Top gastronomic discovery of our last visit to Abruzzo is definitely La Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai, located in a small frazione called Piagge, near the small town of Tornimparte, just outside L’Aquila. It is easily located off the A24 if driving from Rome to Abruzzo which makes it the perfect place to stop for a beautiful lunch or dinner. Raging appetites combined with a spirit of adventure led us to the Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai recently whilst driving from Rome Ciampino airport, taking a random turning off at the Tornimparte exit from the A24, which leads either to Campo Felice (popular for skiers to Abruzzo in the winter) or L’Aquila again, via a series of such small towns & villages.
La Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai is signposted almost immediately after the A24 exit, so we decided to follow the signs (which were regular) and headed north towards Tornimparte. Twenty minutes or so later and we were there, the small village of Piagge, very quiet. We found the restaurant car park and entered, somewhat nervous that we were running a bit late (it was almost 2pm at this time, late for some places especially if intending to have secondi piatti), but were soon put at ease by the genial manager, a young gentleman named Stefano, who took us to a table for two in an intimate dining space surrounded by low-level windows.
One of the advantages of the Locanda type restaurants is that they specialise in food typical of the region, normally at a very high standard (sometimes reflected in the price compared to agriturismi for example) with excellent variety; another is that they often offer menus, rare in Abruzzo! The Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai met & surpassed both these expectations effortlessly. The menu was in Italian only, quite rightly, and utilised localized or traditional terms which were beyond us but Stefano helped us to understand them; he also displayed a good understanding of the wines best suited to the type of food chosen, providing a good range of bottled wines (there was no option here for mezzi di vino della casa, but the range of wines offered instead was refreshing).
The menu changes every two weeks, but if what was on offer was typical then it would be worth visiting every two weeks just to sample the new seasonal dishes. Stefano explained each course available to us, and we plumped for Il nido di pecorino con pere e miele and Il cannolo fritto con verza, patate e lenticchie, both €5. And both staggeringly good…
The nido di pecorino consisted of an amazing vermicelli birdnest, fried threads of gold & white enmeshing succulent pearls of pecorino cheese, served with pear and drizzled in honey, a dish that seems to be strongly representative of one of La Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai’s philosophies, combining effectively the sweet with the savoury, something alluded to often in the manager’s descriptions. The cannolo fritto was equally surprising & yummy; bubbly pipes of fried, thin pasta satisfyingly stuffed with a creamy dreamy Italian cabbage, similar to chard in some ways, and potato mash, served with a puree of local lentils.
The wait for these antipasti had been longer than we were used to from our more common agriturismic ventures, though obviously well worth it, due in part also to the best bread we have sampled in a restaurant in Abruzzo. We were given a HUGE plate of varying bread types, ranging from traditional Italian white bread to a fabulous cheese & nut bread and moistly moreish raisin bread, dividing these reviewers as to which was best. Primi piatti again was an amazing selection, painful choices, not least as on offer was a timballe variation, and we do love timballe! This time though we took on the spaghetti with some sort of bacon and tomatoes, with creamed ventricina (a lean seasoned & cured pork paste often used on bruschetta), which had a delicate orange tang to it, again very good. Equally stimulating and intriguing was the taccozzelle served with grapes, nuts and stracciatella (in this case the latter is a type of mozzarella); the taccozzelle here is a stubby, chunky type of spaghetti, wonderfully al dente.
It was too late at this point to order secondi piatti, so instead we had puddings, unusual for us, honest. One tiramisu, perfectly fine, the usual fare; the other was strangely disturbing visually, like a heart transplant gone horribly, bloodily wrong…fortunately looks were deceiving and it was in fact a pear cooked in vino cotto served with mascarpone cream, a great way to end a meal.
These amazing dishes were just a few from an incredible selection, and we will happily go back to sample further fare any time we are in the area. It seems that the earthquake has caused quite a lot of damage to other L’Aquila Locande style restaurants, in many cases making it hard to get the seasonal ingredients locally that they rely on, which is obviously a shame. However, a major boon is that La Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai is still open for business, even to such tardy arrivals as ourselves! Take a break from the A24 Abruzzo to Rome road and indulge yourself.
Our meal cost us €47 for two people including wine
Value for money – 10/10
Quality of Food – 10/10
La Locanda Del Borgo Dei Mugnai
Telephone: (+39) 0862 728280
address: Via Di Marzio 9, 67049 Tornimparte, AQ