Proof of expertise is so often exhibited when a difficult task is made to look easy. We were witnesses to that this morning in the workshop of the incredible Marino Morretti, a ceramic artist who has shown his work worldwide—no kidding. He also happens to live in Orvieto and have a workshop nearby, and we got to go this morning to see him work. In addition, we ate a lovely snack on the terrace of his family’s 9th century castle (seriously) that overlooked the valley, and then we got to paint some of our own tiles. Mine did not turn out like Mr. Morretti’s, but such is life. He heavily draws his influences from medieval and Renaissance designs, especially because his family had owned a vast collection of art from that period until recently. The style is decidedly grotesque in some ways—plates with a person morphing into some four-legged creature—but with a vibrant palette and a whimsical quality about it, too. In about forty minutes, Mr. Morretti had completed eight tiles before our eyes; what had been white glazed terracotta tiles became beautiful little pieces of art. He made the chunky black lines and details look so easy, even while simultaneously fielding questions and trying to prevent the kitten from jumping on his lap while he was painting.
Jeremy and I had decided to dine out this evening, and so we did. We went to the Antica Trattoria del’Orso, and probably had the best meals at a restaurant that either of us had had in Italy. The place is owned by a duo, one who cooks, the other who runs front of house, and the menu posted on the door is basically null and void. Being seated, you’re told the menu. Everything is fresh. So fresh that they don’t even refrigerate stuff overnight. All the pastas are made in-house. Our menu options tonight were a tagliatelle with either porcini mushrooms and truffles OR scamorza cheese and tomato sauce, crespelle stuffed with ricotta and spinach OR alla bolognese (beef), and we didn’t even hear the secondi because we were already so excited about the first parts. We had the tagliatelle (I the truffle, Jeremy the scamorza) and split the bolognese crespelle. The tagliatelle was so perfectly cooked, the mushroom and truffle sauce just the right creaminess without being too heavy. The meat in the crespelle had just a hint of nutmeg, so there was a wonderful sweetness to the savory meat. The smallest violin in the world played for us as we managed to split a piece of chocolate cake with almonds doused in a homemade English cream sauce or something like that. The owner made small talk with us and told us about his trip to the US last Thanksgiving—Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Santa Monica—and showed us a book that was published a few years ago featuring their restaurant. He was sure to point out to us, too, that they were cited in Frommer’s (do you know?) and Rick Steves (oh, how Rick Steves is appreciated here by the restaurateurs). We were both full and satisfied. We promised we would return before our departure, and I intend on keeping that promise. Sunday we’ll head back to Fabro for another weekend at Farnietino with Maddalena, Pompeo and the kids. I am looking forward to it immensely.
**For those interested: Via della Misericordia 18-20, a street right off Piazza Sant’Andrea. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Like I said, ignore the menu and, probably, the prices. Ciro and Gabriele speak some English, too.