by Simone Bandini
“But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave / Of the most living crystal that was e’er / The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave / Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear / Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer / Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters! / And most serene of aspect, and most clear; / Surely that stream was unprofane by slaughters, – / A mirror and a bath for Beauty’s youngest daughters!”
G.G. Lord Byron,
(…) “Everything is silent now. In the serene eddy the tenuous rising vein: trembles, and with a slight pullular the mirror, swarm with life, marks the waters. A small forest, deeply buried, laughs, branches are still: jasper seems to mix in lithe loves with amethyst. And the flowers appear to be of sapphire, and reflects as diamonds, and they shine cold and call to the silences of the green setting. At the foot of the mountains, oaks in the shade and rivers, oh Italy, are the source of your poems. The nymphs lived: and this is a divine bed. (…)
Giosuè Carducci, Odi Barbare (1876)
From the romantic verses of Carducci and Byron to the present day, nothing has changed: the placid tranquillity of sacred waters has remained steadfast since ancient times. From the memories of wayfarers and horses in the posting station – to the kitchen of Algert Kurti and his restaurant – we taste the very fresh meat of that same trout – even though today baked salmon with potatoes and cherry tomatoes – of which the English Lord spoke to his London publisher in 1817: “I had some of the trout from the Clitunno river” …
Famous, historical, place in the heart of Umbria, from its womb gush very clear and mottled waters that today reflect in the park inhabited by swans, ducks, trout and char. Algert and his wife Rosangela await us on the sunny pavement, ready to introduce us to the extraordinary world of typical Foligno and Spoleto recipes.
Our journey begins with two traditional appetizers: the “Selection of Bruschette” with summer truffles, with Umbrian pate – and then with lard, honey and pine nuts – followed closely by a gargantuan “Antipastone”, a platter of cold cuts, cheese, hot and cold delicacies, and scrambled eggs with truffles.
“After attending the Hotel School of Foligno”, Algert tells us about himself, “I immediately tried to gain experience. I started out as a barman and restaurant manager, then I approached the technical aspects of the kitchen. In 2007 I took over the management of this place which, the following year, I also increased with an ice cream parlour and then with a pizzeria (2009) “.
It is there in his kitchen that we find him, while he is serving up a triad of ‘Umbrian-Orthodox’ first dishes. These are the renowned fresh Strangozzi in the variants “Barbozzo (type of bacon) with cherry tomatoes and courgettes” and “with truffles”, then the rigorously home-made “Spelt flour Tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms”. We strongly advise you to taste the “Fresh Strangozzi with crayfish”, which many people still remember eating.
“Here I am at my house”, he continues, “so I transmit the same informal familiarity to my guests: the park, the spring, the technical and creative operations in the kitchen, are like a large symphony orchestra where everything returns, and is harmonious”. His right arm, Alessio Costantini, gives him a hand, with elegance and security, making us taste some spring “Ravioli with burrata and Taggiasca olives with yellow tomatoes, bacon and smoked ricotta”, which came out of Algert’s kitchen.
The left arm, on the other hand, the one near the heart, is that of his wife Rosangela, room manager and a great cake lover – we will talk about her shortly. But wait! We have already mentioned trout in the introduction, it is time for meat on the fire, for an opulent “Grilled fillet of beef“, perfect succulent.
Rosangela tells us about her ‘journey’ with guests from all over the world, about how much she likes to tell – between a ‘Strangozzo’ and a ‘Crescionda’ (typical Spoleto cake) – about her ‘chosen land’. She delights us with homemade ice cream in a cup, made for the occasion, and an irresistible “Chocolate cake”.
Algert dreamily talks about the fantastic, prodigious aperitif on the islet of the springs … I don’t know if I still want to get married yet, it is said that very romantic miracles happen here.