Update Sept 2018: Ristorante Zenobi was awarded ‘Best Traditional Restaurant in Italy 2018’ by Slow Food!
Part of the joy of having a break in Abruzzo Italy is that supermarkets stock local produce allowing you to experiment buying local wines; in the case of this story a Zenobi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If, as they frequently do, a glass of wine quite bowls you over (in a good way), it can turn into a little adventure that sees you setting off to seek the wine’s source; enjoying a tasting at its cantina, having a long lazy lunch at its restaurant (many vineyards have their own) and then of course walking that hearty indulgence off afterwards in the undulating local countryside. This has to be the best way to embed the memory of a wine firmly forever, the association of enjoying it with the local cuisine originally designed to complement its natural setting.
This is exactly what happened recently when we tried an Azienda Zenobi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a glorious find at just €4.85; succulently soft berry fruits that jumped into our list of wines to be drank all day, if of course there was such a thing or a time.
Azienda Zenobi is sat in 186 hectares in Abruzzo’s Val Vibratra wine valley of Northern Teramo, on the border of La Marche. Set between the pretty hill-top town of Colonnella and the village of Riomoro, you will marvel at the rolling hills laden with vines and sweetly dipping valleys.
Abruzzo’s Acclaimed Slow Food Restaurant
Although Azienda Zenobi doesn’t have a cantina, it does have a scrummy Slow Food Movement endorsed restaurant that serves wines from its own cellar as well as from other big names from the Abruzzo region and Italy. With a large bay tree hedge outside, it’s obvious from the start that this is run by some serious foodies! Just for the setting I would recommend a visit; I would say it is probably a little bit extra-special in the summer, when you can sit on their wide covered terrace looking out an enchanting panorama of hills laden up to medieval town of Colonella in the distance. If I was sitting on one of the nearby beaches at either Alba Adriatica or Villa Rose to escape the hordes and land of tourist menus I would absolutely make the 15-minute journey up here for something so authentic & tasty!
Food served at the Ristorante Zenobi was truly remarkable, hence no doubt why the restaurant seemed relatively busy on a blustery winter’s day. After demolishing a selection of delicious breads, particularly a Pecorino Cheese one we shared an antipasti – only ever order one to share it is enormous! Alongside the usual prosciutto and cheeses were a selection of local lamb salami that were dark and spicy, quite different to what we had previously encountered in other parts of Teramo. These cold meats were served with small lighter-than-light almond-shaped fried puffs, which are called panzerotti, two which had been stuffed with lentils, oh we almost wished we’d not been so glutinous with the bread! Next came some the warm dishes, some beautiful Pleurotus (Oyster) mushrooms, a moist neck of lamb in a fried egg sauce, the best pumpkin & borlotti mash I have ever eaten in my life, Santo Stefano lentils, and a warm farro and carrot salad that actually should have been where we stopped …
But of course on we went to our pasta courses: chunky local cep caps in a delicate white wine with just a hint of cream coating the local shaped pasta that is called Strozzapreti. This resembles a priest’s choker or rolled towel and comes with a history, supposedly created by Chefs wanting their local priests to choke on their food! Chitarra of course and polpettine was had too, all delicious!
Great petit fours are served here with your coffee which is unusual for Abruzzo. I am guessing because of it being Christmas there was a touch of spices from the Middle East in the toffee meringues and oatie cookies. The most interesting and delicious of them all – Panetti di Fichi, what a discovery, think figgy pudding Italian style, but with dried figs that have obviously pressed into moulds with almonds and chocolate and cedar, this will never be forgotten and I wish I could have one every day with an espresso!
Price – €30 with 1 litre of Azienda Zenobi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Value for money – 9/10
Quality of food – 9.5/10
Zenobi Ristori di Campagna | c da Riomoro, 132, Colonella 64010 Teramo
www.ristorantezenobi.it | Tel: 0861.70581 | marcello.zenobi[at]tin.it