L’U Wine Bar in the village Torgiano in the region of Umbria a couple of hours north of Rome was recommended at the Lungarotti winery nearby where we had stopped beforehand to taste and purchase wines. Also owned by the Lungarotti family, the menu states, “LE ZUPPE E LE PASTE FATTE IN CASA”: the soups and pastas are made in house. The ravioli with its resilient texture and bland taste of the pasta and filling reminded me of the supermarket stuffed pastas that I had long since stopped purchasing. It proved to be the worst pasta dish of my two weeks in Italy. More bland and uninteresting than bad, the duck ragù was decent, if soon forgettable. With the initial batch of gnocchi gone – wiped out by the tour group of two dozen or so on what was otherwise a very empty restaurant – the kitchen seemingly just opened the refrigerator and a couple of packages to complete the orders.
I know that restaurants in Italy sometimes resort to pre-packaged ravioli and the like, especially the less ambitious ones or ones less concerned with pleasing tourists. I’ve had lame from-the-plastic-wrapped-package -to-the-pot I expected something more from this place, which was not only associated with the biggest winery in the region, but also a hotel, and not a cheap hotel but the Le Valle Resort & Spa with five stars. But, if I was paying attention, I would have asked if the ravioli were made in house because a couple of the previous items I had were evidence that the restaurant was not really trying at all that day, or maybe any day. My antipasto of Uovo strapazzato con tartufo, eggs with truffles, featured bits of dark truffles without any discernible aroma or taste. My Parisian-trained chef sister-in-law was convinced that the truffles in those dishes were from a can. I thought maybe not even a very good can. The eggs were enjoyable, even without any truffle flavor or welcoming scent. Also, the bread on the table – for me an indicator of the quality of a restaurant, maybe especially in Italy – was a recently made brownish bread that was not terribly tasty. The menu itself featured mostly fall and winter dishes; it did not look like it had changed in a while and wasn’t very well suited to that day in the upper 80s and in a dining room without air conditioning.
These things should have moved me to a different dish when prompted by the lack of gnocchi. I was on vacation, though, and two or three glasses slowed me down, even if it didn’t make the pasta dish any more enjoyable.