On an exceptionally lovely, warm spring evening in Umbria, my husband and I were searching in Todi for "al fresco" dining, but all the piazza restaurants seem to be closed for the evening. A local directed us to Restaurant Cavour. Well, it did not look like much from its street entrance, but they led us through to the back, where this large multi-leveled, garden oasis appeared. "Rooms" were divided by trellises which were covered with flowering jasmine, the ceiling was the starry night and our view was the Umbrian hills. The pasta was fresh and our meals were delicious (as they were all over Italy). But you could not beat dining in this idealic surrounding.
For our first evening meal in Umbria, we ate at the Antica Osteria delle Valle ("Old Tavern of the Valley"), near the Temple of St. Fortunato on Via Augusta Ciufelli.
The wait staff enjoyed giving us every detail of every dish and made a big point of letting us know that everything was freshly prepared from fresh ingredients, and were the owner's own creations.
Favorite Dish: Everything was delicious. It was here that we realized Umbrian bread was made without salt. We noticed it at lunch, and here at dinner, the bread once again had no salt.
There is some history behind this, which we discovered about 9 months after we visited Umbria. Many centuries ago, the Pope imposed a hefty tax on salt. Rather than pay the tax, those independent and cantankerous Umbrians with their "up yours" attitude learned to do without it. Many of their dishes are still today low or no salt.
It took no time at all to get used to the saltless, dense, moist, crusty Umbrian bread, and in fact, we came to love it after just a couple of meals. It usually was warm and fresh out of the oven. I've never tasted anything like it anywhere else, and even today, I find myself craving some of that delicious Umbrian bread.
Ristorante Le Noci isn't right in Todi - it is about a 15 minute drive to the east in the tiny town of Grutti, which is smack dab in the middle of rolling hills, country fields and farmland. It was the closest restaurant to our house we rented, and I couldn't get enough of it.
Even though this restaurant is in the middle of nowhere, it is extremely popular - for good reason. The local Umbrian cuisine served here is fabulous - the best I had in Umbria. The setting is beautiful. We ate out on the terrace, which was covered by a grape arbor and wisteria.
Very little English was spoken by the staff. The first time we were there, our waitress spoke no English. We had no idea what we were ordering and I was just hoping it wasn't brains. (It wasn't.)
The service at lunch was leisurely, and the service at dinner was downright slow. I think you are expected to just remain there all night. The food was so fantastic that the slow service didn't detract from dinner. If you go, just make sure you understand beforehand you may be there all night.
Favorite Dish: Everything was delicious, and it was here that I first discovered how absolutely fantastic tartufo (pasta with black truffle sauce) is. Le Noci's tartufo was the best I had anywhere.
My children ordered grilled lamb served on a bed of arugula. They said it was the best lamb they ever had.
The desserts, such as the tiramisu, were tops!
The wine list was excellent with many local Umbrian wines that were a delight to sample.
Ristorante Jacopone is a popular restaurant located just off Piazza del Popolo specializing in local Umbrian cuisine. The food was delicious, and the ambiance was very nice - typical Italian.
Favorite Dish: When I was in Umbria, I ate tartufo (pasta with black truffle sauce) constantly. In the US, black truffles are very expensive. In Umbria, they are plentiful and inexpensive.
Ristorante Jacopone served a very nice tartufo. Everyone in my family was very pleased with the meal.
I'm not even sure this gelato place in Todi had a name. The sign just said "Caffe". The gelato here was fabulous and so very creamy.
My family and I made sure we had some reason every night to be in Todi to get some gelato. It had many flavors and after one week, I still had not tried them all. I WILL have to go back.
This pizzeria was recommended by the owners of the house we rented, and the recommendation was right on. We loved this pizza! It was made in true Umbrian style - ultra thin crust, with no salt in the crust.
Why can't American pizzerias make crust this thin? Why can't I? Those were my burning questions while I was chowing down my pizza.
Favorite Dish: This place had every pizza imaginable. Ok, maybe not a Hawaiian pizza, but not a negative in my book. Pineapple belongs in a pina colada, not on a pizza. Cavour had everything else.
We ate outside in an alleyway that was converted to outdoor dining. It was very charming and very rustic. The stone floor had a major slope to it, but that was part of its charm.