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Country Roads: Dining in Orvieto
Country Roads:
EST! Marks the Spot

Story and photos by Tom Weber

triple EST! sign on door, Orvieto

egend has it that a 12th century Catholic bishop, while en route for a meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, sent his personal aide ahead with instructions to scout out the inns that serve the very best wines along the way.

As the aide made his way, he would mark the front doors of inns that had reputable grape with a large EST! (Latin for "it is"). Upon arriving in Orvieto, once the epicenter of Etruscan culture and religion, he tasted the wine at a particular inn and was pleasantly surprised by its bouquet and quickly wrote on the door EST! EST! EST! to ensure that his master would dismount and quench his thirst.

The bishop did stop, and loved the wine so much that he never kept his appointment with the Holy Father down in Rome and remained in Orvieto for the remainder of his days. No doubt with a much smaller liver, but quite content.

Lorenzo Polegri, executive chef and owner of the Ristorante Zeppelin in Orvieto

Now, let's fast-forward to the here-and-now where my group of international media dismounts Insight Vacations' (Insight) "Country Roads of Italy" motorcoach to meet Orvieto's latest triple-EST! – a transplanted Roman who serves as the executive chef and owner of Ristorante Zeppelin, the effervescent Lorenzo Polegri, a.k.a. The Etruscan Chef.

Ristorante Zeppelin signboard

chef at work at Ristorante Zeppelin's kitchen

An elevator ride to the top of the rock carries us close to Lorenzo's culinary hideaway, located in the heart of this once proud Etruscan village chiseled out of volcanic tuff millennia ago in the Umbria region of central Italy, where we'll pass the afternoon making pasta, eating and drinking.

appetizer: nuggets of parmigiano reggiano cheese, focaccia bread with prosciutto and white wine

Our host jump-starts the palate with an aperitivo of chilled sparkling white wine complimented by nuggets of aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and squares of fresh focaccia bread topped with prosciutto (cured ham).

Smiling, we're ushered into the dining room of Zeppelin's – named in honor of Led Zeppelin, the 60s English rock band, Lorenzo's fave – and our group of travel scribes and photographers is entertained and enlightened as The Etruscan Chef brings strands of fresh tagliatelle pasta to life with simple flour, eggs and strong hands.

executive chef Lorenzo Polegri at work in his kitchen

Kneading and talking – his version of walking and chewing gum – Lorenzo explains his love of the kitchen and the joy that it brings to the faces of the guests that grace his table.

panna e cioccolato or whipped cream mold drenched in dark chocolate sauce topped with crushed walnuts

drinking espresso after dinner

The pasta-making demonstration now over, we take our places at la tavola and dine on the fruits of Lorenzo's labor: those freshly made tagliatelle prepared al cingiale (boar's meat sauce) followed by a simple, but delicious, panna e cioccolato – a whipped cream mold drenched in a dark chocolate sauce topped with crushed walnuts. Around and in between courses there is plenty of local red and white wine. And no Italian lunch or dinner is complete without the obligatory small cup of strong espresso coffee.

a copy of The Etruscan Chef by Lorenzo Polegri

Our bellies full like hot-air balloons, we bid Arrivederci! to Lorenzo and waddle out of Ristorante Zeppelin with an autographed copy of his book, The Etruscan Chef, tucked under our arms.

What a guy! What a visit! What a journey! In other words: EST! EST! EST!

Where to next, Belinda?, someone asks our tour director-slash-storyteller.

Let's go meet Marco, Umbria's best art historian, she replies, and discover the jewel of Orvieto, the Duomo of the Assumption of the Virgin. How's that sound?

Like school kids, we yell out our approval in unison: SI!

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries – where you'll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way – or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

See you in front of the Duomo in just a couple of minutes. Last one there buys tonight's aperitivi!

Related Articles:
Orvieto's Historic Center; Take Me Home Country Roads; Rome - Caput Mundi; The Little Village Atop the Hill (Castelluccio di Norcia); Norcia, Umbria; A Canterbury Trail

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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