Warning: this post contains photos that will make you hungry. Even just editing these images has got our tummies rumbling, desperate to rewind back to the moment when the starters arrived on our table…
During our Airbnb escape near Rome, we were keen to try some of the Rieti region’s most popular delicacies. We were lucky that our apartment’s handy guide suggested a range of restaurants nearby, and — being in love with all things ‘bio’ on the continent — I was super keen to try Ortobio.
With commanding views across to the pretty town of Poggio Mirteto, Ortobio restaurant occupies the conservatory of a family farmhouse. The cooks are huge supporters of organic produce: the menu changes each week to incorporate the season’s freshest crops, and vegetables are harvested from the farm’s field on a daily basis. This is my idea of real Italian cuisine: local food, fresh tastes and an awesome view as an accompaniment (that’s always a winner in my book!)
We went here twice for lunch during our 10 day stay north of Rome. Both meals were incredible, and that really is no exaggeration: we had nothing but praise for this place! From the delicate meats of the antipasti starter, to the melt-in-the-mouth gluten free roll they made especially for me, this Italian eatery erases all those awful experiences we’ve had in Roman tourist traps. Another reason to escape the capital city for a day!
The menu offered four courses: antipasti, a pasta starter, a meat main course and a dessert (oh, and don’t forget about post-meal coffee!) We chose the meat antipasti to begin: fragrant parma ham, cured duck, spicy salami and a strong Italian cheese, brought together with buffalo ricotta and sweet onion chutney. Can you imagine a more luxurious antipasti? One of my favourites on the plate was a chilli-spiced cured meat: chewy, peppery and a dream with that chutney!
On finishing our antipasti, we sat in the conservatory’s heat, sipping on our complimentary prosecco and soaking in the atmosphere. The room was quietly buzzing, the view clear over to the cream buildings of Poggio Mirteto. Flies droned outside; a tiny kitten motioned to tap one, or jumped towards a lizard. Lost in the rolling hills of the region, Ortobio is not just a restaurant but a retreat from the usual bustling city eateries. In this way, it reminded me of the Three Chimneys on Skye.
Our ‘primo’ or starter was next. B had lasagne, stuffed with cheese and aubergine, and I tried the fresh pasta. Gluten free, soaked in Italian cheese, olive oil and brightened with spinach, it was totally delicious. Italy is one of those countries where they don’t try and overdo their cooking. It’s simple, stylish, unfussy food that is hard to beat.
And then dessert (can you ever resist a sweet conclusion?!) Two similar looking desserts arrived on our plates, one stuffed with nougat and the other silken with chocolate. Each had rich sauces: B’s (above) was dunked in decadent caramel and my chocolate mousse merged with a fresh orange coulis. It was so sweet, and paired perfectly with the dark chocolate. Imagine a posh yet wholesome Terry’s Chocolate Orange… Yum! We’d finished in a matter of seconds, tummies crowded and content with fabulous, fresh Italian food.
Honestly, if you’re in Rome and have time to head north for a day, don’t pass by this place. Along with exploring a bit more of Italy by road, you’ll also get to taste some of the Sabine region’s famous produce. Plus, the staff are fantastic: patient with bad Italian (maybe that’s just us…) and keen to suggest alternatives if your diet is limited. If you need another reason to go, just have a look at the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. We’re not the first to fall head over heels in love with this place… and if you decide on the detour, I doubt we’ll be the last.
Ortobio is just over an hour from Rome. Meals are available from Friday evening until Sunday lunchtime. To book and for further information, visit their website.