Ensconced, almost hidden, within the Hotel Le Gole, Celano, the restaurant Locanda dei Priori proudly offers up an excellent selection of cuisine inline with its ambition to keep alive the traditional recipes & cooking styles of Italy and the Abruzzo region, offering a separate menu for fish dishes and meat dishes, and using local, seasonal ingredients when practicable.
Set on the downhill outskirts of the small city of Celano, L’Aquila province, with the Castello Piccolomini looming spectacularly in the distance, the Hotel Le Gole and its in-house restaurant would normally need to be reached by car. Fortunately however we were guests at this delightful hotel so all we had to do was make the move from our penthouse suite(!) down some stairs to the Locanda dei Priori. Stone-vaulted porticos, wooden beams, warm colours, all made for a cosy eating environment, and the efficient, smartly-dressed waiters soon had us seated comfortably and explained the menus.
After ordering a bottle of local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo we opted for the House antipasti buffet selection, a huge array of cold-cuts, cheeses, lentils, vegetables, frittatas, tartettes, too many options almost to comprehend. Also as we tried to take it all in (and fit as much as possible on our plates) we were joined by a large group of young Italian men who muscled in on the buffet with such a chaotic flurry of gusto & enthusiasm that we were almost washed away in their wake…did wonder if it might have been the Agritour reviewing team of Teramo province agriturismi, but bit too far from their usual turf…
We managed to escape this macho maelstrom however and scoff our, comparatively meagre, antipasti selections almost in time for our somewhat impatiently served primi piatti, in this case one Tagliolini al Ragout Bianco di Agnello (a long pasta with a lamb ragoût), and one ravioli with speck & cherry tomatoes, the ravioli stuffed with a sort of dry cheese, possibly a ricotta; both dishes cooked to perfection, and just the right-size portions (for us anyway).
We followed this up with a finely cooked pork fillet (Braciola di Maiale); the restaurant does offer a much wider selection of side-dishes (contorni) than many in Abruzzo, including green beans, roasted peppers, baby carrots and baked potatoes. At this point though we were forced to abandon all hope of a dessert, being too full-up to even consider the prospect of a Semifreddo all ‘Amaretto.
Prices in the menu seemed perfectly reasonable considering the quality of the food and that it was a restaurant, however it is worth looking at the Hotel’s website as there are it seems various offers available for guests. Only criticisms we could apply were that the waiter seemed to become a tad brusque once our poor knowledge & usage of the Italian bella lingua was revealed in all its horror (unsurprisingly perhaps), and the way the primi piatti was served before we had even finished our antipasti, just left on our tables to go slightly cold. However, appreciate the buffet situation could throw timings out slightly since you order primi & secondi before going to the buffet table. Certainly would not suggest for one moment that this is your average hotel-quality food by the way! Definitely a cut above.
We allowed the waiter to recommend a local Montepulciano which was perfectly good, but Locanda dei Priori does pride itself on its fine selection of wines, especially local, so we would definitely recommend being more investigative if you are something of a wine-buff. The restaurant also does a fine selection of pizzas, for eating in and taking out, and if selecting the buffet antipasti you can even watch the chef at work with the wood-fire oven. Locanda dei Priori is well sign-posted from outside the hotel, and both Hotel Le Gole & La Locanda dei Priori are on the main road from the A25/E80 into Celano centre.
Price – c.€45 per head for 3 courses including wine (see the Hotel Le Gole website for offers & rates)
Value for money – 8/10
Quality of food – 8/10
Via Sardellino, 2 | Aielli-Celano | 67041 (AQ)
Telephone/Fax: 0863 711009 / 0863 711101