Foligno | Osteria Dodici Rondini

Foligno may not be everyone’s first Italian travel destination, though spectacular monuments abound, the hills and mountains around areUmbrian after all, and for various arcane reasons it seriously considers itself the centre of the world. What’s more (getting to the point here), it has a wine bar-cum-restaurant my gourmet friends are utterly smitten with, called Osteria Dodici Rondini. The defining feature of said Osteria – so say all – is its oste, thine host, the innkeeper, one Damiano Lunghi. With no disrespect to the sterling chef, Damiano is the highly professional heart and soul of the place: the originator of its relaxed décor and breezy, low-pressure atmosphere; true lover and connoisseur of fine foods and wines; amiable master of the art of hospitality. Everyone’s smitten with Damiano (and with his tattoos), in fact.

But not only. Eating is quite an experience at the Osteria Dodici Rondini, and a superior one according to those epicureans mentioned above. The hand-written menu reflects the best, seasonal, local products available on any given day, adeptly selected. Most dishes have traditional regional flavours and origins, but the creative streak runs right through the kitchen too and yields some distinctive and delectable results. Likewise drinking: choose from an impressive and unique list of wines made by small producers, mostly of organic or biodynamic inspiration (this is one of Damiano’s things), and craft beers.

Accessed via the portal of a 16th-century palazzo in the ancient heart of the town, the interiors are low-key and cosy under the vaulted brick ceilings and arches of various intimate spaces. Live music and colourful art on the walls aren’t unusual, and regular events featuring small wineries or food themes keep the place buzzing. The concept states ‘Mangiare Bere Pensare’. The music, the books, the mood and Damiano all suggest sharing ideas and even tables. Come summer, a jaunty row of extra tables appears in the narrow alley alongside the palazzo. It’s all very easy at the Osteria, and that, considering the quality, includes the bill. With thanks to my good friend Valentina Dalla Costa.