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
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.
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.
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 Site: www.piastrino.it
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.