Sunday, 21 August 2011

Where to eat? "Maria Fontana", Poggio Moiano*

I am not trying to say that you cannot have a decent meal in Rome. We only spent two days there and we more focused on history rather than food. We both agreed that we will look for some nice food somewhere else. And to be quite honest -  I was so happy eating in those tiny provincial restaurants that I would be quite happy to stick to them. 

We were planning to visit Maria Fontana restaurant after my friend's recommendation, however we got there earlier than we originally planned because we had to visit the local carabinieri office. We went there on Sunday morning and we were well looked after, however the whole procedure took longer than we expected and we started to feel little bit hungry. And we definitely had to cheer ourselves up. We singed all the necessary paperwork and we took off to Maria Fontana restaurant for a lunch. I am really pleased that we got there earlier than we planned because we had a chance to go back there before we left Italy.

On Sunday afternoon this place was full. Busy, quite laud, most of the tables were already occupied by whole families enjoying their lunch. We got a table and were told there is no menu today also we had a chance to order the drinks and antipasto (starter). We ordered a decanter of water and local unfiltered beer produced in Rieti, called Principessa (Princess).  It had very distinctive flavour, very tasty, sweet and made with kind of wheat popular in Roman times (It,  farro,  Lat. Triticum dicoccum, accoring to some it is spelt, but I think it is something else: emmer wheat).

That day os was only one starter available - selection of cold, cured meats and cheese, but I also asked if they serve coratella.  Waiter just smiled and disappeared in the kitchen, after minute or so he brought 3 little bowls, one of them was filled with coratella. This dish is traditionally made with finely chopped young lamb's heart, lungs, and liver fried in olive oil and finished off with some white wine and lemon juice. This is not typicall dish for this region as some others have their own coratellas i.e. with artichokes. (Coratella d'agnello con  carciofi). Our was very aromatic, I could taste peperoncino and bay leaf. Offal were very nicely chopped, juicy, tender, spicy. We had it with bread and I would be quite happy to have it as a main dish.

In other bowls there was a marinated cucumber  (courgette? I am not sure) and something that I did not know so when we came back next week and restaurant was not so busy I managed to find out what it was. It is calles portulachia (or porcacchia).  It looked like weed or seaweed, and it was left in the sun to dry out on the tables in the next room. It was very tasty - crunchy, little bit sour, very refreshing.

Bread that was served with antipasti was a proper, real bread, cold meats (hams, prosciutto crudo, salami etc) smelled gorgeous and so they tasted, coratella was disappearing quicker that I would expected.  I was gutted when I finished because I realised that I am pretty full already. Thankfully we were given some time to order primi (first dish). Waiter suggested very finely handmade pasta called maccheroncini, that this restaurant is famous for or pappardelle. We both decided we want the thin one - I had tomato sauce with mine, my partner tomato sauce with some meat. That was beautiful! After, what we thought was a real tucking in, waiter asked what we would like for secondi  (second, main dish),  and usually it is fish or meat. Unfortunately we were full and we wanted to leave some space for a dessert. Luckily we had some time to order the dessert and get some rest before having even more food.

For dessert I had panna cotta with some little blackberries which grow locally, just off any road and some cherries soaked in wine. For me it was an ideal dessert: panna cotta was not too wobbly, not too stiff, sweet and sauce and fruits were quite sharp. My partner had chocolate pancake with some ice cream.

Obviously I would not be full Italian meal without strong, aromatic espresso. Also we were offered liqueur or grappa , but we did not want any. 

For all of the above the bill came to 46 euros. We knew we were coming back to this place very soon.  We had to try their secondi

Second time we did not take any antipasti and for firsh dish we ordered ravioli with ricotta and herbs in tomato sauce and pappardelle with tomato and rabbit (if  I understood correctly...). Those large and very broad pasta was a brownish in colour and tasted little bit nutty, it was certainly made with some farro wheat, that I mentioned above. Ravioli was very tender and the dough was thin and lovely, filling - very creamy. Do I have to say it was delicious? This restaurant run by one family since 1966 is very famous by their handmade pasta, an absolute must try when you there.

It was a  time for second main dish and I ordered veal schnitzel and my partner decided to go for the pork escallops with mushroom sauce. We also ordered a plateful of coratella that we were (and we are!) dreaming about since our first visit. This time main dishes were listed on a piece of paper that we were given together with a pen and asked to my our choice. We also were given this tasty bread and offered contri (side dish) of salad, or tomatoes, or beans or cicoria - don't mistake this with a chicory - this is something else. We had it before elsewhere and enjoyed it's flavour so we both decided to go for it again.  I was searching Google to find out how you call it in English but I could not figure this out. It is probably a part of curly endive, family but is it more similar to common dandelion. Anyway it was fried in olive oil with some peperoncino and served warm. We also had some white house wine (vino della casa) in a jug and water.

This time for a dessert we both had really nice fluffy and light chocolate cake, then two strong coffee shots and again would did not want any grappa to finish off, but the waiter (and the chef and owner I believe) brought some homemade liqueur called  ratafia oi rose.  It was very tasty and I believe it helps to digest the whole meal unfortunately my Italian is too poor to understand what it was made with (rose perhaps?). Traditionally it is made with cherries, walnuts or plums. We had over two hours feast and this time paid 50 euros.

Why to eat there? First of all because they serve very tasty food - fresh, homemade, no fuss, using local ingredients. Also because sometimes it is nice not to have a menu and eat what you are given, it is fun to trust the chef, when there is no written menu and two dishes are being served, so there is not much choice. And perhaps because this is such a nice place and even this is restaurant and you are given real napkins instead of disposable ones and white table cloths the atmosphere is very informal. And the prices are very reasonable.

I highly recommend this place!

Ristorante Maria Fontana 
Viale Manzoni 13 
02037 Poggio Moiano 
 +39 0765 876169

Closed on Mondays, open for a lunch rest of the week, please ring for opening time for the dinner as sometimes they are closed at night too.

* province of Rieti, region Lazio


  1. Sorry to hear about your car, I didn't mention it the first time I was in a hurry. The unfortunate side of Italy, is theft and minor crime.

    Did you drive from the UK, or did you hire a car? In Italy everything takes a LONG time, I couldn't cope to live in Italy now, after living in the UK.

    Cicoria, in the UK is confusing. Essentially you have a wide range of Chicory/Radiccio/Endive, which are cooked and some can also be eaten in Salads. Chicory in the UK supermarkets is different.

    If you search "Seeds of Italy" on Google, and visit the website, they sell the seeds and you can grow whichever ones you want, here in the UK. :)

    Some even grow in the Winter!

  2. Ciao Karolina
    Wow! I am reliving my own trip to Italy. Reading your posts puts me right back on the Spanish Steps.
    I am so sorry about your car. Miserable experience. Glad thst the carabinieri were helpful. I actually have a friend who is a carabinieri in Roma. Great description of the meal. Wherever does one put all that food? A presto. Baci


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