Thursday, August 09, 2012

Garantito IGP: The Il Piastrino Restaurant in Pennabilli Sets The Standard For The Valmarecchia

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

Chance dictated that a month after telling you about the Osteria del Sole di Zocca, in Emilia, I should find myself on the other side, in Romagna, Province of Rimini, where I enjoyed breathtaking panoramas, wound along dangerous, often unpaved mountain roads and visited gems such as Sen Leo and the heart of Rimini itself.

Since I had three full days, I couldn't help but cross over to San Marino, where there are alas even more shops selling touristy trinkets that certainly don't do honor to a town that would otherwise be uniquely enticing.

The most beautiful places I visited, however, are in that slice of land called the Valmarecchia, the valley of the Marecchia river, which begins, as does the Tiber, at Monte Fumaiolo, but on the mountain's opposite flank, and flows down to the Adriatic, passing by lesser-known gems including San Leo and S. Agata Feltria (which was formerly in the Province of Pesaro-Urbino).

We're in the realm of Piadine (Romagna's traditional flatbread, made with lard) and Crescioni, which are piadine folded up and sealed like a Calzone, and generally filled with greens (beet greens or spinach, because crescione (a mild runny cheese) production  is alas decreasing), or tomato, or mozzarella and potatoes, with the to be expected local and seasonal variations.

Pennabilli is instead the southernmost town of Romagna, in the Parco Naturale Regionale del Sasso Simone e Simoncello in the Alta Valmarecchia. It's easily reached via Strada Statale 258 (which then becomes a Regional Road) and is well worth a visit, because it boasts many attractions, including "I Luoghi dell'anima: Orto dei frutti dimenticati di Tonino Guerra" (places of the soul: Tonino Guerra's Garden of Forgotten Fruit),
where one can admire both artworks and fruit trees.

Pennabilli is also one of the centers of the Mercato Nazionale dell'Antiquariato, the National Antiques Fair (in July), and in Late May - Early June hosts the Festival Internazionale dell'Arte di Strada, the International Street Art festival, this year in its 16th edition. Another excellent reason to come is the Mateureka museum, dedicated to the history of mathematics and computational devices, located in the Town Hall.

This small Romagnolan town also boasts the visit, in 1994, of Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama, who cake to celebrat the 250th anniversary of Father Orazio Olivieri, who left Rimini in the XVIII to establish a Catholic mission in Lhasa.

But we're here to talk about more mundane, though necessary, things, and I cannot but mention that which for food and wine lovers is certainly the primary motivation for a visit to Pennabilli: At the gates of the town there's Il Piastino, one of the finest restaurants in all of Romagna, under the able direction of Riccardo Agostini.

In this stone house we find superb cooking that almost sneaks out, sign of a sure hand; ingredients of absolute quality, practically perfect presentations, and a perfect sense of balance, without theatrics that would clash with foods of frugal origin that are magnificantly handled. The wine list boasts some nice surprises, including biodynamic and organic labels.

I settled upon a Vernaccia di S. Gimignano Carato 2005 from Montenidoli (30 euros), which may be from out of state, but I have a soft spot for this wine, which i hadn't tried for a couple of years -- Elisabetta Fagiuoli, who is now also President of the Consorzio della Vernaccia, is as unique as her wines, and, I think, set a mark unreachable by others.

It's not easy to pair a wine with dishes one has never had, but I have to say I lucked out. My wife Laura and I shared our dishes to have a better picture of the kitchen: We began with an excellent chantarelle, spring onion and bluebary cocktail with poached egg and ricotta cream (13 euros) and Cappelletti with Parmigiano, shank and porcini (14 euros), a tasty dish with well balanced ingredients; for seconds we settled upon an extraordinary crunchy sucing pig with carrot and lime cream and pinzimonio of vegetables with cumin (18 euros), a dish that was perfectly balanced and with very tender meat, and Eggplant and Buffalo mozzarella millefoglie with basil cream (14 euros) with remarkable mozzarella and perfectly assembled millefoglie. To finish up, only one dessert (one of us had had enough, but I won's say who), a moving Caramelized cream with Kirsch and cherry granita (10 euros). A bottle of water and two excellent coffees, and I shouldn't overlook the many breads we were also served. Total cost, 117 Euros, which is perfect.

It's worth going back to try more....

Ristorante Il Piastrino
via Parco Begni, 5 - Pennabilli (RN)
Tel. 0541 928106
Open lunch and dinner, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

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

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