Last April, Don and I dined in a cozy cave.
Well, sort of. It was a memorable, cave-like, dining adventure.
Osteria Rottezzia Birreria?
I photographed this sign, to help me remember the name of our wonderful restaurant. I was confused by the name. What was that letter with the bird figure? That's an R!
Osteria means tavern. Birreria means brewery. I'm not sure what Rottezzia means. Maybe it means cave or tunnel, since our tavern/brewery/restaurant had a few!
Soriano ne Cimino
Don and I found the curious restaurant in the charming Italian town of Soriano nel Cimino. About an hour north of Rome.
In my photo you can see a large blocky church, rising up on the right. The church seems determined to be as tall as the castle on the hill. Our little restaurant is out of view, but the arrow sort of points near the entrance.
Near the San Nicola
What's so important about explaining where we found our cozy restaurant? I guess the location was a part of the dining adventure. Plus, there was a curious connection between the church and the cave-like restaurant.
The first morning of our stay in Soriano, we wandered over to see San Nicola, the community's main church. Then we headed down a staircase, between the church and more buildings.
We passed beneath a sign for Rottezzia and found the entrance halfway down. Looking up from below, the church building created a massive wall, on the left.
To the right, the restaurant seemed to be, part building and part rocky hillside. I headed for the door under the canopy, to inquire about reservations later.
Tavern in a Cavern
A very kind young man was setting up for the day and gave me a quick tour.
I followed him from the little bar, through a maze of passages.
Tunnels and Stairs
I only know a few words of Italian, so I wasn't able to get the full story. But the little caves and tunnels evidently had something to do with excavation.
This is where the stone was removed in the late 17th century, to build San Nicola! I suddenly pictured that massive blocky church we'd seen up close and from a distance. That's a lot of stone!
The Red Carpet
I followed my young guide down the red carpet. It felt like a mining cave... in Hollywood!
The passage was much darker than my photos, but my eyes adjusted.
Storage and Shelter
I was excited to peek into some spaces that appeared to be old wine cellars. I learned later that these areas were used for storage, but also as bomb shelters, in WWII.
I've been in quite a few caves in my time. I've even slept in a couple. So these cave-like spaces didn't fool me. There were no stalactites or stalagmites... no bats.
But these hollow areas were in some ways more fascinating than any of the natural caves I've explored. I wish I knew more about how the rock was removed, hundreds of years ago. And who were the people who hid here, when planes bombed the city in 1944? It's sobering to think about.
I have no idea when this carved out space became a restaurant.
I hurried through, wondering what the restaurant would look like the next evening, when we came to dine.
Dining with a View
We could have requested a table with this lovely view.
But I was excited about the cozy cave experience.
The young man took our reservation and we returned the next evening.
Our server Nilo, greeted us when we arrived at 8. He took us to a rocky space with 4 tables.
I should have asked Nilo what our room was named. I'll bet the staff has their own nicknames for each of the areas. I will name it the B-L Room. Our space was between levels.
I've loved levels since I was a kid and split-level homes were in vogue. Luckily Don and I don't have issues with all the ups and downs, within Rottezzia. Our wooden table gave us a view of an upper sitting area.
Behind us there was an opening with more stairs, leading down to more passages.
Food and Drink!
In no time, Nilo had our white cloth covered in good things.
We ordered a carafe of wine and the Flan di Funghi... appetizer.
The mushroom flan with black cabbage and local cheese cream, was so odd and delicious!
We each ordered very similar pasta dishes. Mine was Fettucini con Crema di Funghi. (I enjoyed my second mushroom themed dish!) The fresh noodles and salty bacon were quite flavorful.
Don's Tonnarello all Carbonara had similar ingredients, but was made with thick, round noodles. I think I actually preferred his. Hmmm? Closer inspection of photos and I see flat noodles in both.
Info for Later
We finished up and thanked Nilo. He had been gracious and attentive.
I was eager to ask him what was written on this framed wall display. But I let him attend to some other guests who had finally joined our room. I took a photo and will eventually translate it.
It was a pleasant walk home to our hotel Palazzo Catalani. We met up with one of the kitties, we'd seen on our walk over
One of the pair accompanied us to our hotel. What a pleasant way to end a pleasant dining adventure.
Road Trip Lunch
This is where Don "took me to lunch" last June. It was the first day of our Texas-Oregon-Texas Road Trip.
Don knows I love a drive-in and he knows I love a small town. On that day, he happened to know there was a drive-in, in Post, Texas.
C.W. Post's Small Texas Town
Post is a curious little town. It was founded in 1907, by the man who brought us Post Cereal.
The history is definitely worth Googling. The more I read about Mr. Post's Utopian dream town, the more I want to know. I was glad Don picked this small town to support for our lunch stop.
It was after 1 pm, when Don pulled off of US 84. Yay! A drive-in, with actual curb service!
And who was Holly anyway? I was eager to find out.
It was actually too hot to eat in the car, so we headed inside. I had a feeling the interior hadn't changed much in 50 years.
The walls in the dining space were covered with framed photos and articles. I was drawn to the table near the family portraits. Was Holly the woman in the large frame, posing with her husband and children?
While we waited for our food, I studied the popcorn ceiling and painted paneling and the brick-ish walls. This space probably looked pretty much the same when Holly's opened in 1971.
I studied the images on the wall and read the captions... "Matt Holly" and "Coach Holly" I realized quickly, Holly was a last name.
Burger and Tots!
Before long we were devouring our tasty burger and dog! Much better than fast food lunch!
Don was very excited about his cheeseburger and tots, as you can tell. I had a taste and it reminded me of my favorite Steak-N-Shake burgers.
I was equally excited about my chili cheese dog! I was actually pretty glad I wasn't eating my sloppy lunch in the car!
After dining beneath the Holly Family, I had some questions when we headed to the counter after our meal.
A very pleasant young woman told us that the Holly Family still owned the drive-in. She pointed to the woman in the portrait and said "Mary is here today!" She went to get her from a small office area.
Mary was a bit baffled at first, wondering why some diners wanted to meet her. But we ended up having a great chat about the family photos. First she laughed and noted how much younger she looked in the family portrait. Then she frowned and pointed to the empty space between the 2 lower photos.
There were a few minutes of worry about the missing photo of Matt. Mary explained that Matt was the child she was pregnant with, when the family portrait was taken. A photo of Little Matt holding a trophy had been added to the display later. It was placed between the 2 photos of his parents. But where was the portrait of the family's baby?
Moments later, Mary's daughter-in-law came to the rescue, holding Matt's smiling face in a broken frame. She said it had fallen recently. Mary fiddled with the frame a bit and fretted over how faded the image was.
She told us that Matt was holding a trophy that he'd gotten while participating in the the annual Mr. Post Contest. (Some kind of "cute kid" contest, I believe) I'm guessing Matt collected quite a few trophies over the years. His mother pointed to the walls and said those were all photos of Matt, when he was a young football player and later a coach.
Good Stop Good Folks
The lunch rush was over, so Mary was able to fill us in on all the kids and what they were now doing. She was clearly a proud mom and grandmother. Her granddaughter now helps out at Holly's.
Mrs. Holly seemed genuinely pleased that we'd stopped in, at the beginning of our road trip. We told her we would be headed back to Texas in a couple weeks, traveling with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. She seemed delighted that we might stop in again. She shook our hands and wished us safe travels.
Unfortunately, we took a different route. It would have been fun to have introduced some of our family to some of Mary's. Maybe another time!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.