Locanda delle Streghe (Witches’ Inn) is nestled on the small perimeter alley of the historic centre of the small town of Castel del Monte in L’Aquila province. Opened in 2009, Locanda delle Streghe is a tasty new addition to this beautiful medieval town that sits on the edge of Campo Imperatore, also known as Little Tibet.
Within this intimate & friendly space, the cheerily obliging staff of this of L’Aquila locanda create astonishing food from a host of the very best locally-sourced ingredients. The locanda was created following the earthquake in 2009 when a doctor and her family who lost their home and livelihood following the collapse of the historic centre of L’Aquila bought and fostered a new income for the family. Their new found careers offering both accommodation & dining are a bright new star, testimony to this is that the crew of the George Clooney film The American stayed here whilst filming locally.
We started with a range of bruschetta, an incredible walnut & ricotta, truffle, artichoke and HOT peperoncini – that HOT comes with a warning, if you want food good enough for the local Abruzzesi, expect to have a warming kick where appropriate.
Following on in the stream of antipasti was a wide-ranging assortment of some of the best cheeses that I’ve encountered in a restaurant in Abruzzo. These are made by a local Philosopher who gave up her profession to make cheese and how ever trite it sounds a lot of thought goes into them. My favourite out of the 3 that was served was a pecorino that had a smidgen of fig mixed into the cheese. The owner of Locanda delle Streghe makes some truly delicious onion relish, a sweet but tangy shallot that worked perfectly as did the local variation on marmalade, firmer almost quince jelly in a fashion its bitter sweet citrus tang offset the richness of the flowers and berries you can almost taste from the cheeses perfectly.
Next came along prosciutto, lamb & pork salami and a bowl of the richest liver casserole – watch out a couple of tablespoons is the most you will be able to eat without spoiling the next 2 courses. Of course you couldn’t eat within the Castel del Monte area without a bowl of the legendary ceci – chickpeas that stubbornly grow so well in the local mountain terraced fields and have quite a unique delicate flavour.
For primo piatti our party had plump chestnut ravioli. The pasta was made with chestnut flour, whose sweetness combined perfectly with a little drizzle of peperoncini oil. Stuffed inside was chestnut paste and ricotta, whose delicious but soporific effect has to be carefully balanced, no more than 3 of these delicious cushions if you are going to pace yourself to…
the best lamb I’ve eaten in Abruzzo. Not for those who like their meats well done, this arrosti was quite divine, even bowling over those Stateside whose love of lamb is far from legendry. Succulent is not always a word that often springs to mind from an Abruzzo brace (grill) but the meat served here certainly is and really worth trying even if you think you can eat no more lamb in Abruzzo.
Certainly, worth a visit, the witch theme of the locanda will certainly entertain kids and reinforces the belief of white curative & homoeopathic witches of times gone by in Abruzzo rather than the sinister black type. Every August 17th, the local town of Castel del Monte holds a Witches’ Night celebrating local folklore, during the day there is an artisan market where you can buy local specialities.
I’d suggest booking lunch or dinner by email or telephone first or visiting first before you go off sightseeing to give notice that you would like to eat there. Accommodation enquiries by email.
Price – €50 with 1 litre of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (2 people sharing)
Value for money – 9.5/10
Quality of food – 9.5/10
Locanda delle Streghe | Via della pineta, 23 | 67023 – Castel del Monte (AQ)
Telephone: 0862938911 | Email: locandadellestreghe[at]gmail.com