Thursday, October 12, 2017

Il Convento & Anna Bocci: Corciano's Culinary Gems






Located in a beautiful 13th century Franciscan monastery next to the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Corciano, Il Convento is simply one of the best restaurants in Umbria. In 1223, San Francesco returning from the island stopped in Corciano, and in memory of his visit the construction of the church and monastery of San Francesco was started. Over 600 years later in 1839, Bishop Cittadini changed the convent into a summer residence for the Diocese of Perugia Seminary, and at the end of the 1950's, the property then passed to Luigi Battaglini, who with his wife Anna Bocci, transformed the convent into a restaurant. At 81, Anna Bocci continues to be the heart and soul of Il Convento, guardian of ancient recipes which with great passion she skilfully brings to life every day, with the help of her daughter Patricia and chef Gianluca. Serving simple but exceptional traditional Umbrian cuisine in the ancient barrel vaulted wine cellars of the former convent of San Francesco, we were welcomed by Patricia's delightful husband Cesare, who greets and graciously serves each guest at Il Convento. With an inspired menu, exceptional wine list, absolutely delicious dishes and warm Umbrian hospitality, dining at Il Convento is a soul satisfying delight. 



At the age of 81, Anna Bocci is the heart and soul of Il Convento 


Arriving for lunch for the second time in less than a week, Cesare had put away a special wine for our visit, a SAIO Merlot Cabernet Legenda Maior from Assisi — a small winery with great wines. Starting with a glass of Prosecco to honour our last lunch at il Convento for a while, we started with Anna's Frittata with fresh herbs. Lighter the air and absolutely delicious, we admired how she created enormously wonderful flavour with such simple ingredients. Indulging in her homemade pasta with black truffles was a foregone conclusion, having ordered it the time before, the Umbricelli con Tartufo Nero was my husband's favourite dish of the month. We intentionally shared the pasta having ordered the Bistecca alla Fiorentina which Cesare had strongly recommended when we arrived, one of Tuscan's signature dishes from the region's Chianina breed of cattle which are prized for their tenderness and flavour. In typical Italian style, simplicity rules the day. Little more than olive oil, rosemary, and salt are needed to highlight the rich flavour of the grilled meat which Anna cooked in an open fire in her modern kitchen on the second floor of the convent. Presented with fresh lemon and rosemary from the garden, the Bistecca was outstanding. Served with sautéed spinach and rosemary roasted potatoes, we weren't able to finish the steak, so Cesare insisted on wrapping the 'filetto' up for us to enjoy later. 

Full of admiration for the chef and her cuisine, Cesare brought us up to meet Anna and his wife Patricia, and were given a guided tour of the gorgeous modern kitchen where Anna weaves her culinary magic. Looking up into the interior courtyard from the kitchen, Anna gestured proudly to the three upper floors housing the original monks cells, which are in the process of being restored and converted into a hotel. A labour of love, the work is being performed with the utmost attention to detail and using only traditional materials. On the floor above the kitchen, Anna and Patricia showed us the ancient refectory where the monks ate their meals, a large stone room that is now used for hosting special banquets such as the Corciano Lions Club Dinner Anna was busy preparing for that evening for over 80 guests. A lovely gracious and inspiring woman, Anna was recently awarded the Cavaliere del Lavoro for her fifty years of work. Driven by passion, she is an inspiration and culinary gem.



The walled garden courtyard entrance to Il Convento

Il Convento is located in what were originally the ancient barrel vaulted wine cellars 
of the former 13th century convent

The outstanding menu of Il Convento with traditional Umbrian dishes and old recipes of 
owner and chef Anna Bocci

A glass of Prosecco to celebrate our second lunch at Il Convento,
our new favourite restaurant in Unbria

SAIO Merlot Cabernet Legenda Maior from Assisi was recommended by Cesare,
and was a gorgeous wine perfect with beef

Anna's light and fluffy fritatta con erbe, which we shared

Corciano is famous for its local bread and even holds an annual bread festival

Half portion of Il Convento's outstandingly delicious Tagliatelle al Tartufo Nero

Bistecca alla Fiorentina nel filetto

Carving the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, perfectly cooked 'al sangue' — bloody!

Local Corciano olive oil drizzled over the steak and garnished with a little sea salt and fresh pepper

Spinaci con olio e limone

Patate arrosti

Unable to finish the whole bistecca, Cesare graciously offered to wrap it up for us 
to enjoy at home to following day

Macchiato con latte caldo 

The ancient refectory of the monks is now used for holding special dinners