Contigliano is Maurizio’s hometown. He was actually born in nearby Terni but every single relative on his mother’s side was born in Contigliano. And more than that: they were all born in the same family home, in the same iron frame bed, that I have kept and moved to our present home north of Rome. So although no-one on his mother’s side is left in Contigliano, and the family home was sold a few years ago, we still have occasional administrative things to tend to in Contigliano. It’s a charming little hill town and I love going there, mainly because it’s steeped in history, most of which pertains to delightful stories of Maurizio’s antecedents. And of course the cemetery where everybody is buried is there, dozens upon dozens of relatives and family friends.
Friday was dedicated to administrative details and we opted to tack it onto a nice country lunch. In the decades I’ve been going to Contigliano we’ve eaten in one restaurant, the spot where family and friends have always gone for decades. There’s no-one left but us, and the restaurant is painfully quiet in the winter, so I thought I’d sniff around for a different option. It didn’t take long at all and thanks to the 2016 Slow Food Osteria d’Italia guide and Fare La Spesa con SlowFood guide, I found the perfect spot right in Contigliano: Osteria Le Fontanelle. The osteria is opened Fridays and weekends so we we were in luck.
Pork products are Le Fontanelle’s strong suit, and also my favorite. Le Fontanelle raises pigs: pink ones that are a cross between Large White and Goland breed pigs, and black pigs from the Sabine Hills originating from the Apulo Calabrese breed. Owner Vincenzo, who is positively delightful, makes exquisite salumi and pork products that in typical Italian fashion use every single part of the pig.
Maurizio and I love prosciutto and had two portions of their homemade, home-cured and hand cut prosciutto for our antipasto. We also purchased some to take home.
Here’s how prosciutto is hand-cut, using a long, thin knife, held flush to the prosciutto:
All Le Fontanelle’s pasta is homemade, using locally grown and milled flour.
We always pick two different pasta dishes so we can share, and both our choices were delicious: strengozzi with broccoli (grown on the farm) and pork sausages.
Our second dish, equally delicious, was fettuccine with porcini mushrooms. We generally want to try everything, and sampling seems the best way to go, so we shared a mixed grill of pork and vitellone (from cows 12 to 24 months old). Grilled on an open hearth…
and topped with a bay leaf branch, which imparted a delightful smoked flavor into the meat.
We accompanied our meal with garden fresh cicoria, sautéed in local Sabine olive oil, garlic and peperoncino.
We chose my favorite Lazio red for our wine: Cesanese del Piglio…
The osteria is bright and spacious, and warm and cozy, despite the fact that three of the walls are glass doors. In the summer the glass doors open up allowing for dining al fresco.
I think we’ve broken the mold and switched our Contigliano dining venue permanently!