EST! Marks the Spot
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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
and remained in Orvieto for the remainder of his days. No doubt with
a much smaller liver, but quite content.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Historic Center; Take
Me Home Country Roads; Rome
- Caput Mundi; The
Little Village Atop the Hill (Castelluccio di Norcia); Norcia,