Osteria degli Ulivi
A wonderful restaurant that we found unprompted & by chance was Osteria degli Ulivi, hidden in the hills just above Montorio al Vomano on the road to Isola San Grasso. It’s seemingly ran single-handedly by the charming Signor Enzo Bernabe who takes the time & effort to explain each perfectly presented course with the same apparent precision & care that he had put into its creation.
Having had the pleasure of eating out in many of the Abruzzo region’s splendid agriturismi, ristoranti, osterie and trattorie, one of the main problems we have had sometimes is the sheer QUANTITY of food involved; therefore the delicate portions at Osteria degli Ulivi proved a welcome respite without any need to stagger home clutching one’s belly and being better for nothing than a good sleep.
On all of our visits here the meal was preceded by an excellent complimentary glass of fizz, a light, golden prosecco that effused the palate with the subtlest flavour of honey which put a lot of its regional spumante brothers to shame. This little appetitive has been particularly enjoyed too by all the friends that we have visited with.
A selection of excellent small meze like ‘antipasti’ dishes are served by Sig. Bernabe, on our most recent visit (Spring 2009) these included toasted bread with baccala pate in a sauce of local herbs, bean broth and wonderfully light and fluffy timballe, and the main was a perfect portion of gnochetti with lamb, and on previous occasions we have enjoyed equally rewarding dishes such as a lasagne type dish with mozzarella and wild mushrooms, a dish of chittara pasta with tomato and basil, and a delicate lamb dish with herbs and truffles (there is a general menu on the website, but the options change regularly, remember this is Italy, it is what is in season!).
Sig. Bernabe recommended a fine Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for us, as perfect accompaniment, and their house vino rosso is also always very good.
Osteria degli Ulivi has great views down to Montorio Al Vomano, in the summer you can sit out on the candle-lit terrace enjoying scents, the fireflies and the glorious mountain silhouette of Campli out in the distance.
When telling some local Italian friends of our visits here, they seemed surprised and uttered something along the lines of “Yes, but it is very chic, no?!”, whether to indicate disapproval of our going there as opposed to some of the less fanciful places available or horror that the likes of us were allowed in I am not sure. However, we sensed a certain willingness from this restaurant to experiment which was refreshing without coming across as irritatingly contrived, and the helpful jolliness of Sig. Bernabe was genuinely appreciated.
The prices were also perfectly reasonable 45 euros per head for 3 courses including wine, certainly by London standards! Possibly a tad more than other places in the area, but was worth it for the change alone!
It has always been pleasantly quiet whilst we were there but I gather for Saturday nights it might be wise to make a reservation first. Incidentally this may be the place to visit if you are a vegetarian in Abruzzo – Sig. Bernabe goes to town in helping to assist something lovely no matter what your dietary requirements.
Quality of Food: 10/10
Value for Money: 8/10
Cost: 90 euros for 2 people including house wine
Address: Via delle Fornaci, Montorio Al Vomano, TE, 64046
Telephone: 0861 592882
Official Website: http://www.osteriadegliulivi.com
Closed: All day Monday, Tuesday for lunch