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Monte S. Maria Tiberina: Oscari

Phone: (075) 857-0110

Reviewed by: Jeff Holmes from USA, review #2071

When: 2005

Grille misto specialty, locally grown produce. Very interesting setting in the heart of the hilltop town surrounded by cliffs and views!

Directions: North of Umbertide and the Niccone Valley on SP105 about 10 miles; West on SP103 - follow the signs to the hilltop village of Santa Maria Tiberina.

This restaurant is a long way from the main roads in the area, but worth the trip. A wide variety of meats and pasta on the a la carte menu and a few special tourist-oriented complete meals (all courses), too.

The first time I ate here was in 1998 (six of us) and the last time was 2005 (four of us)- the menu has expanded to include complete meals for easy ordering. I really think the owner/cook did this to keep from arguing with his patrons about what's good and what's just OK on any given day. The first time we ate at Oscari, he refused to let one of us order spaghetti, which was on the menu, insisting that the gnocchi was his specialty. Finally, he grabbed several of the menus, slapped them closed and left in a huff, while the six of us wondered if we'd committed some unpardonable social gaffe and were going to be served or not! He returned with the first course of his version of what he thought we should be eating that day...and it WAS very good. Veal, eggplant and sausage grill, gnocchis, antipasto, salad and dessert. The house wine (always an experiment in Italy) was undrinkable on that day, however. In 2005 we ordered the complete meals listed on the menu (a couple of choices for meat, pasta and dessert make it easier for the kitchen and help patrons like make up our minds more quickly) and were not disappointed - and the wine (this time) was just fine.

The drive up to the hilltop is an adventure, but the views from the restaurant patio/terrace beforehand were wonderful. And this time we were offered a glass of wine on the house, while we waited for Oscari to open (7PM is pretty standard in northern Italy). And a stroll around the town takes you up and down stone steps in all directions. Best done before dinner, since after dark only a local would try to navigate those steps at altitude.

Reviewed by: Bill Thayer from IL, review #845

When: 2004

Family restaurant; food only a cut above average, but friendly people and a good view. In the summer: outdoors in the piazza under a large vine-grown trellis.

Directions: The town is tiny, no one pays attention to the street names, and there is only one restaurant: this one, of course.

I had the Menu della Casa: Antipasti: crostini misti "caldi e freddi" (C+); their specialty, Chicche all tartufo — sort of large meat-filled tortelloni in a cream version of arrabbiata (the main thing I picked up was the hot pepper, although it was liberally sprinkled with shavings of truffle), C+; tagliatelle in rosso, C; grigliata mista, lamb rather good, beef less so, too salty but tasted good (C) served with a mixed salad, a good idea.

Desserts, I had three: the second-best tozzetti of my 3-month stay: crunchy, candied citron, a B+; salame inglese, B-; and a little puff of a thing filled with some kind of fruit mix and dusted with powdered sugar, which was very good, brushing the edges of an A-: this latter, no name, but a long description passing for one; since it's Mrs. Oscari's recipe, I'll think of it as torta Valentina and told 'em that: Mr. (Emilio) Oscari, or of course his wife Valentina, will likely remember that name if you want to order it.

Reasonably priced (in the €20-30 range, although I can't remember exactly).

The town is remote, and not a tourist venue. I was the only customer on a weekday in early March, cold and threatening rain: I'm surprised they were open at all. I tried to accommodate them by going along with the most basic items; in turn, they may not have been in full swing.

My rating: C+/B-. I wouldn't be surprised if the food were better in season.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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