What an AMAZING treat to find Casa Caponetti. We bought three nights that the kind proprietors of Casa Caponetti donated to the San Francisco National Maritime Park Association, part of the National Parks System. (By the way, the major source of funds to support the National Parks maritime arm, the people who support maritime history in their museum and on preserved maritime vessels, like the Pampanito (submarine) and the Jeremiah O’Brien (Liberty ship), is their annual fundraiser/gala, held in the Fall. There are always unique trips to bid on, like this one.)
Ah, but I digress!! Casa Caponetti is 1 1/2 hours drive from Rome Airport. An easy drive at that. When we arrived, we were greeted by Beau and Ursula, the farm dogs in charge of hospitality. Casa Caponetti has many animals on their 125-acre farm – cows, horses, pigs, bees, cats, dogs, with more varieties planned as Casa Caponetti builds out its self-contained sustainable agriculture strategy. ‘Agriturismo’ is a big focus for this part of the Fazio region.
The Lazio Region is best known for the capital of Italy, Rome, but just a short distance from the bustle of that wonderful city, you can enter into a life where things are more relaxed, more focused on being one with nature, slower, and much less expensive. Leaving the European cities, you will find the true culture of the area, with families welcoming you into their homes, wines, oils and products that may never make it out of their small towns. Lazio is great for exploration as Federico of Casa Caponetti pointed out to us. Bordered by the better known Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo, Fazio, at least where we explored, is a little piece of heaven with everything to offer of the larger, more popular, more touristy venues.
Federico showed us around upon arrival and allowed us to get settled in to our lovely casetta. There are four casettas at Casa Caponetti, each very similar in layout, but with different furnishings. I believe the buildout of these casettas was only three or four years ago. The furnishings are unique, and all fixtures quite modern. AND, for you Americans, king size beds await!! This is a rarity in Europe. WiFi is only available in the communal living room which makes our addiction to WiFi and all things data much more civilized, although, I must say, we did spend a fair amount of time in the living room because we had several logistical things going on back home. We were the only people at Casa Caponetti during our four-night stay. The olive harvest was the month prior, and with an Italian holiday the following week, Federico and his staff were happy to have a little respite between the summer, fall and winter crowds. We enjoyed three dinners at Casa Caponetti, all Favian-based and all from produce organically grown on the farm. Our first antipasti was thinly sliced prosciutto, pork shoulder and lardo on house-grown greens with housemade bread. Federico is quite the cook. They have a chef who comes in to cook on the weekends, and he was preparing our first dinner with the assistance of Federico. We first enjoyed a marvelous square of steamed broccoli that rested in a pecorino cream sauce with a pecorino toast. We got to taste the recent bottling of this year’s Casa Caponetti Extra Virgin Olive Oil which was outstanding – fresh and grassy. Bringing some home!! Everything from here out was so simple and tasty, but I doubt Federico would agree with my simplicity statement since he put so much effort into cooking and serving us. Amatriciana is a spicy, red meat sauce, a staple in Lazio. It was prepared perfectly with rough cut squares of pasta, called maltallado. We then enjoyed thin slices of pork loin, served over a puree of kale – excellent. Our dessert was simple biscotti served with an Italian red dessert wine.
Ursula was our proud hostess and guardian. She welcomed us after every trip and laid outside our door waiting for loves, pets and acknowledgements. Ursula has the best life, but I bet she would fit in perfectly with my Sam and Willie. Thank you, Ursula, for making us feel so at home!
We got to enjoy breakfast every morning with Federico’s perfect, strong coffee and warm milk, homemade bread toast with either muffins or coffee cake, fresh butter and homemade jams and apple juice – a perfect way to start each day.
We headed out the following day to Civita di Bagnoregio, but we didn’t realize the end two words were crucial to a proper GPS mapping. GPS showed Civita 457 km away! We finally found our way but too late for lunch which was a good thing as Italians like to eat, and we had a beautiful, full meal waiting for us when we returned to Casa Caponetti. Federico served us a Casa Caponetti-made slice of olive wood tray with housemade prosciutto, pork shoulder and lardo. Then, the piece de resistance. Federico pureed cauliflower into beautiful large raviolis and served with an Italian-herbed butter sauce. The cauliflower was as smooth as mashed potatoes. We will definitely copy his recipe when we get home. Why eat potatoes when you can have cauliflower like this? Involtini is thin strips of beef rolled around ‘something’. Ours was carrots and stems of Swiss Chard. It was served with steamed Swiss Chard and more of the roots. Italians go heavy on dinner and very light on dessert – fine by me!!
Thursday, we took it easy. After a lovely breakfast, we headed back to our casetta and read and rested, trying to catch up with our jet lag. We drove into Tuscania, the neighboring town – NO, not Tuscany!! – Tuscania is one of the oldest towns in all of Italy from the Etruscan era, 600BC. We wanted to make sure we could find our dinner restaurant, selected by Federico – Dieci Sedie, which means Ten Chairs, and literally is. More about that in the next post. We wanted a picnic, so Federico sent us to Campagna Amica. It was so cold, however, that we ended up eating there. More about THAT in the next post. What a treat!!
Friday, we awoke to our wonderful breakfast and a poached egg supplied by Campagna Amica – eggs aren’t usually a breakfast offering in Italy, even Europe – well maybe the UK.
Federico made a reservation for us at Angiolina in Pitigliano for 1pm, about an hour away. We have TWO GPS devices and both took us up a narrow dirt road to nowhere. An hour late, we finally arrived. I have to write about the most amazing lunch we had separately.
Federico was at the ready for our dinner, which we really didn’t need, but it was Dave’s FAVORITE dish, Carbonara. Federico grew up in Rome where Carbonara is a local favorite, so we knew we were in for a treat. Federico couldn’t help himself, however, even when we asked for a light meal. (We blew out a tire on the way home in the dark, so I started with vino upon arrival!) We brought to Federico the most amazing winter tomatoes from Vesuvio. They last six months. Federico made a puree on homemade bruschetta. Next came Federico’s wonderful Carbonara. It was served over Rigatoni. The secret is to fry shaved pancetta instead of diced. Remove from the pan, and then mix in the pecorino, eggs and pepper mixture. Toss the pasta, then add the pancetta. It was extraordinarily delicious and amazingly lighter than it sounds. Next came what I think was flank steak, cooked a perfect medium rare with farm-grown carrots. I used to think ugly carrots weren’t good, but they are some of the best.
Muto grazie to Federico and the Caponetti family for their wonderful hospitality. If you get to Italy, you need to go here, and you need to go to each and every restaurant that Federico recommends. I’ll write about three of them shortly. Amazing food, amazing finds, lovely country and beautiful people. Who could ask for more!?!?!?!