Cesena | Osteria Michiletta

The oldest tavern in Cesena is still one of the best, its good name definitively revived with the arrival of new keepers Rocco Angarola andJohanna Rapberger a decade ago. Pity they had to move from the original location, almost hallowed ground after nigh on 140 years of traditional culinary eminence, but it was only a stone’s throw, still in the historic heart of the Romagna town, and they took some of the fittings with them. The old inn counter and other ancient shop furnishings, duly restored to their earliest splendour, have pride of place in the new Osteria Michilettasmall, woody and intimate at street level but with an ample cellar in white-painted brick for larger parties. The simple, even spartan, look was the work of local architect Sanzio Castagnoli.

Johanna, originally from Austria, obviously feels very much at home here and greets you accordingly. She explains anything you need to know from the menu or blackboard with proud references to a philosophy which combines tradition with innovation and above all stresses the freshness and quality of all raw materials. She makes some of the delectable desserts, and suggests sweet wines from her homeland to go with them.

The rest is up to chef Rocco. He’s not from these parts either and amassed a wealth of experience around Italy and across the Atlantic before settling here. Well, sort of settling, because like many modern gourmets he’s bitten by a sort of culinary wanderlust. He has a particular passion for chocolate too. So if local recipes and ingredients make up the classics at the Osteria, the creative compulsion is also palpable: see the menu for a better idea. Whatever your choose, the impression is of excellent foodstuffs lightly and skillfully handled, and it’s a very pleasant one. An interesting wine list offers the best local products and a shrewd selection of bottles from farther afield. Cesena‘s well worth a look, with an impressive medieval town-centre and some great little shops: this is where to eat before moving on.