ctually, that should probably read ‘Having Lunch At The Same Place As George Clooney – Though Not Necessarily At The Same Time’. But why let a tiny unimportant fact ruin a killer headline?
Lunch was at ‘La Cantina di Biffi’ in the town of Sulmona, in Abruzzo, Italy. Not because George lunched there frequently when he was filming ‘The American’ in this part of central Italy, but because it looked nice; and it was lunchtime; and the only other nearby choice seemed to be a Chinese restaurant.
Yes, there are Chinese restaurants in Abruzzo. And though I’m sure this was a crackingly good establishment, based on our experiences so far, Chinese restaurants in Abruzzo are unremittingly awful.
Then again, how many good Italian places are there in China? Don’t answer that.
Aside from being a pretty town in the mould of many other Abruzzese pretty towns and a favoured watering-hole of you-know-who, Sulmona has two other key selling points: Candy and garlic.
Sulmona’s justly-famous red garlic is a real garlic-lovers’ garlic. Pungent and powerful. At ‘La Cantina di Biffi’ they chop it – not too finely – fry it, and stir it into polenta of a sublime creaminess.
Then they spoil it by rationing you to a meagre little portion – and anything less than a kilo of this delicious unctuousness counts as ‘meagre’ – as part of a really rather good antipasti platter.
Quite pricey though at €13 each and contributing to a bill of €70-odd (2013 prices). But you can’t expect my good friend and distant dining partner George Clooney to eat anywhere cheap for heaven’s sake.
However, this – and other touches of creative pricing – might’ve explained why George looked a little, well, gloomy in the photo proudly produced by the cantina’s owner.
He’d probably just been given the bill.
Ease away from Gloomy George for a moment. Think instead of candies of an almost unnatural gloss and colour artfully fashioned into cute little flower shapes.
When it comes to confectionery, what’s more important: eye appeal or taste? Whether you’re an aesthete or a glutton, you’ll be thrilled that Sulmona’s sweeties score highly on both counts.
And not as avariciously-priced as a ‘Cantina Biffi’ starter either. Had George lunched on chocolates, sugared almonds and nougat instead of fancy antipasti, he’d have been all smiles come the post-prandial photo-call.
We again contributed significantly to the profits of Sulmona’s hospitality industry by discovering that sloppy service and inflated prices don’t make up for posh surrounds at the ‘Gran Caffe dell’Aunnunziata’ right opposite the Chiesa della Annunziata.
Better values to be had at one of the many bars ringing the enormous Piazza Garibaldi, with the added bonus that the highly photogenic Roman aqueduct will serve as a rather fine backdrop to your beverage.
Anyway, here’s the plan: Wander round undeniably delightful Sulmona and take in the sights; plenty of places to have a drink/coffee other than the Gran Caffe; buy candies and garlic. Then get in the car, drive 15 minutes or so to the lovely little village of Pacentro; have lunch; and afterwards take a stroll to look at the iconic ‘twin towers’ of the medieval Cantelmo Castle.
‘Osteria Maggiore’ and ‘Taverna de li Caldora’, though as yet untried by us, have been given top marks by those who have – and I don’t think Gloomy George has discovered them yet.
About the Author: David is English, (hence the funny spelling of many words in this blog), but now lives in Abruzzo. When he’s not nearly having lunch with celebrities like George Clooney, he co-runs the Villasfor2 holiday rental business.
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