(October 26, 2015) I made friends some time ago, on a previous visit here, with two couples who were renting a vacation apartment across the piazza from my home here. As is often the case, I offered (and they accepted) my American coffeemaker, so that everyone could have a cup of coffee together in the morning. I brought them my pan di ramerino pastries, and, in addition, I answered questions, made some dining recommendations, and gave them some background about Spello.
This time, though, it was their turn to treat me to a new experience. They had come to know a young chef in Spoleto, Michele Pidone, who had just opened a new restaurant of his own. It is called “Ristorante Lampone,” which means “Raspberry Restaurant,” and we had reservations at one of the first dinners served in the newly renovated restaurant. Rip and Carol Waldron, from New Jersey, and their friends Char and Bob Weiler, were my hosts, and we all popped into the car for a drive to Spoleto, about 40 minutes away.
First, on the recommendation of Michele (the chef), we stopped into a small bar in the main city area, where the bartender was famous for his gin and mixer combinations. While Carol, Char and I stuck to Negroni’s (one of my favorites) or wine—Rip and Bob chose gin drinks, one with a cucumber garnish and one with a fresh sage leaf to complement the taste of that particular gin.
We found the restaurant, looking rather shabby from the outside, but brightly lit and newly decorated inside. The menu was printed for us—a special collection of dishes made from local potatoes, truffles, eggs, olive oil and meats. A central table of the restaurant was filled with the vendors of each of the special products featured on the menu, and they were introduced and spoke of the quality of their specific product.
We hit the jackpot with our waiter—the kind of waiter who knows his work in his sleep, never needs to be summoned to the table (because he has already seen an empty glass or water bottle, or an empty plate), and with a sparkling and welcoming personality. While the others were less fluent than I was, he always understood what was needed, and was there in an instant to make certain that his guests were always delighted with his service.
We were there at the invitation of the chef, who was serving a fixed price tasting menu consisting of a lot of innovative small plates, and even a blended starter cocktail made of vodka, raspberries and olive oil. We enjoyed several dishes featuring white truffles found locally, risotto with creamed goat cheese sauce, veal with a puree of potatoes and hazelnuts, and finally a tiramisu with shaved white truffles on top. The wines were chosen to match the flavors of the many small dishes, and all were excellent.
It was a pleasure to be included in such a special meal, celebrating the opening of the restaurant, and there was not an empty seat in the house. We had a wonderful evening together, and then headed back to Spello—with the extraordinary bottle of olive oil from our table, a gift to Rip and Carol from chef Michele. We all have great hopes for the success of his restaurant, and promised to return for meals in the future.