Redibis, Bevagna: Maybe the best restaurant in Italy - Redibis
So how did I discover this maybe best restaurant of Italy or even Europe? It was all the “fault” of British journalist Patricia Clough, who wrote the book Gebrauchsanweisung Umbrien in this special series of “operating instruction” book series of German Pieper Publishing. In one chapter she wrote about the Slow Food movement and mentions that Filippo Artioli, the young chef of Redibis in Bevagna, collects all he wants to use for the evening dishes in the surrounding meadows and forests. I was thrilled to see that Bevagna is not far away from where I wanted to base myself during the second half of my trip and as soon as I was there (in Poggio dei Pettirossi – see accommodation), I set out to find Redibis. This wasn’t easy, as it is tucked away in a side street, but near Hotel L’Orto degli Angeli as I realised later.
As usual in Italy, the earliest time to book a table is 8 p.m. I arrived early and was seated in the nice and cosy reception room (photo 2). Paolo, the chief waiter brought me a glass of prosecco and the menu (in English) and explained the possibilities: vegetable or meat menu or a la carte. As so often in excellent restaurants they “only” had a maximum of 5 selections per course, which means that everything is freshly made. After I had selected my choices, I was lead into the restaurant only to stand there with open mouth. It is one thing to read about this restaurant being located in a wing of the old Roman theatre (built by Emperor Trajanus in 1st century AD), but to see it with my own eyes was most amazing! My main photo does not do justice but maybe it gives a roungh idea. The room is following the half-round shape of the former colonnades and is very sparesely decorated. Only simple tables and chairs, a wine tray and a tabel with flowers are lined up along the walls. The kitchen is separated from the dining area only by a huge opening in the wall, so we can watch the cooks at work. Good news for smokers: although there is a smoking ban in Italy as well, the huge fireplace has a small bench and smokers are allowed to perform their habit in there.
Please make sure to read Redibis’ website. It was made with devotion not only for the restaurant, but also for the location, the history and the people of Redibis. Paolo gave me a leaflet with the story of the restaurant and it also told a little story of Stichus, a Roman actor of the past days, who gave a performance in this theatre. It was very moving to read this – I could almost hear applause and laughing while I was sitting in this former theatre colonnade. You can find this story also on the website (location -> Stichus).
And now the dishes… Oh my, I still could easily fall into ectasies when I look at the photos and remember these…. Patricia Clough mentioned that saffron was recultivated near Perugia as part of the Slow Food movement, so I decided for a saffron dish as a starter (photo 3): it was called eggnogg with green asparagus and saffron, although it was not liquid. It melted on the tongue and again I could taste almost every ingredient. For the very first time I tasted how saffron should taste (so the “saffron” I had before back at home must have been some weird blend) and since then I also refuse to eat cultivated white asparagus (popular in the area where I live). This tiny soft and tasty wild green asparagus just cannot be beaten! Next came my gnocchi, very freshly made and soo delicious and soft in their tomato and garlic sauce (photo 4). My main dish (photo 5) was again beef in this glorious Sagrantino (famous local red wine) with red onions of Cannara (another rescued species; Cannara is a small village north of Bevagna). Sagrantino sauce is popular to accompany meat in Umbria, but I found that the taste depends very much on how thick and heavy they prepare it. The thicker it was, the less good it tasted in my opinion. This one was very light (despite the dark colour), so my stomach didn’t have any problems afterward. Oh, and this little cream coloured something hidden behind the dill leaf is a tiny cake made of spelt. In between the dishes we all got little surprises from the kitchen.
I didn’t finished with desert but simply with caffé. But next time I’ll chose of the very delicious looking options which they were showing us on a trolley.
All in all I paid 50 € for my meal, including a glass of Sagrantino wine, the caffè and tip (April 2008).
In the meantime, I dined here many times, including one lunch. I also have celebrated my 50th birthday here with friends. They were all very satisfied and Sarah has also written about our dinner. In 2011, I treated myself with a stay in L’Orto degli Angeli, just to be able to have Sagrantino wine for dinner and to enjoy the marvellous gardens and premises.
And I will be back. And back. And back :-)
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Casa La Farfalla: Family-run
On our last evening in Bevagna we were in the mood for something more casual and less substantial (possibly because of the large meal we had eaten at Redibis the previous evening, or maybe the generous gelati we sampled in Spello that afternoon!). We headed to the Piazza Garibaldi where we had noticed several welcoming looking restaurants and entered one at random. It proved to be a good choice. The Casa La Farfalla (House of the Butterfly) was a homely, friendly place with a good pizza menu and several other tasty-sounding dishes. I have read that this restaurant is run by a Sicilian family and certainly it has the sense of a family-run establishment.
Favorite Dish: Chris’s first pizza choice (Gorgonzola) was unavailable but no matter – he enjoyed his alternative, the Capriccioso, a lot, as did I my gnocchi with Sagrantino (the local red wine). Washed down with a beer and a glass of that same red wine, this was a satisfying yet fairly simple meal. The only slight downside was that the white wine ordered by our companions was well below par, but this was replaced with a better one immediately and without demur.
Il Poggio dei Pettirossi: A meal with a view
On our first evening in Bevagna we opted to eat in the restaurant of the Poggio dei Pettirossi. It proved to be an excellent choice. For one thing, the setting is wonderful. The building sits at the highest point of the property and the restaurant on its first floor (2nd to our US VT-ers!) with large picture windows to maximise the impact of that fabulous view over the valley.
Favorite Dish: Importantly, the food was also excellent. Everything was very fresh, with lots of local ingredients and a particular emphasis on beef - these green valleys produce especially good beef. I started with a carpaccio of swordfish dressed lightly in lemon juice and olive oil, while Chris enjoyed a dish of eggs with truffles. Four of us then shared a recommended special – a large slab of beef perfectly cooked with a pink centre and crisp flavourful edge. To go with this we ordered pepperonati (grilled strips of assorted peppers) and potatoes. We even found room for desert – fresh fruit for me and a chocolate mousse with ice cream for Chris. As a final touch we relaxed over a grappa, which rounded off a lovely evening.
The prices were reasonable given the quality of the food and the lovely setting. For our three courses, a beer and the two grappe we paid €68
Redibis: Among ancient stones
I've described in another tip how Bevagna is built on the foundations of an ancient Roman town. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of the ruined theatre, where buildings follow the gentle curves of its shape. This restaurant is tucked away in the heart of this corner of town and its Roman foundation is one of its two main draws. The other is the food ...
Favorite Dish: I have wanted to eat here ever since I read the effusive reviews by VT's own Trekki. So often when you anticipate a meal or other experience based on someone else's impressions you set yourself up for disappointment, but not on this occasion. Instead Redibis delivered in full on my expectations of it.
All the dishes were delicious but the standout for me was my pasta dish: Strappatelle al rancetto al profumo d’erba bona. This was a home-made pasta, more like gnocchi in texture, with a sauce of tomato, bacon and marjoram – absolutely delicious! The risotto which preceded it, delicately flavoured with asparagus and saffron, was also something of a revelation, as I was sure I didn’t like asparagus! It turns out that when it is that fresh and tender, I do :-)
The meal was enhanced not only by the excellent wines that accompanied it (and after 24 hours in the region I had already developed a strong liking for the local reds in particular) but also by the passion and knowledge of the maitre d' who presented each dish to us. Many of the recipes here are derived from old family cookbooks, including that wonderful Strappatelle which dates back to 1935, so a sense of history pervades every aspect of your meal here, from what is on your plate to the walls that curve protectively around the tables and the traditional roses in the pretty garden where we enjoyed our aperitif. Truly a memorable experience.
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La Bottega di Assu: Quirky and welcoming
This is one of the most characterful places I have seen for a while. Its interior walls are lined with shelves which display a surprising but appealing mix of art books and wine – what a great combination! Tucked among them are photos of film stars and other famous people, as well as locals and visitors to the bar. There are just three tables squeezed into the space that remains (with a couple more outside), and beyond them a counter displays more bottles and a tempting ham just waiting to be sliced. Do look at the website below to see what I mean as my photo really doesn’t do it justice.
This is the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch or a few glasses of wine, as despite the small space no one will hurry you. Indeed our group spent much of the afternoon there – some of us going for a while only to return, others seemingly a fixture! And when a family on the next table celebrated a birthday with a special cake, we found ourselves included in the party and sharing the cake and singing of “Happy Birthday” with them.
Favorite Dish: Looking for a light and simple lunch I selected the local cheese, pecorino, matured in a cave and served with a small dish of fig compote. With crusty bread soaked in delicious olive oil and a glass of local red wine (from neighbouring Montefalco), this made the perfect rustic treat. Others in the group enjoyed spaghetti with asparagus, and an egg dish also made with asparagus, and everyone was happy with their choices. Later we relaxed outside over coffees before being driven back inside by the cooling air for more coffee and other drinks. The perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends!
Il Poggio dei Pettirossi: Delicious dinner with a view
The restaurant at Il Poggio dei Pettirossi was my dinner option while I stayed in the Bevagna region for almost one week (April 2008). But as the owners had just arrived and I was often the only guest, they didn’t open their restaurant during the week, so my real option was Thursday and Friday only. And as I had booked Redibis on the Thursday, it left me my last evening (Friday) to try their dishes. But as I had breakfast every morning, I could already get a good idea of how excellent they will be with dinners.
And when I describe my dinner, it might sound very boring as I had this tiny green asparagus again, but what should I do: I can’t get this at home!
So I did choose the omlet with tiny green asparagus and herbs (photo 3), so delicious. As intermediate it was spaghetti this time (no gnocchi) but also with tiny green asparagus and tomato sauce (photo 2) and as main dish I could not help but have beef with aceto balsamico (at least a bit of a variety to my “usual” beef in Sagrantino). It was excellent and had the right amount of this thick very aceto balsamico which seems to be available in Italy only. I skipped desert again, otherwise I could have rolled back to my room… All in all together with water and a glass of Sagrantino I paid 40 Euro, which is quite reasonable!
The location of this restaurant cannot be beaten! Photo 4 shows how the view would be, but in April it was already dark by the time I had dinner. Photo 5 was taken on the premises – now isn’t this a prime view?? The little village in the middle is Bevanga.
Favorite Dish: I should mention that Il Poggio die Pettirossi has only 4-5 selections per course, but this is an excellent sign and means that they prepare everything very fresh.
And they play lovely music – a mixture of Latin, Brazilian and Italian. The owners have another property in Brazil where they live in European winter. So they speak Spanish and Brazilian as well.
From Bevagna take the tiny road southwest the village which leads to chiesa Madonna della Grazie (signposted). At the church, turn right and then right again when you’ll see the sign to Pettirossi.
Coordinates on GoogleEarth:
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Ottavius: Nice reasonable restaurant option in Bevagna
Ottavius is a nice restaurant near the eastern entrance (Porta Todi) in Bevagna. It doesn’t reach the culinary climax of Redibis, but is a good option in between Redibis and snacks :). It is situated in a basemant/cellar, old walls give a homelike atmosphere. They also had only five dishes per course available, a sign that all is freshly made. I had omelet with truffles as a starter (photo 2, sorry for bad photo quality), which was delicious and once again beef in Sagrantino sauce. The sauce, however, was a bit too thick for my likings, but the beef was ok. Together with a glass of Sagrantino wine, a bottle of water and a caffè I paid 25 € (plus tip) at the end.
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