.
What you will find are…well…pizza – in the land that invented it, and where it doesn’t come much better. One size – usually around 30cms; with a thin, crispy base; well-chosen toppings; and preferably cooked in a wood-fired oven.
And it’ll taste great.
If you’re a true pizza devotee, you’ll want to try La Sorgente in the nearby town of Guardiagrele. Chosen by Italy’s version of the Good Food Guide as one of the top-5 in the country; named by another foodie publication as one of the top-20 pizzerie in the world; and winner in 2016 and 2017 of ‘Best Pizza in Italy’, this is – as you’ll have now guessed – somewhere a bit out of the ordinary.
The ‘Best Pizza in Italy, 2016’ – (the prize certificate is proudly displayed on the bar) – is called Provocazione – Provocation. Among its toppings are smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese, nuggets of spicy local salami; a little wild fennel; and just a tiny drizzle of orange-blossom honey.
It is…amazingly good.
What’s For Dinner ? Or Lunch ?
Any restaurant menu you’ll come across in Abruzzo will feature four courses:
– Antipasti. These are the starters. Antipasti Misti – Mixed Antipasti – can be a meal in itself, with a platter of local hams, salami and cheeses, plus several more individual helpings of hot and cold local specialities.
– Primi. This is the pasta course, and several different options will always be available. Every Italian region has its own variation on the theme of flour, water and (usually) egg. Abruzzo’s is called Chitarra and is basically just like spaghetti, only not round – but square. (Doesn’t slip off your fork so easily…)
– Secondi. The main course. Abruzzo tends to be very big on char-grilled meat. Cuts of pork, lamb, beef and sausages are the usual offerings. A big favourite is Tagliata – a char-grilled steak, sliced over a bed of rocket and cherry tomatoes; scattered with a few shavings of parmesan; and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and oil. Delicious !
– If you’re a fish lover, our nearby stretch of Adriatic coast will be a magnet. Standards can be variable – and fish isn’t especially cheap – but the good places, (and there are several), are really good.
– Dolci. I have to be honest and confess I’m not generally a great fan of Italian desserts. I’d much rather stop off for an ice-cream on the way home to satisy sweet cravings – but a good home-made Tiramisu can be tempting…
Though four courses are always available, nobody will ever expect you to eat your way through them all – and that’s the real appeal of an Italian meal. If you only want some pasta and wine – that’ll be fine. Just mix-and-match whatever takes your fancy.
Say Cheese !
We’re very lucky to have three excellent artisan food producers in our immediate locale: our fresh pasta shop is justly renowned, and in addition to all manner of pasta shapes and sizes, also makes particularly good homemade Ravioli.
The local bakery is where you can get excellent fresh bread every morning; and just a couple of hundred meters from the bakery is our local cheese-maker – using milk from the area’s local farmers.
Not a huge range of different cheeses – but it’s all good. Our favourite is fresh Ricotta, made every day and absolutely delicious. Their butter is excellent too.
Red ? White ? Pink ? Or Something Sparkling ?
You’ll be needing something to wash down all the tasty food you’re going to be trying on your Abruzzo holiday…
Until thirty-odd years ago, most of the grapes grown in Abruzzo were destined for use in ‘Italian Wine’ blends sold in supermarkets abroad, while much of the wine that was made was in a traditionally heavy, rough style exclusively for local consumption.
The good news for wine lovers is that things have changed out of all recognition, with Abruzzo wines now universally-ranked alongside Italy’s very best.
Villasfor2 is just a few miles from the beautiful Moro Valley, which stretches some 25 miles from the town of Orsogna down to the Adriatic. It’s southern Abruzzo’s premier wine-producing area, and we’re lucky enough to have some superlative wineries virtually on our doorstep.
By far and away Abruzzo’s predominant red wine grape is Montepulciano, which is made into Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, with its distinctive hints of red cherries. This is an incredibly versatile wine, which can be drunk very young, as it is each November with the release of Vino Novello – New Wine – just a few weeks after the grape harvest…or with the potential to age over several years.
One of the top examples of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is Coste di Moro, an organic wine from Cantina Orsogna, which in 2012 was awarded the accolade of Italy’s ‘Winery of the Year’. The cantina is where we buy the everyday wine we drink ourselves – the same red and white as Villasfor2’s ‘house wines’. There’ll be a bottle waiting in your villa with our compliments on your arrival.
You’ll find two white wine grapes grown extensively here: Trebbiano – and Pecorino, a very old heritage variety rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1990s.
Pecorino announced its return with a flourish, when a bottle of the 2009 vintage from the Tenuta Ulisse winery was named ‘Best Italian White Wine’ at the annual International Wine Challenge in London.
It’s a great wine for summer drinking, with scents and tastes of white peach and apricot. Trebbiano is a little less assertive, but pretty good too – and you’ll find both are widely available.
Abruzzo is unusual among Italy’s wine-producing regions in that you’ll find two contrasting styles of pink wine available: Rosato – which is a blend of different red and white wine grapes; and Cerasuolo – which is made from 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo red wine grapes, with the grape skins allowed just the briefest of contact with the grape juice after pressing. It’s what Americans would recognise as a ‘blush wine’.
Rosato is a little lighter and fresher. Cerasuolo – which we prefer – is a little deeper and more flavoursome. Entirely your choice – and you won’t find anything better to drink down by our pool on a hot summer day.
Who doesn’t love Prosecco ? It’s easily Italy’s most popular dry white sparkling wine and has taken the world by storm too. But you might not have come across Abruzzo’s answer to Prosecco. It’s sparkling Pecorino – a speciality of our own particular part of Abruzzo, and not widely exported.
If you’re a Prosecco fan – you’re going to love it.
Sparkling Pecorino was first introduced here roughly around the time we arrived in 2007. One of the first – and for us, still one of the best – is from Cantina Colle Moro. It won a gold medal at a big wine expo in France three or four years ago and is our ‘house sparkler’. Just as dry as Prosecco, but a little more fruit, and a little more flavour. (And – dare we say it – a little more class ?) Give it a try…