Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garantito IGP: How it is (and was) so nice at the Marchese del Grillo in Fabriano

This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand:

In my first years working with wines, especially with regards to Montalcino, I regularly crossed paths with a distinctive person: he was very tall and robust, and stood out not just for his height, but also for his incredible knowledge of wines. He very much liked Biondi Santi's wines, but also Sangiovese in general, and I often noted him hesitating when faced with the "odd" Brunelli that then were fashionable. I asked, and found out he had a restaurant in Fabriano, where he served the wines he liked, even though (then) they weren't exactly in fashion. I subsequently had the occasion to eat several times in his restaurant, which was in the old cellars of a beautiful villa that once belonged to a man who became an icon, the Marchese del Grillo.

Our tall gentleman with the extraordinary knowledge of wines and love of true Sangiovese was and is Lanfranco D'Alesio; in 1990 he opened the restaurant that takes its name from the volcanic and widely known Marchese, as well as the villa whose cellars it is in, which has now also become a beautiful Relais.

When I went in the past the place was quite elegant, with tables nicely separated; the service was exacting, on time, and not asphyxiating; the dishes didn't display the flights of fancy then in vogue, but were based on the ingredients and prepared to perfection. The cellars were one of the place's strong points, with wines of the sort that have now come back into fashion thanks to the abrupt course-change of many then hypermodernist critics. The key elements were, however, Wife Emanuela in the kitchen, and that great friendly man whose eyes shined at the mention of certain wines, and who had to sit on his hands to keep from opening great bottles for the sheer joy of doing so.

Many years passed, and I lost track of the Marchese del Grillo, until, during the hottest part of last June a winemaker from the Marche invited me to lunch, and took me there.

Given the asphyxiating temperatures we're suffering now you'll easily understand how nice it was to escape the June heat for the restaurant's cool halls. At first it seemed time had stood still: elegant settings, muted sounds, in other words the classic high level restaurant that wears its class lightly, inviting you to come in and relax. But I didn't want to relax, because I was looking for that tall unmistakable figure with whom I had shared glasses and comments 20 years previously. Instead I beheld a young smiling man who reminded me of someone; I introduced myself and he replied, "My pleasure, I'm Mario D'Alessio." I thus discovered the Lanfranco and Emanuela's soon had taken over the restaurant a while back. And more: his sister Serena, who is just as young, handles the kitchen. I don't have the courage to ask about Lanfranco (as I said, the years slide by...) but Mario reassures me, saying his father has a new passion: Winemaking in the Abruzzo.

Now I can relax, and appreciate Serena's cooking, which renewed but didn't revolutionize her mother's. An example, the Parmigiana of eggplant and mussels from the Conero region with potato chips, a plate based upon great ingredients (especially the wonderful and almost impossible to find mussels) and upon a light hand that gives lightness to the Parmigiana. We mustn't forget the Marchigiana beef Carpaccio with tuna sauce, delicate salad, and pineapple, and, among the first courses the gnocchi stuffed with fresh cheese, tomato and basil, or the classic maccheroni di Campofilone. Among the main courses meats predominate, in particular Marchigiana beef, though they also have lamb and pork. Recommendable, even in hot weather, the local grilled platter, and the capocollo with carrot an licorice sorbet.

The wine list, now handled by Mario, has developed over the years while maintaining the foundations Lianfranco laid, even though he has taken into account more or less passing vagueries of fashion. I guarantee that returning to that cellar (if I hadn't I wouldn't have relaxed) and seeing the "right" labels at proper prices made me young again, at least for a few moments.

Someone muuuuuuch older than me said, "rarely does human experience pass through to the upper branches," but in the case of the Marchese del Grillo the teachings of the parents were fully understood by the children, leading the restaurant to new heights.

I could not but be happy about this, especially after passing over their tiramisu, which would certainly have tied me down to my chair.

Marchese del Grillo
Località Rocchetta Bassa 73
60044 Fabriano (AN)
Tel. 0732625690
Mail: info [at] marchesedelgrillo [dot] com
Web Site:
Price: 40/45 € plus wines

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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