This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand.
To see it from above, a bird’s eye view, it looks like an old muzzle-loading pistol. Looking at it from the surrounding hills it instead sometimes looks like a massive ship, and others like a majestic stage in front of which Civitella del Tronto, one of the most scenic towns in the world, has strutted its stuff for centuries. The pistol/ship/stage is actually the Fortress of Civitella, but its three natures seem to have come to life and taken their place in the day-to-day life of the Ristorante Zunica, established in 1880 and now, with Daniele, in the fourth generation. Indeed, a lunch or dinner at Zunica is always an experience, one that will lead you to sail seas of delight.
But let’s take things one at a time. The Albergo- Ristorante Zunica, with its windows opening to the world (you should spend a night, for the satisfaction of having your breath taken away by the view in the morning) opened in 1880, but it seems that before then Daniele’s ancestors had an inn inside the castle. At the end of the XIXth Century (it makes more of an impression written like this, right?) they stepped a short distance outside and opened this establishment, which is now one of the hospitality benchmarks of the Abruzzo.
Daniele is young, but he wanted people even younger in the kitchen, and thus we have Luca di Felice and Sabatino Lattanzi making dishes that share three major characteristics: Local, seasonal, and creative.
Thus, in the menu (to continue with the metaphor) we find waves of tradition breaking upon intelligent innovations, blown by a wind that varies with the seasons and what the surroundings offer. The menu in fact changes at least six times a year, while our visits (more than one, luckily!) were at the end of September and the beginning of October. During that interval the antipasti provide a perfect example of what I’m talking about: baccalà in tempura, la coratella d’agnello (lamb organs) “ciff e ciaff”, and a hearty pecorino, black truffle and toasted bread zuppetta.
With the first courses there’s another point to make: almost all the pasta is home made, from stone-ground flour, and I thus cannot but recommend the maccheroni alla chitarra with black truffles and porcini mushrooms, pappardelle with goose, or the classic Ceppe di Civitella. But the dish that made me roll over in a state of gastronomic bliss (apologies to lovers of fresh pasta) was Verrigni spaghetti with carbonara sauce tinged with saffron from l’Aquila.
While I gave off sounds worthy of a stag in heat, my companions looked nervously about, Zunica isn’t one of those ostentatiously elegant places, and since they have a large hall (with lots of space between the tables) , nicely laid out with well set tables, the atmosphere sets people at ease.
An ease we greatly enjoyed, especially when we were brought rabbit cooked in clay, crisp Laga lamb, classic roasted meats, and a superb fritto misto (mixed fried foods).
Fritto isn’t the lightest dish in the world, and it therefore seemed right to follow it with a selection of cheeses, including some first-rate pecorinos, to stimulate the digestion. Just as good are the saffron tiramisu and the heart of bitter chocolate.
The wines merit an aside. Daniele and his staff are on a first name basis with wine; they know them very well and make excellent suggestions, ranging from the international to the local, and with very low markups.
Speaking of markups, they’re painless. For example, the gourmet menu with EIGHT courses costs 50 Euros plus wine, while a three course meal will cost on average 30-35 Euros, again plus wines.
The price does include the view (unique!!!, I want to emphasize that), the courtesy, the expertise, and the pleasure of visiting a beautiful town suspended between heaven and earth.
Piazza Filippi Pepe 14, 64010 Civitella del Tronto
Tel +39 0861. 91319
Fax: +39 0861 918150