Is this the best pizza in Umbria?

Is this the best pizza in Umbria?

Today’s lunch venue was recommended to me by a Facebook friend who is no less than a Conventual Franciscan friar. That must pack an extra punch, right?

“Try I Monaci. Best restaurant in Assisi!” I took Fr Benedict at his word, and I’m glad I did.

The restaurant isn’t easy to find. I entered the address into Google Maps, which mistakenly locates the restaurant at a doorway connecting perhaps the most charming alley way in all of Assisi. Food for my eyes, but otherwise unhelpful.

Looking down towards the street. People actually live here!! Blessed people.
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Looking down towards the street. People actually live here!! Blessed people.

I persevered with my search, and eventually I found the restaurant a short distance away, and around the corner.

I'm including this sort of detail because if you come to Assisi, YOU MUST EAT HERE.
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I’m including this sort of detail because if you come to Assisi, YOU MUST EAT HERE.

The menu is in Italian only, and it’s a big menu. I had no hope translating everything. But that didn’t matter, because a quick Google search located this detailed restaurant review, and I followed the reviewer’s recommendations.

To begin with, I ordered the Bruschetta Mista, washed down with a Peroni. The photo on the review page looks great:

Tomato, mushroom, chicken liver paste, and something else delicious.
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Tomato, mushroom, chicken liver paste, and something else which is no doubt delicious.

My own order wasn’t so photogenic. Maybe because I was ordering for one. Who knows?

Less bruschetta ... but more beer.
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Less bruschetta … but more beer.

But what this dish lacked in appearance, it made up for in taste. What flavour! I could go back for more right now.

I ordered a carafe of the house red to accompany my main course. My Italian let me down again, and I ended up with more wine than I expected. Fortunately, I’m not driving anywhere.

The wine was a bit rough. Rough, but not bad. When I turned 30, I declared that life is too short to drink bad wine, and I adopted a zero tolerance policy. Better to pour bad wine down the sink and drink water.

Today’s wine didn’t deserve that treatment. It’s just that it was sharp around the edges, and weak in the centre. The opposite, in fact, of a good Australian red, which is smooth edged and full bodied.

(When I was at university, I studied a subject in the History and Philosophy of Science which denounced and deplored that sort of non-scientific language. But I bet every reader who appreciates wine knows exactly what I mean. I think Wittgenstein is right: words derive their meaning from shared experience and use, not from quantifiable values.)

I was inclined to order a simple Margarita pizza, which is after all the Platonic form of pizza. (I’m really dropping philosophers’ names today!) But fortunately the review alerted me to another pizza, which is the only pizza I could possibly order under the circumstances:

Tartufo. Truffles! The food of God and kings.
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Tartufo. Truffles! The food of God and kings.

What a pizza! I would happily eat the base even without topping. Light but crispy, satisfying but not filling. This was a big pizza, but finishing it was not a chore. More like a tragedy I wanted to delay.

The topping was delicious. Fresh tomato, stringy mozarella, and the earthiest, most “mushroomy” truffles I have tasted. This is probably because I normally experience the flavour of truffles via natural truffle oil. I’ve understood truffles were a delicacy everywhere. But maybe that’s not the case in Umbria, where they can be used in a pizza which is no more expensive than the others in the menu!

I didn’t bother with dessert. The service was a bit slow, but only because the restaurant was crowded. I haven’t seen that in any other restaurants in Assisi. I think locals eat here too, which speaks volumes.

I carelessly left my credit card in the hotel, but I had no need to worry. The little cash I had — 25 euros — was more than enough. I finished with an espresso, and I was good to go. But if ever I return to Assisi, I’ll eat here again. And so should you!

  • Fr James

    Stop making me hungry! Only kidding- it’s been great following your pilgrimage. I love how you can so easily drift from discussing wine to discussing the philosophy of language and then back to pizza. Keep it up!

    • Ha. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess they all go together, like campus life and Lygon Street!

  • Helen Eldridge

    Father John I didn’t realised you were on Pilgrimage until reading Father James comments. If I go back to Assissi I most definitely will look up your restaurant. Your description of the food was tantalising to say the least. Am enjoying you blog especially as you are in Assissi. No doubt you would have been to St Francis Basilica and where his tomb is. We have had mass there a few times now. A special place. Also St Clare’s incorruptible body. I had a miracle here in 2013 smelling a beautiful scent with my tour leader then being able to see clearly without my glasses next day. Confirmed by my optometrist when I went to her on arrival home. Though she wouldn’t use the word miracle. What company are you travelling with? Am still praying every day for you, but a special prayer will be said now that I know you are on pilgrimage. God bless

    • Hi Helen! No group. Travelling alone on a wing and a prayer.

      I return to Rome today for a week long clergy conference I helped to organise. That finishes Friday morning, and I catch a plane back to Australia Friday evening.

      Ten days in Europe isn’t a long trip, especially in view of the long haul flights. I did exactly the same thing in October. But I’m loathe to use my four weeks’ leave in one hit. I like to space things out, and take a week off here and there.

  • John

    Are u enjoying this beautiful scenery of Italy? Don’t forget to relax soak the scenery and enjoy the low temperature as it is 38 degree in hamiton. It was fr.mark last mass in hamitlon last Sunday his going to Cathrine

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