New is not always better. Sometimes there is a very good reason for a classic dish to be classic. Sometimes trendy doesn’t satisfy and sometimes you can simply be blown away by a combination of good service, good wine and outstanding food.
We went to Locanda al Gambero Rosso a few years ago and had a sublime evening and for no particular reason, we haven’t been back since. Just over the border, in Emilia Romagna, it’s about a 40 minute drive from Montone, and it is beyond a doubt worth the drive.
There is nothing pretentious, stuffy or trendy to be found here, even though it could be. It isn’t even expensive, although they could charge more. Maybe the décor could use a little update, maybe its absolutely perfect the way it is. Who can find fault with local dishes served with utmost respect and top notch ingredients?
We arrived early (by Italian standards), but it’s a Saturday night, and we don’t have reservations, so we’re a little worried. But, the smiling Guiliana congratulates us on getting the last available table and our worries disappear. We’re scruffy from a day of adventures, but Guiliana welcomed us and made us comfortable right away.
A treat arrives within moments: a chilled panzanella salad with some exquisite shreds of house made pickled zucchini.
As we lick that plate clean and settle in with a spectacular and very reasonably priced bottle of wine: La Terrazze, a Rosso Conero; another treat arrives. This time it’s a small bowl of ‘fricassee’, or stewed tomatoes, onions and eggs. Jeff declares he would like it served in a baby bottle and he would be quite content to just take sips all day long. I suppose that is what you would call nurturing food.
The dark, nearly black, wine is soft and fruity and works so very well with the carpaccio covered in summer truffles. Carpaccio and truffles being one of the world’s great, underused combinations.
Once again, we made the Pasta Pact and we share two entirely different pastas: a creamy, decadent truffled lasagna and strongoprezzi with ‘erbe’. “Erbe” is sort of a catch all word for stewed bitter greens. We’re still debating which was better, and I doubt there will be a clear winner.
No Pact was made for secondi, and I was happy because I didn’t really want to share my stuffed rabbit. Jeff was equally content to just give me a nibble of his roasted pigeon. Each dish came with about four different vegetable bits that could have been a star in their own right.
We actually even opted for desert, something we almost never do. I tried the local dish “lattiolo’, which is a dense, eggy custard and Jeff had a simple crema catalana. Even dessert came with a little treat: a small pot of yogurt mixed with homemade berry marmellata.
We could not have been a happier, more satisfied couple and we are completely mystified why we haven’t been back sooner. We are already plotting our return.
My apologies for the lousy photos, they don’t do the food justice, but I don’t like whipping out my big camera in an intimate dining setting, so I guess you’ll just have to go and eat there yourself.
Locanda al Gambero Rosso
- via G. Verdi, 5 - 47021 Bagno di Romagna loc. S. Piero (FC) - tel e fax +39