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Ascoli Piceno: Ristorante Tornasacco

Piazza del Popolo, 36 , Phone: 0736.254151

Reviewed by: David from NY, review #1314

When: 2005

Gavin's writeup of Tornasacco on SlowTrav was too much to ignore. We went and had a lovely meal.

Directions: Right on the central Piazza del Popolo, up a flight of stairs.

By this point in our trip, I thought we had learned our lesson not to order too much food. Hm...... Tornasacco was perhaps the most upscale restaurant we went to on this vacation - not that it was formal by any means. It's just one step above a basic trattoria. On a Wednesday evening in early June, there were only two other patrons in the dining room. There were pictures of the host/waiter in the menu that dated back some years. I believe his wife is in the kitchen and he serves - a lovely, generous, gracious man. He explained things in detail - there are a number of things on the menu that required explanation. So, sort of ignoring our idea not to overorder, we all ordered primi and split three secondi (plus olives). We couldn't resist -- wanted to try a number of different things.

The pastas were excellent - simple, classic cheese and spinach ravioli in sage butter couldn't have been done better, another with funghi - great. I had another traditional pasta dish with canned tuna, anchovies, olives and a red sauce. Quite salty and strongly flavored because of the anchovies and tuna, but very tasty - I enjoyed that.

We got more of a lesson on when and when not to use grated parmesan. I'd known about the "no parmesan on fish" rule, recently learned not to use parmesan with passatelli, since they're made with cheese, but he started describing how if a dish has aglio ed olio, you don't use cheese either. If it has butter and garlic, ok.... that kind of confused me. Oh well. At any rate, another primo of pasta piccante was equally good.

Of the secondi, I particularly liked veal with funghi as well as a delicious chicken breast. The ubiquitous olivi ascolani arrived and they were the best we'd had -- much lighter than some -- just terrific! We had more Rosso Piceno Superiore made by Ciù Ciù - a different cuvee this time -- that was just great - as well as another also good Rosso Piceno.

NO ROOM FOR DESSERT!! Well, the owner/waiter talked me into some pecorino with chestnut honey -- I made everyone else have some. That was served with the dessert wine thing that Gavin described, which the owner told me was made from "uve pecorino" - pecorino grapes - hunh? - I suppose it's yet another Italian grape varietal we've never heard of. It was light and lovely, and right -- a bit of anise flavor.

So - 4 people: 4 primi, 4 secondi (the olives were a secondo in this restaurant, not a contorno), 1 contorno, 1 formaggio, water, two relatively expensive bottles of wine - 132 Euro.

Reviewed by: Gavin Crawford from Australia, review #651

When: 2002

One of the most memorable of meals in Italy......Marche food at its regional best.

Directions: Piazza del Popolo.

The Cadogan Guide recommends Ristorante Tornasacco. The Crawfords absolutely recommend Tornasacco. One of the most memorable and extensive lunches we have ever had.

There was only one table of three diners when we arrived, and none from halfway through our meal. As with our lunch at San Michele, it kind of detracts from the atmosphere when you dine alone, however, we had a very attentive waiter who insisted on explaining every course. We had little Italian, he absolutely no English, so we only gleaned bits and pieces.

We decided to have the degustatione menu. While it looked extensive, that wasn’t the reason for ordering (after all, it didn’t list any prices). We ordered it because the full menu was so full of regional specialties that we didn’t comprehend, we decided to have “a little of everything”. Wrong, it turned out to be a lot of everything.

We started with a prosecco and a small bowl of beans cooked in tomatoes with a slice of toast. (Crostini?). We have since been told that throughout central Italy, most begin their meal with a very small bowl of beans. The waiter then wheeled over a trolley in which three haunches of prosciutto were mounted on carving cradles. He sliced off thin slices, also sliced salamis, around 8 different types of meats, 2 cheeses, 4 different breads (focaccie, rye, rosetta and a whole grain) and a bowl of marinated/pickled vegetables. Ches couldn’t handle the volume, however, I couldn’t resist and therefore showed little restraint.

Prima: Home made taglionini with a lamb ragout. Ches maintaines that after this course, my tablecloth looked like an aboriginal hand art painting. At this point I was replete.

Secondi: Fritto Misto - lamb cutlet, zucchini, eggplant, artichoke, olives stuffed with tuna, breaded and fried, and a cube of cheese and a cube of what turned out to be flour, egg and sugar, both crumbed and fried. Ches kept insisting that there was another course to come, and I was alarmed. As we discovered later, what the waiter had been miming at the beginning, was that we should only have one antipasto between us, and one secondi. Thank God!

Formaggio: Pecorino and honey with a chilled liqueur of “an ancient wine”. At this point, I was sure I could taste just a hint of fennel, and the waiter beamed and responded “si, si, Finnochio”

Dolce: Crema Pinoli tart, served with vino passito and lemon - delicious with vino particulare (Dulcis in Fundo ‘98, Marche Bianco tipica vino de “Muffe Nobile” Affide). Again we struggled with the waiter to determine the nature of this dessert wine. We struggled with the language, but I picked up on “gorgonzola”. Me thinks!!!! I think he meant that it is made with fruit that has turned mouldy. Could it be the “Muffe Nobile” is our “Noble Rot”? Kent’s electronic translator has just confirmed “muffa” is mould. Where am I going to buy a bottle of this? My life depends upon it! It is made in Offida, the last town we will visit tomorrow, so I will get a bottle there.

I almost forgot our wine. We had a bottle of Catellano Roso, Piceno 1998, Pharus (10 euro). I think it was actually a Piceno Superior, which is a designation for wines produced at Ripertansone, not for it being a better wine that “Piceno”.

Will definitely return here one day.

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

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