Hearty traditional dishes and exaggerated portions in rural family-run restaurants, – Abruzzo does these two very well. However, there is a fair share of sophisticated Michelin star eateries in the region as well. So when you feel like taking a break from the gargantuan pasta loads on your plate and long for something a bit more sophisticated yet still in line with local traditions, head to Al Metrò, one Michelin star restaurant in San Salvo. I’ve had lunch there recently and what a meal it was!
Brothers Nicola and Antonio Fossaceca turned what used to be a pastry shop owned by their parents into a sleek restaurant with minimalistic décor and innovative menu. Nicola, the chef, creates exquisite dishes using local ingredients with a flair. In 2012, when he was only 29, Al Metrò received one Michelin star, a well-deserved recognition of the chef’s culinary talent.
Nicola is very fond of smaller, less popular fish rarely seen on the menu of gourmet restaurants. One of his signature dishes is Triglia in scapece espresso, deep-fried red mullet with a sweet-and-sour dressing of honey and vinegar. It is light, crispy and elegant, which you can hardly expect from “poor man’s” fish.
What I really like about Nicola’s dishes is the way he skilfully mixes seafood with meat, showcasing “mare” and “montagna” of the region. The menu features such masterpieces as seaweed gnocchi and lupine beans (Gnocchi Verdi di Lattuga di Mare e Lupini), mantis shrimps with chicory (Cicoria e Cicale di Mare), cold soup with ricotta, celery and oysters (Zuppa Fredda di Ricotta Ostrica e Sedano). The risotto with green beans, pear and baby squid that I had was another great example of his mastery. The rice topped with crispy squid, streaks of pancetta and sprinkled with sea lettuce. The pieces of pear added a wonderful sweet note while sharp herby olive oil rounded off this unusual ensemble. Despite the elaborate looks, the underlying philosophy of Nicola’s dishes is simplicity.
Antonio Fossaceca is the sommelier and he knows exactly what wine to recommend to complement the best flavours of Nicola’s creations. He served a bottle of exquisite Pecorino from Azienda Agricola Faraone (head to their website, they sell wine online!), which was a wonderful discovery and became one of my favourite local wines since.
The sweet offering was Il Nostro Parozzo Abruzzese, a chef’s take on the traditional dessert. Delicate sweetened ricotta sprinkled with chocolate shavings was a great final chord for this special meal.
Prices at Al Metrò are kind on the pocket. They range from €16 to €30 (for the most expensive dish, the brodetto fish soup). If you are in a small group, you can order a 6- or 8-course menu for €60 and €80 respectively.