We weren’t being fair to Ristorante Clemente. We knew it . . . but we couldn’t help ourselves. We had allotted one night, one dinner in Abruzzo, a region in which neither of us had passed time. We sought to “taste Abruzzo” in that one meal. No small order.
We were in the small city of Sulmona on our way to Puglia. Our Ital’guru Fred Plotkin, author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, picks Sulmona as his “Classic Town” of the mountainous region east of Rome. Ristorante Clemente appears first on his “Dining List” and his description appealed to us. For insurance, we inquired of our hotelier and a local barista where we should dine. “Clemente,” they both answered. We even scouted out the restaurant location, tucked on a tiny back street, so we’d have no problem finding it later in the dark.
So it was that Walter roused me from a my nap at 7:15 p.m. so we could arrive when the doors opened for dinner service. He worried that a place this touted would fill up fast. No such problem transpired. Upon entry, we were invited to choose our own table and selected one deep in the rear of the main room under a splendid stone vaulted ceiling. Stone and gesso walls the color of cantaloupe cream, exciting food-related art work, photos of family members and a couple canvasses and prints of Sulmona created a cozy setting.
Chef/owner Clemente Maiorano, with warm brown eyes and salt-and-pepper Julius Caesar haircut-greeted us with a one-page menu. We asked if we could place our appetites in his able hands. He seemed pleased and disappeared through the archway into the kitchen. The waiter took over and reminded us how perfect service in Italy can be. Not obsequious, not aloof, just professional.