Ambience and history mean a lot to me when it comes to restaurants. In fact I would probably happily eat hot dog if it meant dining in a 13th century deconsecrated church. As it happens I didn’t have to suffer for the unique surroundings at Mastin Vecchio, Gradara, as they served some excellent dishes that are a much desired bridge over the gap between avant-garde experiments and regional classics.
Dine in a Deconsecrated Church
At Mastin Vecchio you eat in what was once the principle church of Gradara, the Pieve of Santa Sofia. It was built at the end of the 1200s, but it was damaged by an earthquake. At the end of the 1800s it was deconsecrated and refashioned as the bishop’s residence. In the 1950s it became a restaurant, and later Mastin Vecchio took over and opened its doors.
Of course, it doesn’t have golden putti and confessional booths, but the external Renaissance portici, capitals and little bell tower, as well as the brick arches of the interior, are evidence enough of its ecclesiastical roots. Inside is all exposed brick, soft lighting and white tablecloths. We arrived unfashionably early but were rewarded with a table beside one of the lunette windows which look directly out onto the walls of Gradara Castle.
Nothing can tempt me more than an antipasto made up of little tasters of many different things. It arrived on a giant slab of slate, beautifully presented, but I did have misgivings as I saw one taster was inside a little plastic bag tied at the top – had we found one of those style over substance places? I needn’t have worried however, their soft cheese with speck and truffle could be sculpted into a replica of Gradara Castle and the taste would still win out. Every one of the tasters had a very different flavour and style, from salad to polenta with a cheese fondue centre. Here’s the description from the menu:
One taste of truffle and I’m hooked, so for the primo I chose strozzapreti alla carbonara di tartufo. I’m still dreaming of it now. If you want a Marche classic then the tagliatelle con ragù di cinghiale is a wise choice.
Sample menu for winter.
The recommended wine was good, the service was perfect, the waiters were even quite entertaining. Looking out at the softly-lit castle walls I’d say we hit the jackpot.
Mastin Vecchio has a sister restaurant on the main street of Gradara leading up to the castle. Cibovagando (street food) is more of a bar and pizzeria selling typical Romagnolo and Marchegiano street food like olive ascolane. Worth a visit for a light lunch or some fried snacks.
Website of Mastin Vecchio in English
Via Alighieri n.5 – 61012 Gradara (Pu)
Tel. +39 0541/964024
Fax +39 0541/823231 Cell. +393491244990