The Vibrant Ancient City of Rieti: A Discovery of Food and Wine

Water is attached to the story of Rieti, a city in the region of Lazio located between Abruzzo and Umbria. The area around Rieti is rich in springs, lakes and thermal baths with therapeutic qualities with the Velino River being its central part. The waters have shaped this fertile land which conditioned its development and history. Historically, in ancient times, the Velino River had been considered a curse to the area for the difficulty it posed to the local population. With the important engineering work of cutting Marmore Falls conducted by consul Marco Curio Dentato in 271 B.C., the area has become an important agricultural center and finally freeing the people from the hardship in dealing with the river. From then on, Velino River has become a focal part of Rieti as it flows freely through the medieval walled city. In present times, it has even become the most popular meeting place for the locals, thanks to the presence of bars and restaurants along the riverbank and a pleasant walkway immersed in verdant surroundings that takes you along the river.

Rieti is a city with myriad faces. It has layers of architectural features from diverse ages starting from the ancient Roman times. Churches, noble palaces, cultural sites, and narrow alleyways provide a collective feel of its rich history and culture. The long stretch of medieval walls that surround the city was built in the 13th century and has been modified and restored over the centuries and today, it is a beautiful representative element of the city as it is among the best preserved ancient walls of Latium. Just about 100 kilometers northeast of Rome, Rieti can easily be reached by car, train or bus.

Another point to look at is the city’s growing significance in its gastronomic offerings. For a small city of around 50,000 inhabitants, the number of proposals are diverse and numerous. Spending a couple of days in Rieti gave me a chance to take a look at what the city has to offer from having cocktails, a prominent winery of the area to characteristic restaurants in the heart of the city and just outside the walls. It has a very vibrant nightlife amongst young people especially along the riverbank with so many offerings the city can give.

Centopercento Gusto

Centopercento Gusto restaurateur Marco Pasquali wants to convey a cuisine with expressive flavors ranging from traditional to more complex dishes in a place where his clients can stay well, where food is the main focus and paralleled with the selection of wine and comfort of staying in a welcoming environment. He and his wife Barbara Barattelli divide their responsibilities between the kitchen and the dining area. Being a chef himself, he takes care of the kitchen with the execution of Chef Mattia Chellini while the dining room is directed by Barbara with the help of Andrea Simotti. Teamwork and right direction paved the way to their continued success since their opening in 2015. The restaurant is located in the heart of the city at Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, just a few steps from the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Aside from indoors, outdoor dining is also available with a charming setting.

The kitchen is strictly involved with raw materials that embody quality and seasonality. The proposals cater to a diversity of palate for those who want to stay rooted to the traditional Italian recipes and those who are inclined to enjoy a bit of innovation in flavors. Gourmet starter dishes like the Wagyu Meatballs with 36-month old Parmigiano Reggiano Cream and Fresh Black Truffles, Tuna Tataki with Raspberries and Shrimp Tartare with Buffalo Mozzarella and Orange are just some of the entries that are worth trying. Pasta dishes like Cacio e Pepe with Anchovies and Zucchini Blossoms is a delicious proposal. With last year’s lockdown and their step towards an easier menu, their gourmet burgers have received a great reception both from old and new clients. Do try their bestsellers, the Polpo (Octopus) Burger and the Wagyu Burger at €14 and €13.50 respectively. Price range per entry is between €10 to €14 including the burgers and the desserts at around €6.

Apart from being a restaurant, they also produce preserved vegetables made using only raw materials grown at kilometer zero in farms located in Rieti and neighboring town Cittaducale where the cultivation methods are natural. The cooking takes place with steam at 60°C, the pasteurization is carried out at 85°C, all in order not to stress the food and to maintain flavor and crunchiness.

Address: Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 272 | Tel: +39 0746 760480 | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ristoranterieticentro/ | Open daily for cocktails and dinner except Sundays

Agriturismo Il Cammino di Francesco

Its location is a few kilometers outside the walls of Rieti where the rustic restaurant-farm is surrounded by pasteurs. There is ample space provided for parking and dining outdoors in huts overlooking the gardens where they gather most ingredients used in the kitchen and for selling. At the farm, you can also buy fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, cured meats, pasta, legumes and bottled preserves of sauces produced by other organically certified farms.

Proprietor Simone Sabetta makes sure that the simplicity of dining in the open air huts is best enjoyed with his excellent dishes. From straightforward appetizers of mozzarella with garden-grown tomatoes and basil in extra virgin olive oil, fried garden vegetables, hand-sliced prosciutto and bruschette with tomatoes to tasty pasta dishes made with porcini mushrooms and the indispensable Mediterranean pasta dish with tomatoes, the meal will absolutely give you a taste of how genuine Italian homecooking is.

Address: Via Piani, 17 | Tel: +39 393 6131209 | Website: https://www.comprimangibevi.it/ | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ortobiologicorieti | Open daily for lunch and dinner except Sunday dinner

Ristorante La Trota

Less than 10 kilometers from the walled city of Rieti is Ristorante La Trota. It is easily reachable by just taking the main country road, Via S. Susanna that takes from the city straight to the restaurant. It is a well-known restaurant for its innumerable accolades most especially its 2 Michelin stars conquered in 2004 and 2013. In the kitchen are brothers Sandro and Maurizio Serva with their team while the dining room is directed by their sons Michele and Amedeo. The restaurant has an elegant fine dining interior while outside, the turquoise chalk stream of Santa Susanna runs through the property under a small wooden bridge which leads to an intimate Italian-style garden that they use for outdoor events. The bridge also holds a few tables during the summer season for their outdoor service giving a delightful setting.

La Trota started in the early 1960s when Emilio Serva and his wife Rolanda opened a simple trattoria in Rivodutri. Their sons, Sandro and Maurizio, who grew up in the kitchen, inherited the same passion for cooking that their parents started. But the brothers were one step ahead of their parents because they had the dynamism to make a giant leap forward, a change that no one has ventured into, perhaps even of dubious nature at that time that was often misunderstood. They built their menu around an underestimated ingredient that were abundant in their property, freshwater fish. Trout, pike, tench, zander, eel, carp, are the prime ingredients of Sandro and Maurizio’s kitchen as opposed to the usual seafood catches that restaurants were putting on their menus. Appetizers are around €30 to €35, first dishes of pasta and risotto are €25, and main dishes at €45. There are two tasting menus, one based on lake fish and the other on meat, both at €130.

Address: Via S. Susanna, 33, Rivodutri (RI) | Tel: +39 0746 685078 | Website: https://www.latrota.com/ | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaTrotadal1963 | Open for lunch and dinner from Thursdays to Mondays, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Sunday dinner

Botanical Cafè

Just a few steps from the bridge of Rieti that leads towards the old center of the town is the newly-opened Botanical Cafè in Piazza Cavour. Owned by young entrepreneurs Marco Antoniucci and Sara Passi, the place has refreshing youthful ambience where they serve breakfasts, quick meals, artisan gelato, pizza and cocktails. Tables are available outside while indoors, there are some bar stools and a secondary room further back is reserved for special events. Cocktails are prepared by Sara herself which are accompanied by a platter of interesting finger food offerings of cheese, fruits and cured meat.

Address: Piazza Cavour, 10 | Tel: +39 327 9905124 | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Botanical-Cafe-100808631908402 | Open daily from morning until evening

Cantina Le Macchie

Ten kilometers from the center of Rieti to the small fraction of Castelfranco is Cantina Le Macchie, a family-owned local wine producer. Antonio Di Carlo and his family had been in the agricultural business until the 1970s when they decided to focus on vines and olives. Twelve hectares are dedicated to vines and olive orchards with vineyards scattered on the Sabine Hills and the Terminillo Massif where the climate is optimal for growing indigenous and international vines and their annual wine production is between 45,000 to 50,000 bottles. The Di Carlo Family is also known in the area for their restaurant La Foresta in the countryside where traditional plates made with local ingredients from oil to garden and meat products are of absolute excellence.

They amplify the significance of the local grape Cesenese Nero (also known as Castefranco Cesenese) in the production of their wine L’Ultimo Baluardo. They also have a production of other wines obtained from Malvasia, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Merlot. Continued research led them to the limited 500-bottle production of Scarpe Toste Unplugged, an orange wine obtained from a 3-week maceration with Gewurztraminer. They also produce Strappo alla Regola Pas Dosè sparkling wine obtained from Malvasia aged in barrique and Sangiovese and done with the classic method.

Address: Via Casa Nuova, 5, Castelfranco (RI) | Tel: +39 338 4620702 | Website: https://www.cantinalemacchie.it/ | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cantinalemacchie