While exploring Abruzzo, we enjoyed much of the region’s characteristic rustic fare, but we also discovered several chefs elevating traditional dishes with refined techniques and creative ingredients. The following restaurants provide a delicious taste of Abruzzo by marrying long-standing conventions with modern ingenuity.
This wonderful family-owned restaurant, set on a hillside outside of Civitella Casanova, embodies the pleasures of eating in Italy. Chef Marcello Spadone and his wife and children cook with vegetables from their own garden and employ the province’s best produce to create dishes like shrimp tartare with pine nuts and green apple, maccheroni alla mugnaia con sugo di pomodori (hand-pulled single-strand pasta with tomato sauce) and veal with celeriac purée and a vermouth reduction. The service is charming, and the wine list is outstanding.
Contrada Pastini 4, Civitella Casanova. Tel. (39) 085-845-219
Niko Romito has won three Michelin stars for his elegant, if occasionally austere, modern Italian cooking with Abruzzese roots. Some of the dishes we had at Reale as part of the 140 euro “Essenza” menu were brilliant, including beef tartare with raspberry-vinegar mayonnaise and ravioli filled with fresh ricotta, spinach and butter, while others — like the cold duck with smoked duck water and spinach — underwhelmed. Romito has a singular talent, however, and this is an experience avid gastronomes will likely find fascinating, if very expensive.
Piana Santa Liberata, Castel di Sangro. Tel. (39) 086-484-0610
With son Pascal running the dining room and his brother Arcangelo in the kitchen, Peppino and Angela Tinari’s family restaurant Villa Maiella is delightful because their hospitality is so warm and professional, the food is superb, and the wine list is excellent. The “Menu del Territorio,” a great value at 55 euros, offers a delicious selection of some of the region’s best-known dishes, cooked with precision and passion. We especially liked the pallotte cac’ e ove, a delicate breaded ball of ewe’s milk cheese, egg and bread crumbs in a light tomato sauce, and the spaghetti alla chitarra (egg pasta) with lamb ragu and juniper-smoked ricotta.
Via Sette Dolori 30, Guardiagrele. Tel. (39) 087-180-9319