The only place in the world where peaches
beat olives for a savoury starter
If you are looking for a beautiful gem of an Abruzzo restaurant in Province of Teramo, Il Mandrone, San Pietro, is the icing on the cake with a high 10 for its glorious food, service and most importantly intimacy.
This sweet little Abruzzo restaurant has been acclaimed by the Slow Food Movement and sits tucked away in the old part of the village. It is true that you have neither a view or can enjoy al fresco dining but the food & cosiness more than makes up for this. Tastefully restored with a nod to Castelli and soft lighting, if you are looking for a romantic place to eat in Abruzzo this could be just the restaurant to try.
If you were standing on the peak of the Corno Grande and looking out to the Adriatic, Ristorante il Mandrone would be down on your right. At 800 masl it’s a little bit of a climb, but due to its close proximity to Castelli just a short drive away, it’s a wonderful place to lunch at if you have been visiting here or to Tossica’s local craft museum in the morning.
Thankfully for all concerned it’s not often that I squeal like an over-excited piggy but I am afraid eating at Il Mandrone I had my first discovery of the most beautiful alternative to olives, pickled baby green peaches that had been infused in truffle oil… wow; in Italian they are called Persichelle al tartufo. At first glance you’d think you were about to eat an olive, but the texture is crisp with a soft almond tasting stone you can eat and just the subtlest hint of truffle, my favourite Abruzzo eating out discovery for a little while.
Back to eating at Il Mandrone: the portions are delicate, I am not going to use the word small here because the richness of the flavours means you really don’t want a lot, it’s quite intense. Do go for the antipasti its delicious. We have had a selection of ventricina on bruschetta, home-made salami with last year’s very soft & sweet air-dried plum tomatoes. Afterwards prosciutto accompanied by a young melt-in-the-mouth pecorino. This was followed with Aubergine & Ricotta croquettes, morbido balls of dainty local product lightness.
For pasta we tried Strongole (thick spaghetti a speciality of this part of Abruzzo) con erbe Gran Sasso. Now I think this was correct they said it contained 18 herbs. It was a combination of what seemed fresh & dried herbs, onion, garlic and a small amount of beef mince. Just the word Dragoncello calls to me “eat me eat me”, sad that the English ended up with the comparatively dull name Tarragon. Roddy ate excellent Pappardelle with a rich tomato, rosemary and minced lamb sauce. Although filling, due to not just that hard wheat pasta but the richness of the sauce, I think this is some of the best pasta we’ve eaten in Abruzzo.
We shared some lamb, and were treated to the rare (no pun intended) opportunity of choosing how we would like it cooked – it was also better than many we’ve eaten elsewhere due to its lack of chewiness but excellent flavour.
The house wine was excellent, tanned summer fruits brought back heady September days in Abruzzo on a chilly April night. It’s really worth a visit!
Price – 3 Course Meal, €36 for two people including wine & coffee.
Value for money – 10/10
Quality of food – 10/10
Ristorane il Mandrone
Telephone: 0861 976152
No email or website
Closed: Tuesdays & in the depths of Winter when the weather is bad also closed on Wednesday
Address: San Pietro – the village is small so there is no road name, but walk to the end of the village(you simply can’t go any further as the road stops) and turn left and the door to Il Mandrone (sign-posted) is right in front of you. There are good parking facilities by the mini water fountains formerly the animal water troughs.