Italian Comfort Food at Trattoria Montepaolo

Our day had begun with an architecture and history tour in the city of Forli (more to come about that) and we were on our way to what our blog project leader, Italian blogger Alessandra Catania, said was a “surprise” for lunch.  It was a rainy day in Romagna and along the way on the main road that goes from Forli to Florence, it started to rain very heavily. Behind the wheel, Alessandra turned the wipers on full speed and slowed down our van to better navigate the road in such a downpour.

I just barely made out a road sign indicating that Portico di Romagna was about 20km ahead. I had a touch of longing to keep driving to that little village where Mr. TWS and I had spent a wonderful four days feeling like part of the family. I speculated that a return visit might be our surprise. But soon, we made a turn off the road and headed into another small village, Dovadola, a town of about 1700 residents 20km southwest of Forli. Although I assumed we’d be stopping at a place in town, we continued on, climbing a winding road through a forested area in the hills. As we climbed, the rain subsided and we took in our surroundings.

"On the grounds of Trattoria Montepaolo"

On the grounds of Trattoria Montepaolo

We were soon slowing down on a driveway leading to our destination and an experience that I savored at the time and remember fondly.

The trattoria

Even at first glance, Trattoria Montepaolo appeared to offer warm, welcoming comfort, especially inviting on a chilly, rainy day like this.

"Trattoria Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

Trattoria Montepaolo

The trattoria has a lovely, secluded location in the Apennine hills, with a pastoral view even beautiful in the rain. The building looked like a perfect spot to spend a little time on such a day, so peaceful and out of the way that I wondered how anyone would even know about it. But the secret is out!

"Lovely view from lawn of Trattoria Montepaolo, Dovadola, Italy"

Lovely view from lawn of Trattoria Montepaolo

Although it was very quiet outside as we approached the entrance, the restaurant was bustling inside and all the tables appeared to be filled with diners. The aromas of the food were enticing and I couldn’t wait for lunch. The restaurant turned out to be larger than it first appeared as we were led to a smaller dining area where a table had been set for our group of bloggers as well as our guides for the day, Lisa Rodi and Dovadola mayor, Gabriele Zelli.

The cozy ambiance

"Bloggers with Lisa Rodi and Gabriele Zelli at Trattoria Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

Left: Lisa Rodi, Alessandra Catania, Gabriele Zelli Top right: Penny Sadler
Bottom right: Alessandra and me

The chef

Chef Franco Gamberini had been attracted by the beauty of this location on Monte Paolo and decided in  2001 to open his trattoria here. He and his wife Eleanor warmly welcome guests and serve creative culinary specialties of the Romagna and Tuscany regions, including homemade pasta and bread.

"Chef Franco Gamberini at Trattoria Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

Chef Franco Gamberini

The food

Our group left the food choices up to our Italian friends who chose delicious courses of which I’ve just got a few photos to show you. My mind is usually on digging in to the food before I take a photo! The courses included both meat and vegetarian varieties and were accompanied with select, carefully chosen wines, including of course, the region’s signature Sangiovese.

"Fossa cheese, mushrooms, rugola,  and pomegranate at Monte Paolo in Dovadola"

Fossa cheese, mushrooms, arugula, and pomegranate

This beautiful and innovative salad of mushrooms, arugala, fossa cheese and pomegranate shown above was a big hit with me. Fossa cheese (formaggio di fossa), special to the Romagna area, is a sharp, firm sheep’s milk cheese that literally means “pit cheese” as it is aged deep underground in straw-lined pits. The pasta dishes below were warm and hearty — perfect comfort food.

"Tortelli, passatelli, tagliatelle dishes at Trattoria Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

Tortelli di zucca e parmigiano con pancetta e porro (Pumpkin ravioli with parmesan, bacon and leek)
Passatelli su crema di porro e formaggio di Fossa (Passatelli cream of leek and Fossa cheese)
Tagliatelle al ragu di chianina (Tagliatelle with Chianina beef sauce)
(Thanks to Penny Sadler for providing me with Italian menu descriptions.)

After our ample family-style meal, we were happily full and ready to take a drive back into Dovadola to explore the village led by our local guides, Lisa and the mayor. There will be more to come in a future post about the extraordinary experience there.

But as a bonus, we were invited back later in the day to Trattoria Montepaolo for a special activity arranged just for us. When we returned, the restaurant was closed for the late afternoon so I was able to take this photo of the main dining area with its beautiful view through the picture windows.

"Views from the main dining room at Trattoria Montepaolo"

Main dining room

Our treat was a chance to learn from the chefs as they made pasta and piadinas. I didn’t have the hands-on experience that I got making pasta fresca in Santarcangelo in June, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching and appreciating the experts.

"Watching the pasta maker at Trattoria Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

Pasta making at Trattoria Montepaolo

"In the Trattoria Montepaolo kitchen making piadinas"

In the Trattoria Montepaolo kitchen making piadinas

And perhaps the best part was sitting down at lovely tables set for us to sample the freshly made piadinas with delicious regional meats and wine.

"Piadina and meats at Trattoria Montepaolo"

Freshly-made piadinas and meats

Always follow your heart

"Always follow your heart - entrance to Montepaolo in Dovadola, Italy"

“Always follow your heart”

As we entered and left the trattoria, this heart-shaped sign was visible above an archway offering a comforting and lovely message — ” Segui sempre il tuo cuore” meaning “Always follow your heart”.

For more information: Trattoria Montepaolo

Foodie travel tip: If you are in the Emilia-Romagna region during October, Dovadola is hosting their annual Truffle Fair and Festival on two Sundays, October 20th and 27th, 2013. The festival has been held there for over 40 years and is dedicated to the “Tuber magnatum pico” (white truffle) that is so abundant in Romagna.

Disclosure: This post was a part of Buonvivere Blog Tour, organized by Settimana del Buonvivere in collaboration with 21grammy.

I’m linking this post to Marcia Mayne’s “Foodie Tuesday” series on Inside Journeys and Nancie McKinnon’s Budget Traveler’s Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday. Check out links to more travel inspiration on their sites.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

41 thoughts on “Italian Comfort Food at Trattoria Montepaolo

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Isn’t that a nice message? It kind of sets the mood for the place when you arrive and gives you a good feeling as you’re leaving.

  1. Maria

    Trattoria Montepaolo is picturesque and I love that you went you to have a local experience, a bit off the path and dined like royalty. Now that’s what I call una bella esperienza. *grin*

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I was hungry when I arrived at the trattoria, but as soon as I walked in the door and smelled the aromas, I was absolutely craving their pasta. It was a delicious experience.

  2. Leigh

    I’m going out to what is considered Calgary’s best Italian restaurant tomorrow night to celebrate a wedding anniversary but I bet it doesn’t come close to what you’ve been dining on. The meals look scrumptious. Piadinas are new to me and as a carb lover I’m sure I’d be scarfing them down.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I had my first piadina when I was in Emilia-Romagna in June. They can be habit-forming. How was your Italian dinner experience in Calgary?

  3. Marcia

    I don’t blame you, Cathy. It’s hard not to dig in first then take photos of these delicious meals. And such a beautiful setting too. It was lovely that they invited you back for the demonstration.
    Thanks for the intro to Chef Franco and the tour!

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’ve been so lucky to experience such wonderful meals that I really should get better at taking photos. Fun to share them and get mouths watering. 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Pumpkin is a big favorite of ours. I make a lot of pumpkin pies this time of year. Wish I could make some of those fab Italian dishes.

  4. Therese

    Well thanks for making me so hungry for pasta already today – first thing in the morning! Wonderful exposé about this unique stop on your journey. I hope to find it myself one day! Gracie:-)

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Yeah, pasta cravings in the morning aren’t good. You have to wait too long to get them satisfied. Hope you had an early lunch today!

  5. Mike

    You know me and comfort food, Cathy! The picture of the view from lawn of Trattoria Montepaolo is absolutely awesome. Once again, you write a post where I want to be sitting and enjoying right there in the moment. I’m curious on that one dish as to the pomegranate?? Very interesting. Made by hand from scratch pasta oh how yummy 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I do know how much of a comfort food guy you are, Mike. I can just see you sitting outside at Trattoria Montepaolo with a nice dish of tagliatelle. Yes?

  6. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque)

    Thanks for remembering to take photos of the food before it was too late 😉 Those dishes look “authentic” and enticing. Thanks also for sharing this restaurant. Although the locals know about it, for a tourist, it would have to be a destination meal. I visited friends in Florence (Firenze) once who took me on the public bus to Fiesole overlooking the city for dinner at sunset—-one of the highlights of my trip and definitely not somewhere I would have thought to venture to on my own.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get a shot of all the courses. I just can’t help it! Sounds like your Fiesole experience was exceptional, too. Those are the best times, aren’t they?

  7. Pingback: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Emilia-Romagna » Traveling with Sweeney

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