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Da Silvana: The Best Pasta e Fagioli in Italy

12 Oct

Recently I was back in Arcinazzo and had the pleasure of eating at Da Silvana, our favorite restaurant in the Altipiani. Da Silvana is totally nondescript; if you don’t know to look for it, you’ll probably pass it up. But that would be a shame, because inside is some of the best local cuisine you’ll find in this area, and if you speak Italian, a generous dose of advice and information about local wines.

We were told by Silvana’s daughter, who is the sommelier, that their pasta and fagioli (beans) dish was featured in the magazine “Dove” as the best in Italy. So of course we had to try it. That, along with the house “must” of handmade, handcut fettucine in sugo (tomato meat sauce) made up our primi piatti.

First, I give you the pasta e fagioli:

So, what makes THIS pasta e fagioli so special? It’s because the beans come from Vallepietra, famous for their larger size and delicate, delicious flavor. Take a closer look:

The beans were about an inch to an inch and a half long and about a half inch wide, which is pretty big. I have to agree that it was the best plate of pasta e fagioli I’ve ever tasted in Italy, and it was perfect for the rainy fall afternoon.

To prove that Ale agreed, here’s the “scarpetta” at the end (the little shoe, customary to use your bread to sop up whatever sauce is left in the bowl):

I had the fettucine al ragΓΉ, because when the fettuccine are homemade and handcut, there’s really nothing like it. We were told that the restaurant has a really hard time finding help in the kitchen, because they have such a special method for making their pasta that incoming cooks either don’t want to learn or aren’t able to adapt, so they can’t keep them. They insist on having it done their way, and I can assure you that I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.

Usually I don’t get hungry when writing any of my food posts, especially since generally whatever photo I’m posting is something I’ve already eaten, but I can tell you that posting this photo was just a little painful… I’m half-tempted to hop in the car and drive the 1.5 hours back to Silvana just to have another plate.

For dessert we were served by Silvana herself, who I think is probably somewhere in her 70s (hard to tell because she looks great), and is still going strong, cooking for hungry people in her restaurant every day. She urged us to try her apple cake, telling us, “I just made it this morning.” No need to twist our arm there. We split a piece. I don’t know where she found the chocolate chips, but it was a nice touch.

After our meal, Silvana’s daughter and Alessandro ended up discussing regional wines for over a half hour. I’m not much of a wine expert, but I tried to soak up as much of the conversation as possible. The wine list at Da Silvana is absolutely excellent if you’re looking to explore wines from Lazio, a category that is kind of forgotten among the heavy hitters of Piemonte and other regions both north and south. But what I do remember is that the conversation revolved primarily around Cesanese del Piglio. This is a really special wine because it is only produced in this small area, and after World War II commercial production completely stopped, and Cesanese could only be found if you knew someone who had a small home production set up just for their family’s needs. I don’t know the exact history or reasons why, but it came back into production in 1973. Here are some technical details about the wine. And as far as names, if you’re looking for a good Cesanese, I overheard two that I made an effort to remember for you: Colletti Conti (Romanico and Hernicus), and, a wine I can personally attest to, Azienda Agricola Giuliani’s Dives (pronounced “DEE-vess”). We first discovered Dives here at Silvana, and it is really something special. It’s quite hard to find because the woman who produces it doesn’t have a very big marketing strategy—I think she prefers to keep to local restaurants and isn’t looking for mass marketing. Despite that seemingly down-home provincial focus, this is a wine that can hold its own among giants, as she employed perhaps the most famous enologist in Italy, Riccardo Cottarella, to guide their production. The results are in the glass.

When we first tried this wine over a year ago, we were so impressed that we went to visit Signora Giuliani at her vineyard. That was fun because it is so non-commercial. Nothing like you may have experienced on a formal vineyard tour… here we had to ask a bunch of locals how to get to the place, and once there, we basically just knocked on the front door of their house and they answered. We explained that we were really impressed with their wine and would they (she and her husband) be willing to show us around and sell us some of their wine? We ended up staying and chatting for at least an hour, sharing glasses of wine in their study. Ale does the heavy lifting in those conversations because like I said, I’m no wine expert. My role is tasting and appreciating…not such a bad job.

So there you have it: a good restaurant recommendation if you’re ever near Piglio, and some local wines that you can seek out. There’s also a community “cantina” where various producers from the area bottle more common versions of Cesanese, which aren’t bad, but aren’t anything like the ones highlighted above.

Da Silvana, Via Sublacense, 33. Altipiani di Arcinazzo Romano, Tel. 0775598002

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16 Responses to “Da Silvana: The Best Pasta e Fagioli in Italy”

  1. Giulia October 12, 2007 at 1:46 pm #

    I love pasta e fagioli! All kinds, soupy or thick. Red or white. πŸ™‚ I have to admit though, as pleasingly scrumptious as the photo looks, I am bothered by the sight of the cheese in it. Well, not that there is cheese in the dish, but rather that it is in just one spot. Was it just ploppped in the plate? *gasp* I like my cheese sprinkled evenly around my plate. The photo of the fettucine. Now that’s more like it! πŸ˜‰

    In regards to the chocolate chips. Are they not available in room? We have them here. Perugina makes them. Although, they are not big morsels like the ones I am used to back home, they’re sufficient. The ones I buy here are so teenie tiny!

  2. Giulia October 12, 2007 at 1:48 pm #

    Ooopsie, I typed room but I meant Rome!

  3. romantales October 12, 2007 at 3:06 pm #

    I know the wine, my FIL was producer of Cesanese DOC from Olevano Romano.

  4. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy October 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm #

    Whossat doing the scarpetta?? πŸ™‚

  5. nyc/caribbean ragazza October 12, 2007 at 4:15 pm #

    Sigh. Why must you torture us with these photos of glorious food! πŸ™‚

  6. finnyknits October 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm #

    I know there are a lot of things in this post that I should be excited about – the pasta e fagioli (yumyumyum), the incredible wine suggestions, the glorious descriptions of the restaurant and owner, the special pasta – but of all things, I think I got most excited seeing Ale’s wedding ringed hand with the scarpetta. I am such a dork, but it’s really sweet to see.

  7. ginkers October 12, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    Pasta e fagioli is great but the best being outside Tuscany? I feel I must object!

  8. MotherPie October 12, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    I’ve never seen this on a menu in eating Italian here (the US). You’d think I would have seen it when we lived in NYC. Maybe I just didn’t know what it was and now I do, thanks to your pics.

    Your fake purse vendors look just like the ones up and down Madison Avenue. My daughter is a pro at spotting the fakes.

  9. Janavi October 13, 2007 at 2:16 pm #

    Motherpie-
    I think pasta-fagioli is usually served as a soup ,here in NY anyway,and is called pasta fazool.

  10. Ropi October 14, 2007 at 11:10 am #

    looks tasty

  11. kataroma October 22, 2007 at 10:30 am #

    I wonder why it’s called pasta e fazool in the US? Maybe “fazool” is Sicilian dialect for fagioli (beans in Italian). Weird.

  12. Shelley, At Home in Rome October 22, 2007 at 7:03 pm #

    Kata: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that fazool, or however it’s spelled, is some southern dialect (probably Sicilian like you mention) for fagioli. Isn’t it in some Tony Bennett song?

  13. SWT November 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm #

    We ate here this weekend and mentioned your blog and showed her the photos you posted (my husband’s handy Blackberry!). She was thrilled and we ate very well. Da Silvana didn’t have the Dives wine (and we were late for the apple cake but had the chestnut ice cream dessert instead!) but we stopped by the vineyard for a bit of Signora Giuliani’s wine and a taste of her olive oil too. We’ll be heading back to buy some more oil soon. Thanks for the great tip!

  14. Marco April 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    Hi there, i am from Vallepietra and my dad grows the beans, i can asure you that they are great.

    Bye
    Marco

    wofy@hotmail.it

  15. Conni April 24, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    In addition to torturing us with your great photos,
    can’t you ask the cooks for their recipes and publish them (in English) with your photos?

    Your site is great!

    Thanks for all the enjoyment!

  16. Aldo Raffa October 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Where is the recipe?

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