12 Apr,2017 By Jagabond
“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” – Kurt Vonnegut
So here I am talking about food. This isn’t so much a restaurant review as it is a love letter. Nestled in the hills of Montemarano lies Antico Casale, an incredible Italian restaurant where you don’t just eat but sleep as well. I stayed two nights in a room above the restaurant, and enjoyed two amazing meals.
I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the multi-course meal, where servers keep bringing out small plates that you scarf down before realizing how full you’re getting. Antico Casale made me a fan, with their choice of meat or fish option of which I tried both on successive evenings. As I walked in the first night I noticed the book on my table and smiled…food always tastes better when the establishment is pro-evolution!
The Italian view of a good meal translates to a slow, methodical process, so this was a three hour adventure in eating. Starting things off was the amazing homemade white wine, which had strong banana and pear notes. For some reason wine tastes better from an unlabeled bottle. The bread basket was perfect – soft and fluffy unlike normal Italian bread. A large party celebrating a gentleman’s 84th birthday was looking at me curiously, wondering about the strange American dining alone.
More highlights of my Italian culinary exploit:
Octopus with cream sauce – For decades my only experience with squid and octopus was fried calamari. This course, however, was far from pub food. Such a beautifully presented dish, and it was cute how the tentacle curled.
Mussels – This is something I would typically never order, as there isn’t much ‘bang for the buck’ with the amount of meat being so small. I really liked the added touch of mixing tomatoes into the shells.
Eggplant quiche – ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’, but I did anyway. I usually hate all forms of eggplant, which was difficult the years I was a vegetarian. Maybe the cheese and tomato sauce masked the flavor, but I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Fried peel and eat shrimp – Because it was fried you couldn’t peel it, so it was basically eating the entire shrimp, exoskeleton and all. This brought back memories of soft shell crab on Bourbon Street.
Antipasto plate – This is meant to be an appetizer, but Italian restaurants here give you so much you nearly get full from it. I’m becoming a huge fan of thinly sliced meat.
Homemade pasta – It definitely tastes better than pasta from the bag or box. One of these days I need to shoot a video of the process, I love those pasta making machines!
Dessert – I thought immediately of ‘heaven on the tongue’, especially after plunging my fork into the cake and watching the chocolate lava ooze out from the inside.
Antico Casale is a gastronomical gem, exceeding even the Michelin 3-star I dined at in France. The inside atmosphere is quaint yet romantic, and the restaurant is set on beautiful grounds overlooking the Italian countryside. For bonus points, there is a swimming pool open during the summer months, and a friendly cat roaming around outside to greet the patrons.
If you want some nightlife after your meal, plan your trip around their ‘disco night’ schedule, which usually happens once a month. I shot the video below early on, so it doesn’t capture how many people eventually showed up from all the neighboring towns.
How to get there: The town of Montemarano is approximately a one hour drive from Naples. Antico Casale is in a pretty isolated location, so be careful about trusting your GPS with the address. You can visit their Facebook page here.