With typical foresight we found ourselves in the charming town of Guardiagrele, famous for its craft shops and similar, on a Sunday at lunchtime, guaranteeing that anything of interest would be closed. However, a quick walk through the deserted streets for a restaurant did by happy chance lead us to the door of Cantina del Tripio. The lace curtains made it hard to see if Cantina del Tripio was actually open, but curiosity combined with ravenous hunger led us and we went in…
Cantina del Tripio is a very well appointed, discreetly classy restaurant. The premises are split in two, one half with cool, soothing blue painted walls, the other a hotbed of mediterranean orange & terracota passion.
We were the only diners in the Cantina del Tripio this Sunday lunchtime, but the small space and calm cleanliness of the restaurant put us at our ease instantly. The gentleman who served us (probably the owner) was polite & informative throughout the meal, advising us in Italian of many of the dishes’ signatures or ingredients.
To begin with we opted for our staple antipasti, the mixed cold platter, comprising some excellent pecorini of various ages and a light smooth ricotta-like cheese, caciocavallo, made from cows’ milk, served with a vino cotto jelly and an excellent tartufo miele, as well as a selection of salami & prosciutti. After this we were treated to scrumptious slices of courgette and aubergine in a new, light & peppery warm olive oil.
Main course proved to be somewhat controversial. One of us decided to go for a classic Abruzzo pasta dish, Pasta e Ceci (chickpeas); this may not sound very exciting but it is the addition of a special Abruzzese condiment called adacciata which brings it alive – this is a combination of garlic, parsley, basil and prosciutto (in this case smoked) which is added to the pasta and chickpeas as a sort of pesto, and makes for the most amazing dish, part soup part pasta course, a light, infused and enthusing delight! No wonder if was a favourite of Roman poet Horace, perhaps an inspiration for one of his Odes…
From Horace to horse…which is where one canters into slightly more controversial undrunk waters… It may be a fact that is hidden in Italian restaurants outside of Italy and Italian cook books for non Italians, but horse is eaten across Italy, you will find it in the majority of supermarkets, and in Cantina del Tripio the “neighs” do have it! One of our party, herself a previously keen equestrian until an unfortunate accident, would by no means be tempted by the dark, tender and succulent delights inherent in la carne di cavallo…but the other is always willing to gallop with cavalier abandon into trying new, local cuisine, and opted for the meatballs made from horse, much to the appreciation of the probable proprietor .
The meat was dark but surprisingly moist & sweet, similar to venison but with elements a bit like beef. It is rich though, and the four meatballs had at Cantina del Tripio were almost too much to eat, even washed down with a good local red wine. The meat would probably work very well with other ingredients, and one can understand the Belgian’s & Mongolian’s appreciation of this meat…the Japanese apparently have a dish called basashi that combines it raw with ginger & onions, which would also work well…
We were also kindly served with a selection of nuts to crack ourselves – not horse’s nuts I hasten to add, nor even horse-chestnuts! Walnuts to be precise. Though this was only a pallet preparer for a course of freshly roasted chestnuts, a huge number, too many for us so i slipped some in a serviette and hid them in my pocket to make a chestnut and brussel sprout soup later (yummmmmm).
Despite our degree of stuffedness, we also managed to share a traditional Abruzzo-style cake, soaked admirably in alcohol and very consumable. After this we paid, thanked the gentleman earnestly for his magnificent food and splendid service, then hoofed it out of there.
Price – 3 Course Meal, €34,50 for two people including wine
Value for money – 10/10
Quality of food – 9/10
Cantina del Tripio di Ricci Nicola
Via Tripio 101
66016 Guardiagrele (Chieti)
No website or email address