from Adventures of an Italian Food Lover (ISBN 978-0-307-34639-1 Clarkson Potter Publications)
“…Berardino Lombardo – tall, handsome, bearded, blue-eyed – is the powerhouse behind La Caveja, hidden on a curve before the village of Pietravairano, about an hour south of Rome. There’s a casual wine bar, where locals snack on homemade salumi, cheese, a few simple dishes, and wine, and La Stalla, a comfortable one-room restaurant housed in the stables, a culinary destination where Nadia de Simone charms. On my first visit Berardino was basting a capon turning on a spit-roaster in the hearth fireplace. I was entranced.
“Berardino’s organic farm supplies the restaurant with poultry, rabbits, pork, salumi and a garden of heirloom vegetables an fruits. The menu is pure tradition, with local just-made mozzarella, sheep’s milk ricotta, and polenta sauced with sausage, for starters. Diners continue with soup, then handmade pasta or gnocchi, but there are always two different kinds of pancotto, or bread cooked with vegetables. The bread is outstanding, baked in a wood-burning oven. Also look for main courses like simple roast chiken or capon, packed with flavor. There’s local pecorino aged in barrique casks, caciocavallo cheese aged six, twelve, or eighteen months, jam tarts (with homemade jam from organic heirloom fruit), conventuali butter cookies, spiraled with nuts and raisins, and scauratielli, or boiled cookies drenched with honey and orange zest. Each course can be paired with an appropriate wine by the glass or diners can choose from the surprisingly extensive list of Italian wines, especialy strong in the wines of Campania…”
“Antonietta Rotondo runs a wonderful agriturismo farm inn, Terre di Conca, not too far from her husband Berardino Lombardo’s restaurant inn, where we met for the first time. They bought the farm in a state of total abandon, the house an uninhabitable, roofless ruin, and have lovingly resurrected it, now dedicated to cultivating the local foods. Beradino and Antonietta began with black pigs – a native breed – and poultry such as guinea hens, chickens, and capons to supply his restaurant. Later he grafted the heirloom fruit trees (over twelve kinds of apples!) growing wild on the property and planted saved seeds for local tomatoes, greens, eggplants, and squash. Antonietta guided therestoration of the house. It’s appropriately rustic, with a large open fireplace surrounded by sofas in the living room and a table nearby where guests both breakfast and dine in the evening. Antonietta is one of Italy’s most important collectors of antique lace from the sixteenth centuries, and some of her pieces are displayed in the living room. Lace-trimmed or embroidered linens in the bedrooms are a joy to sleep on. Ask to see her extensive collection of handkerchiefs, from a time when the handkerchief was a most important fashion accessory.
“Antonietta does all the cooking on the farm, utilizing produce straight from her organic garden. I hung out in her kitchen as she prepared dinner, which included two vegetable dishes; both were so terrific and easy that I couldn’t decide which recipe to ask for, so I got them both…”