ANOTHER EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - IL BACCO FELICE
The only remaining Bill and Suzy adventure that I haven’t yet written about is our lunch at IL BACCO FELICE. Located in FOLIGNO, not far from Assisi and Bevagna, this tiny restaurant is well known and it’s fame well-deserved. Owner/chef Salvatore Denaro is Sicilian by birth, passionate about food and a charming if eccentric host.
Bill and Suzy had a copy of a LONELY PLANET guidebook, which listed IL BACCO FELICE as one of the top five restaurants in Tuscany and Umbria. (This sort of surprised me since I thought the Lonely Planet books were aimed at the backpacker/hostel group and featured budget suggestions!) The restaurant had first been mentioned in a 2003 issue of "Town and Country" magazine, which I was pretty sure I still had at home. (I did.)
After driving through the historic center of Foligno searching for a parking spot, we eventually parked in a large lot and walked the short distance to the restaurant, located on via Garibaldi, #73. As is so often the case, the exterior of the building gave no clue as to what we might find inside. What we walked into looked like a bar, every nook and cranny filled with something, photos of Salvatore on every wall, and the odd spaces in between were filled with messages from satisfied customers, written in a rainbow of colors. Most of the messages were enthusiastic to say the least; one said “Thank God you’re here, Salvatore!”, or something to that effect. The bar itself was covered with the morning’s produce delivery of huge fresh broccoli from Calabria as well as other garden delights.
Salvatore greeted our group of eight and led us throught the doorway, past the kitchen, through the tiny dining room and out into the entryway for the building next door. We took the stairs up to Salvatore’s apartment and entered the library, where one wall was full of books, the other full of wine. The loooong table was set of us, and we began with bruschetta, simple but always a treat, and the delicious olives that Salvatore had cured himself. He told us about the process as we ate, and even though I don’t generally like cured olives, these were fantastic!
We then feasted on the end-of-the-season tomatoes, a selection of heirloom varieties and once again Salvatore’s passion for food – growing it, cooking it, eating it, was evident. Oh, and did I mention the huge chunk of pecorino cheese that was our centerpiece? Between the bruschetta, olives, tomatoes and cheese there was more than enough to make a fantastic lunch, but of course this was just the beginning.
We walked back downstairs where our table was waiting for us, and started the ‘real’ meal, almost as if what we’d eaten upstairs didn’t matter. Another antipasto, not one but TWO pasta dishes, then roasted chicken. If there was more I can’t remember it! Of course the wine flowed, and I’ll warn you now: don’t be surprised when (not if!) Salvatore helps himself to a glass of wine from your bottle…this is quality control to the Nth degree!!!
At the end of the meal Salvatore will tell you how much your meal costs - there were no menus, no prices, just the advice of the chef who knows what’s cooking and what’s fresh. Take his advice, don’t be upset if he sits and shares a glass of wine, or even your plate, and in the end I’m betting that you’ll be more than satisfied!
More pictures on OUR FLICKR PAGE in the folder entitled IL BACCO FELICE.