Eating in Umbria (Orvieto, Spoleto, Norcia)

Orvieto

My partner and I were totally taken by this small, relatively untouristy town and I discovered my most favorite cookie of all time at I Dolci di Moscatelli  (Corso Cavour, 11).  I love these delightful, bite-sized anise ciambellette cookies and at several points in our trip contemplated derailing our plans to head back to Orvieto to buy a giant bag of them to bring home.  They are not very sweet, almost like a slightly sweetened anise-flavored cracker.  I will definitely have to try to recreate these at home because the alternative is flying back to Orvieto and that isn’t really in our budget!  (UPDATE: I used this recipe from Italian Food Forever with some minor tweaks and it turned out great!)  I Dolci di Moscatelli had other pastries, but none came anywhere close to their unassuming, but intoxicating anise ciambellette cookies.

While walking through the streets of Orvieto, we saw a sign that said olive oil tasting, followed the arrows, and ended up at Bartolomei.  There was a little bit of a timeshare feel when we walked in as the woman working there put in a movie about how Bartolomei makes olive oil, but she was so nice and the movie was actually really interesting, so our concerns vanished, especially when she brought out the incredible olive oil to taste!  Not only did the tasting include two types of delicious olive oil poured over freshly toasted bread, but also two types of olive spread and wine. 

Gelateria Giuseppe Pasqualetti (Piazza Duomo, 14) had the most incredible pear gelato I have ever had.  It was like a pear exploded in my mouth every time I took a bite.  Even my partner who isn’t particularly fond of pear gelato loved it and referenced it several times in our future gelato tasting.  (We really took our gelato tasting and comparison very seriously.)

Honorable mention goes to Bar Pasticceria Montanucci for their outstanding cream puff.

Spoleto

Our stop in Spoleto was somewhat accidental.  We rented a car the day after we arrived in Italy and we were still pretty jetlagged.  Since I can’t drive stick, my partner was responsible for all the driving and we stopped in Spoleto mostly because he was falling asleep while driving.  Also, I had read about Spoleto and was happy to explore some places I had written down while he took a nap in the car.  Fortuitously, there was some kind of food festival going on.  There were stands set up on the main street selling and giving samples of different types of meat, cheese, olive oil, and TARTUFO SALSA!!!  Don’t know what that is?  I didn’t either, but it is DELICIOUS!!!  It’s a mix of chopped porcini mushrooms, some small percentage of truffles, and olive oil.  It is sublime spread on bread or a cracker (or I’ll admit, eaten straight out of the jar).

Norcia

Norcia is a weird place.  It has a touristy (though almost exclusively Italian tourists), carnival feel, but also a rustic, local feel at the same time – very hard to explain.  Norcia is known for its many, many pork products, mainly made from cinghiale (wild boar), and most butcher shops in Italy are called Norcinerias after this town.   There are wild boar heads and walls of prosciutto everywhere you look in this town.

This region is also known for its truffles, which I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to try.  They’re so plentiful that stores just leave them outside in baskets for customers to sell.  Have you ever seen such enormous truffles?!

If you want to taste some local specialties, visit Norcineria Fratelli Ansuini, an established and respected store with friendly staff.

Food report from Tuscany coming up …

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