When I was visiting Spoleto back in 2008 as part of my Tuscan and Umbrian solo driving tour, I chanced upon a lovely little restaurant. Spoleto was indeed my last stop of the trip and I had been to many little restaurants up until that point. I don’t really have any guide as to how I choose restaurants – sometimes it’s by the menu, sometimes it’s by the welcoming aura, as was the case with Il Tempio del Gusto (The Temple of Taste). I arrived earlyish for Italy and wasn’t even sure if it was open. Nevertheless the pretty waitress seated me. Let me paint you the picture – I arrived fresh from walking around town, lugging around my camera and tripod. After placing my order I started writing in my travel diary as was my wont and requested to keep the menu as reference.
As I was busy writing, the waitress returns a bit later with a cloched plate, and reveals an entree I didn’t order. She tells me it’s “un dono dello chef” (a gift from the chef). How lovely. The Tortalino with truffles wasn’t substantial but delicious and much appreciated. After the my meal a young chef actually appeared to clear my plates, which was a bit strange. We had a little chat and he went to great pains to explain each dish. At this point I began to suspect a little preferential treatment.
Now there is a scene in a Steve Martin movie called The Lonely Guy where he overcomes the stigma of dining alone by pretending to be a food critic, thereby also getting free meals. It has to be said I travel a lot by myself and often dine solo and have never felt awkward. From the waitress’ point of view there’s this guy who’s got photographic equipment, writing notes and referencing the menu. It was only later that the thought entered my mind that I may have come across as a critic of some sort. It was never my intention. Five years later I am glad to see that the restaurant is still flourishing and getting some quite decent reviews. Having read other reviews it has recently come to my attention that other diners have also been recipients of this free taster dish. I now think that’s something they do for diners who don’t order a starter. If so, more power to them. My first impression makes for a better anecdote though.
A few feet away from the Arco di Druso, the restaurant is a charming place with welcoming and modest decor. The service is exceptional and the food is modern Italian with Michelin Star quality and very modest prices. Having dined on Tuscan fare for about 2 weeks prior, I found Umbrian cuisine lighter than the oft-times heavier Tuscan food. The dishes I ordered were Petto d’Anatra Croccante con Salsa d’Arancia e Miele di Castagno (Crispy breast of duck with orange sauce and chestnut honey) and for dessert the Semifreddo al limone con Zuppa di Frutta all’Olio Aromatizzato al Vaniglia (Lemon Semifreddo with Fruit Jus flavoured with Vanilla Fruit Oil [I think]). If you’re in the area I can recommend this place highly.
To the owner Eros Patrizi and his fabulous staff, I offer belated thanks and say to him: Grazie per un pasto delizioso e una piacevole serata. La vostra generosità è stato molto apprezzato.