Recommended by Orlando at Castello di Monterado as a small local restaurant serving authentic Marche cuisine, we wend our way through the lovely rolling rural landscape of the Terre di Fratulla, ancient farmland with roots dating back to the middle ages, and found ourselves at La Nicchia, an old restored farmhouse at the end of a long winding country lane. Founded in 2008 by Chef Giordano Manzo, La Nicchia specializes in 'pasta fresca fatto a mano' — fresh homemade pasta prepared each day by Giordano and his 90 year old aunt, Zia Massina. Relaxed and informal, there is no menu. Chef Manzo comes out from the kitchen and tells us what's on the evening menu and suggests the Tagliatelle all'uovo con Fungi followed his outstanding Gnocchi Ripieni con Ragu all'Anatra, pillowy gnocchi filled with meat then bathed in a rich duck ragu. Reappearing from the kitchen, he clears the plates and asks, "tutti e buono?" "Si, si, assolutamente", we answer, whereupon he tells us what he has for 'secondi piatti e contorni' and we decide on the Stinco di Maiale al Forno with patate rosti and erbe di campo. Deeply flavoured and roasted to perfection, the richness of the pork shank was deliciously balanced with the bitterness of the sautéed greens and crisp roasted potatoes. With a small plate of homemade Crostate di Ciliegie e di Pesche as a piccolo dolce, we bid arrivaderci to Chef Manzo, and drive back to Castello di Monterado, well fed and ready for bed.
Wondering if we found the correct farmhouse...
The charming stone interior of La Nicchia
Relaxed and informal, La Nicchia is surrounded by the rolling countryside of the Terre di Fratulla
A menu of typical Marche dishes at La Nicchia
Two half litres of local white and red wine
A glass of light white wine, most likely harvested from local grapes
Chef Giordano Manzo
Tagliatelle all'uovo con Funghi, made by hand
Gnocchi Ripieni con Ragu all anatra
Stinco di maiale al forno
Erbe di campo - wild herbs
Crostate di Ciliegie e di Pesche
At almost 90 Masina still makes the dough each day, "fatto a mano"
Chef Manzo in the kitchen making his tagliatelle all'uova
Chef Manzo's sensational Gnocchi Ripieni which is gnocchi filled with meat