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Ascoli Piceno - Recommended Restaurants and Caffes
Valerie Schneider (Valerie)
Many of the restaurants in this part of the country do not have written menus. Instead, the offerings change regularly and are recited orally, which may be challenging if you don't speak Italian; at many of these establishments English is not spoken. If you're adventurous or somewhat confident in your knowledge of food lingo though, you'll be rewarded with wonderful, home-cooked meals in family-run joints that many tourists don't experience. We've found that prices are very reasonable regardless of not having a written tab to consult and have never felt cheated.
Despite Ascoli Piceno's location a mere 30 kilometers from the Adriatic, seafood is not especially common inland. La cucina delle colline (hill country cuisine) is more prevalent. The Abruzzo and Marche regions are known for hearty fare with a heavy dependence on pork and lamb; sheep's milk cheeses, truffles, and mushrooms are also heavily utilized. Homemade egg pastas are much utilized, as well. Olive all'Ascolana are made from a particular local, giant olive stuffed with a mixture of meats, breaded and fried. It sounds odd but is delicious. On the coast, the olive all'ascolana are stuffed with seafood.
Sunday evening passeggiata
Just off Piazza Arringo
The ambiance is fairly basic but the pretty linens add a touch. In the summer they put a few tables outside surrounded by planters. The wait-staff seems harried at times, but are friendly as they bustle about, and one or two speak a bit of English.
Via delle Canterine. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Reservations are recommended if you don't want to risk being turned away. At dinner there is an ample spread of antipasti; tell them when you've had enough and are ready to move on the primi or the plates will keep rolling out.
The menu changes constantly and is oral. The penne with zucchini is noteworthy, as is the orrechiette with peppery broccoletti. Secondi usually feature lamb, veal and/or pork in some form, but also sometimes chicken and fish dishes. Contorni are basic, normally tending toward potatoes, salad and sauteed greens, or peas with prosciutto. There is a fair selection of wines and the house red is very agreeable and inexpensive. I've never been offered dessert but nor have I inquired; I'm always too full by the end of every meal.
Dietro Le Quinte
Via Q. C. Rufo 14. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Begin with the antipasto which normally consists of mixed meats (prosciutto, salami), cheese, lentils or beans stewed in a tomato and pancetta sauce, and cured olives. The antipasto is not offered at lunch but they'll add it on by special request if you want it. Primi vary but often include cannelloni, ravioli or another stuffed pasta, spaghetti all'Amatriciana, your pasta choice topped with ragu, a soup or risotto, and another original dish. Secondi frequently feature grilled meats, but may also sometimes offer meatballs (a real down-home treat made from ground veal), or spezzatino di pollo – braised chicken pieces with olives. Naturally, the dishes change all the time and I've rarely encountered the same main course twice.
Prices are 12 Euro for lunch and 15 Euro for dinner. Credit cards are not accepted!
Via d'Argillano 29. Closed Tuesday.
The house specialty is the fritto misto all'Ascolana, heaping plates of vegetables, the olive all'Ascolana (which aren't made on site here), and/or meats that are lightly battered and fried. If that sounds too artery-clogging for you, he also features a handful of good pasta specialties, and has a couple of tasty and light veal dishes on the menu. If you don't see something you like, ask the Vagabond Chef and he'll whip up something to your liking. It's nothing fancy, but it's cute, and is comfortably consistent and well as very reasonably priced.
Piazza della Viola 13. Closed Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
From the name she obviously serves up the famed olives, but then moves on to moves on to dishes such as pork roasted in vino cotto, a local sweet wine, or baccala steamed with artichokes and olives. The house specialty of candied olives normally makes an appearance in one of the dishes.
The little establishment has two cute dining rooms. Local food products are also for sale in the restaurant.
Note from SlowTrav: Laliva has since closed and become a bar.
Via L. Mercantini 68 (at the corner of via Castelfidardo). Closed Sundays and holidays.
The written menu is rather extensive and also a little confusing as there are pages devoted to the fixed-price menu options, then separate pages for traditional regional fare and others for specialty dishes from throughout Italia. They use as many local products as possible, including mountain-cured prosciutto and pecorino cheese. They own an enoteca across the street, so their wine selection is very good.
The olive all'ascolana are hand-made and done very well here (some of the best in town, in my opinion). Because the menu is quite large there are dishes to satisfy everyone's tastes. They take great pride is bringing out quality food at reasonable prices. Most primi run in the 5 to 7 Euro range; the most expensive primo is 10 Euro and involves the tartufo nero (black truffle). Secondi range from 7.50 to 15 Euro depending on the type of meat.
Rua della Lupa 5. Closed Sunday evening.
Classic dishes take on a slightly nouveau flair and are served with a flourish. There is a regular menu as well as a daily specials menu, which is short by inspired. A recent daily menu featured pennette with a sauce made from eggplant, and herb-roasted quail as the secondo. Friday brings a special fish menu. Everything is scrumptious and priced reasonably. For lunch, the daily specials can be turned into a fixed-priced meal. There are a few vegetarian choices here, which is sometimes hard to come by in Marche and Abruzzo.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 13. Closed Sunday.
Pizzeria Bella Napoli
Piazza della Viola. Closed Thursday.
Quick Bites, Bars and Specialty
Hidden in a gallery connecting Corso Mazzini with via Giudea, the Cafe Kursaal is the place for a quick lunch - fresh and tasty, but inexpensive. Most days they offer a frittata of some sort, a variety of salads, sandwiches and pizza slices, as well as a daily pasta special. Fresh fruit salad is always available. This is also a good choice for pre-dinner drinks and snacks, with a decent drink selection and nice nibbles.
Via D. Angelini. Open every day.
On Piazza Arringo. Closed Tuesday.
Next to the Baptistry in Piazza Arringo.
Pizzeria il Cavallino
Via Angelini, near the Tribunale.
Corso Mazzini. Closed Sunday morning and afternoon.
Piazza del Popolo. Open every day.
Service by jacketed waiters makes the experience feel special. Coffee is served with a little plate of cookies to nibble; alcohol drinks come with a few snacks. This is the place for an aperitivo before dinner or a digestivo afterwards, and caffe – with or without a "corrective" additive - at any hour of the day. Sitting outside on a Sunday morning guarantees you a good seat to watch the people parade that takes place in the piazza.
Piazza Roma/via XX Settembre
Via Pretoriana. Closed Sunday.
© Valerie Schneider, 2007
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