It is a queer place, reminiscent of a Los Angeles hill-side villa from the movies, right down to the outdoor swimming pool (sadly covered over at the time of our wintry visit) and palm trees, and offers quite nice views into the Vomano valley. Internally Villa Nerina’s restaurant walls are a cheering terracotta red, utilising the sponging technique so popular throughout the UK once upon a time, combined with brickwork, and the tables & chairs a smart dark wood with white table cloths. We were waited upon by two pleasant, smartly-attired (apart from the sneakers) young chaps, and presented with menus, something of a rare occurrence in our Abruzzo dining history.
One of the joys of driving in Abruzzo lies in the knowledge that simply getting off the beaten track sometimes bears fruit due to the agristurismi, ristoranti, etc., that you can stumble upon. One such fruit, and a strange one at that, was the restaurant Villa Nerina, which we found recently in the vicinity of a small hill-top town called Miano, Teramo, reachable by road from the SS150 between Montorio & Val Vomano.
We have driven by this way many times, and indeed often wondered what curiosi Miano might have to offer; however, more recently we noticed another smaller signpost at the Miano junction, “Villa Nerina”… a house of such singular historic importance it needed its own signpost? a luxury hotel? a particularly egotistical ex-pat homeowner with delusions of grandeur? A vague niggle persisted about a restaurant rumoured to be up that way, so one dark night we braved the winding road and ascended.
Shortly before Miano one of the road’s curves leads to a small car park, signposted “Villa Nerina”. From there a short flight of stairs took us to the entrance of the building, and more parking, here lined with expensive cars – a cheeky peek through one of the windows confirmed that it was indeed a restaurant, though the only diners were a group of serious-looking besuited men.
After trying the door [locked], knocking [no reply] and switching on & off their Christmas lights [just to amuse ourselves] we decided to brave the rear-entrance kitchen to see if the staff could tell us if the restaurant was open to the general public (rather than privately booked for some local “capi”…of industry, or similar…). Not sure if our bumbling curiosity endeared us sufficiently to them to indulge us or if they had simply forgotten to open the door, but we were in!
However, a certain horror did at this point begin to overtake us, two-fold, firstly due to previous experience of eating in Abruzzo we had not thought it necessary to bring much money with us and this restaurant is definitely expensive relatively speaking, but to add to the anxiety Villa Nerina’s menus were it seemed hand-written in gold & brown ink in an often impenetrable hand! Many of the strange words either seemed almost derived from some Lovecraftian Cthulu cuisine guide, mind-bending alter-dimensional variants on things we thought we might have had before, or were just impossible for us to understand at all.
I daresay our limited Italian meant that we suffered disproportionately, but in the end we gave up and asked the waiter for a recommendation from some of the options we thought we could partially decipher, and plumped for two interesting sounding pasta dishes (there were not anti-pasti available it seemed, that we knew of anyway), accompanied by a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (at c.€17 one of the cheapest available, scary in Abruzzo!).
The pasta in both dishes was cooked to perfection, excellently al dente; one dish, a fusilli, served with “pâté di san giorgio” (small balls of sausage meat) & savoy cabbage was enhanced refreshingly with fenugreek to great effect. The pasta dishes were again expensive by Abruzzo price-standards (between €10 & €16), but if they were all as good as these then well worth the occasional splurge.
The second course was not quite so uplifting, as we had in our newly developed sense of nervous frugality opted to keep the price down and simply have sausages this time round. Firm, plump, classic Abruzzo sausages, but slightly let down by the somewhat uninteresting salad we chose to accompany them…and at €16 this was still, like the sausages admittedly, a bit rich.
All round, definitely worth a visit. The higher-than-usual prices was a bit of a shocker to us, but the pasta was amazing and the wine was good. The décor might seem a little too familiar to some who remember the UK fad for the Med-style of a few years ago, but the location is sweet, and there is outdoor seating available apparently for the warmer parts of the year, and the pool of course! Villa Nerina was preparing to host a new year (capodanno) bash with 4-course dining & dancing for the bargain price of €130 when we were there…about 4 years ago that price might have tempted us…
Price for two incl. wine: €70
Quality of Food: 8/10
Value for Money: 6/10
Address: Contrada da Sole Miano – 64040 Teramo
(No website & no email)