If you walk around the village of Bevagna in Umbria looking for a place to eat, Antiche Sere might be the last place you’ll pick. Sort of like picking Thai food in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. I think my group was hoping I made a mistake when we finally reached it. “Are you positive this is it? From the parking lot we passed more inviting places. Like, all of them. And there are about 10 spots higher on Trip Advisor in a town with 11 restaurants”. They said none of this out loud of course. They trust me and learned to follow me like the sheep in the anarchist logo surrounding the “A” in Antiche.
The software engineer in me looks at it with the following logic. The people of Umbria (Umbri? Umbrianos? I like Umbrianos) I’m told rarely go out to eat. Holidays, special occasions, thats just about it. Thats because most of the restaurants mostly serve the same traditional dishes that that residents make at home. So the restaurants in little villages like Bevagna have to rely on us tourists to a large extent. And like in a Las Vegas bunny ranch, they need to look attractive, and positioned properly to attract customers. And then you have places like Antiche Sere that just dont give a hoot. The type that know what they are and gained a following. They type you target, and not bump into by accident.
This being my first Umbria post means the end result was quite positive. One of the most complete meals of a two week trip in fact. As soon as you walk in, you feel more at ease once you see the funky space. You walk by a small kitchen where you see the proud anarchist owner washing dishes, so at least you know the dishes will be clean. And while the anarchist doesnt speak much English it seams, there’s a young friendly Indian waiter that does.
The menu is small. The first sign that this is gonna be good. The second sign was that the Porchetta Rabbit I heard about from Wendy from Antonelli winery is on it. I now have a very warm and fuzzy feeling about this. The young Anarchist in training told us the specials and we pretty much ordered all of them along with the all important rabbit.
Started with a delicious Chickpeas and clams soup. Clams from Ancora and local chickpeas much sturdier and more flavorful than what we are used to (Goya). This is one of the lone places we encountered in Umbria that gets fresh seafood on occasion. Panzanella salad with soaked bread, tomato, celery and some very good vinegar was refreshing on a hot day. Simply grilled beefy local mushrooms. Eggplant parmigiana was another winner. And an exceptional oversized cappelletti pasta with cheese and tomato sauce.
But the shining star and best dish of the trip nominee was the rabbit rolled Porchetta style – aka “I cant believe its not Porchetta”. A dish more common in pricey French joints. Its incredibly tender and packed with flavor. One of those signature dishes that may not come up from researching, but from a local. All washed down with delicious local beer.