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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Montecalvo-Irpino, Italy: Abbiamo Mangiato Molto Bene e Pagato Poco (We Ate Very Well And Paid Very Little)

La Cantina di Baffone
Contrada Palombaro
Montecalvo, Irpino
Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy
Phone: +39-334-182-5144
Prices: €€€€

An agriturismo in my paternal grandfather's hometown, we discovered La Cantina di Baffone a few years back and I have never gone for a visit without at least one meal there. Just down the hill from downtown Montecalvo, a small, hillside town 60 miles east of Naples, the restaurant seems to be far from civilization in a relaxed and peaceful setting surrounded by olive and cherry orchards ... AHHHHHHH!

Owned by the lovely and very kind Daniela Racioppi, who does most of the interacting with guests, she greeted me warmly as usual and quickly gave us the menus. Knowing the menu very well, we quickly ordered some mineral water and a liter of the local red wine for the four of us as well as some bruschetta (€1.50/$1.75 - FYI: the "ch" in Italian is pronounced like our "k', so it is pronounced brew-sket-ah, not brew-shet-a) and a Caprese salad (€5/$5.75). The bruschetta was delish and the Caprese salad was bigger and better than most places that charge between €7/$8 and €12/$13.75.

Having been born about 15 miles away, my grandmother's cooking was very similar to the dishes found in this region, so I always feel right at home here. None of the pizzas are over €5 ($5.75) and they are the cheapest I have seen in recent memory, here or in Naples, and the most expensive thing on the menu is just €7 ($8). Naples is chock full of fabulous pizzerias, so my focus on this occasion was on the cucina tipica (local cuisine), Montecalvese in this case. 

For our first courses (primi), my cousin Gino, nephew Francesco and I all had the Cicatielli e Broccoli (€5/$5.75). Cicatielli (dialect) is a local pasta that is known as Cavatelli in other parts of Italy. With just the right amount of perfectly cooked pasta, the broccoli leaves were not overwhelmed by the light, olive oil sauce holding the pasta together. Top it with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and you have a delicious pasta dish that would easily cost two to three times the price elsewhere.
As they say, "great minds think alike", so the three of us also ordered the Patane e Pupini (€5) for our secondi (second dish), a traditional combination of roasted sweet sausage, chunks of stewed beef, red and green bell peppers, and potatoes. My grandma used to make this and it was one of my dad's favorite dishes, and Da Baffone always does an excellent job in their preparation. Along with some local bread, I had to "fare la scarpetta" (to do the little shoe) with the leftover sauce, using a small piece of local bread to mop up the wonderful juices I could not possibly have left behind. My Italian-born wife always tells me that it is frowned upon in public, but I could not resist.

Thoroughly stuffed, I had no room for dessert, but Gino and Francesco order the cheesecake (€2.50), a house specialty, one drizzled with caramel and the other a fresh fruit sauce with strawberry, raspberry, and cherry from trees in the adjacent grove. The graham cracker crust was perfect and the filling as good as any stateside restaurant, a dessert easily fetching twice the price at most places.
Cantina di Baffone is a rarity and a place you can only find only off the beaten track in a place only locals know. The prices are ridiculously cheap, the portions big, and the food incredible. For a party of four, we ate extremely well for €15 per person, including drinks, making this restaurant an exceptional value. We only see my relatives once every year or two, but the next time we are in Montecalvo we will return to Cantina di Baffone for another inexpensive and delicious meal.

CombatCritic Gives Cantina di Baffone 10 Out Of 10 Bombs ... TravelValue Does Not Get Any Better Than This Folks ... More Bombs Are Better!

Ten Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: 

HOOAH!: "Phonetic spelling of the acronym HUA, which stands for 'Heard Understood Acknowledged.' Originally used by the British in the late 1800's in Afghanistan. More recently adopted by the United States Army to indicate an affirmative or a pleased response." - Urban Dictionary

"The Department of Military Science and Leadership, University of Tennessee claim HOOAH 'refers to or means anything except no' ... Regardless of its meaning ... the term is an expression of high morale, confidence, motivation and spirit." -

"The U.S. Air Force stole 'HOOAH' from the Army because we were part of the Army until 1947 and rather than waste a bunch of time coming up with something new and unique like "ROO-YAH" or "HAL-A-LOO-YAH", we said 'screw it, let's go with HOOAH' ... thanks Army ... HOOAH!" - CombatCritic
Read More Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "GOLD" ELITE '14/'15/'16/'17/'18 
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Read Chris S.'s review of La Cantina di Baffone on Yelp

Tabelog - Official Judge - "Silver"

Zomato - #1 Ranked "VERIFIED" CONNOISSEUR (13) - Over  4 Million Review And Photo Views ... And Counting #1 Reviewer in Portland, Oregon! - Frequent Traveler "Genius"

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Title: Montecalvo-Irpino, Italy: Abbiamo Mangiato Molto Bene e Pagato Poco (We Ate Very Well And Paid Very Little)

Key Words: La Cantina di Baffone, cantina, baffone, Contrada, Palombaro, Montecalvo, Irpino, Avellino, Campania, agriturismo, restaurant, Italian, Italy, review, menu, CombatCritic, travel, value, Yelp

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