Europe 2018 – Part 1 – Abruzzo

Wednesday 9/19

After an overnight flight and a change of planes in Stockholm, we arrived in Rome yesterday afternoon.  Our original flight had been cancelled, so we ended up leaving a day earlier and Norwegian compensated by putting us up in a hotel near the airport, providing transportation and dinner and breakfast. The hotel was fine and the restaurant across the road quite decent.  It all worked out very well as we had time to have a good night’s sleep and get back to the airport in the morning to pick up our rental car.

From there it was less than a 2 hour drive through the rugged mountains of central Italy  to our first stop, Sulmona.  Arriving just past noon, we spent about half an hour trying to find the B & B Amores, as we have no GPS and few streets are marked.  Once we finally got there, we settled into a nice large room (with enormous and well-equipped bathroom) and parked in the adjacent piazza.  The location, once you find it, is perfect.  It could not be more central.


After we got settled in the room, we walked around the corner to Ristorante da Gino. Lunch (the only meal they serve) was superb. We started with prosciutto of smoked goose with grilled bread. Both of us had the grilled lamb and shared a generous order of grilled vegetables. A bottle of Cerasuolo rose for 9.50, Cataldi Madonna 2017, was excellent. Tiramisu for dessert and 2 coffees. Total was 67.50. Service was perfect, atmosphere charming. Obviously popular with locals. This is a gem.

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After lunch, we strolled around town and checked out 2 restaurant possibilities for dinner.


Piazza Plebiscito in front of da Gino

Piazza Garibaldi seen through the medieval aqueduct:




Clemente is recommended in Michelin, but Tripadvisor reviews are mixed, and looking at the menu did not entice us.

Heading back down Corso Ovidio, we stopped into the church of Santissima Annunziata:


Continuing along the Corso, we came to Don Ciccio, where a look at the menu confirmed that this is the more interesting dinner choice.

Back to the room to begin this post, then off to dinner.

So, we ended up at Clemente after all. Don Ciccio was full when we got there at 8:15. Who would have thought you would need a reservation on a Tuesday in late September in a town that looked dead? My guess is we probably would have had a better meal at Don Ciccio, but Clemente was nonetheless quite pleasant.

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The spaghetti alla chitarra with lamb ragu was delicious. My mixed grill was a huge portion and pretty good but not really special. Stanley’s braised beef cheeks, which he liked, I thought were tough. Both came with potatoes, but no vegetables were offered. For dessert we had almond semifreddo with chocolate sauce, and tiramisu. Both were very good, the tiramisu even better than the one we had at lunch today. We again chose a rose for the wine, again a Cerasuolo, Vermiglio 2017 for 12 euros. Total with 2 amaros was 74 euros.

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Thursday, 9/20

The breakfast provided by Amores consisted of coffee and a pastry at the coffee bar up the street. Perfectly fine with us.  We got an early start and drove to L’Aquila, which we had not realized suffered major damage from an earthquake in 2009.  Restoration is going on at a feverish pace, but there is still much damage to be repaired.  Eventually it will no doubt be an impressive city again, but for now it was disappointing.  From there, we drove out through gorgeous countryside, on very rough but scenic mountain roads, to Civitella Casanova, where we had lunch at La Bandiera, a Michelin starred restaurant in a beautiful setting, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It is a destination that should not be missed by anyone visiting Abruzzo or Southern Marche.

Of course, the food here was wonderful, with very creative takes on regional dishes.  First we were given a generous selection of canapes.  We then started with porchetta, and though we intended to share one plate, they very graciously brought out 2 plates without extra charge.  This was a spectacular dish, which no description I could give would do justice.  Next we shared a pasta, duck tortelloni with an orange and truffle sauce.  For the main course, sweetbreads 2 ways, and chicken 2 ways, brought to the table as 2 separate courses.  There was a dessert amuse-bouche, then bollamisu (a creative take on tiramisu) and a chocolate waffle topped with chocolate mousse and saffron gelato.  With coffees, water and a nice bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (18 euros), the total came to 120 euros, truly amazing for this level of food, atmosphere and service.

Continuing Northward on the A14, we arrived in Senigallia in the early evening.  Stay tuned for my post on our tour of Marche.





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