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