‘Bentornato’ ‘Welcome back’ is a phrase ringing round the Sibillini mountains and the tiny hamlet of Isola San Biagio, in Le Marche, Italy. They are talking to Enrico Mazzaroni, who has been holidaying down at the coast for the last couple of years.
But it’s been far from a simple holiday. After sustaining damage in the earthquakes in 2016, Enrico and his team moved down from their mountain home to open a new seafood version of Il Tiglio – The Lime Tree, where the menu was fish based. And now, much to everyone’s delight, like a phoenix from the flames, he is back. To the tiny, unassuming mountain hamlet where Enrico’s family have lived for generations farming the land and producing the most amazing natural ingredients for this very special restaurant.
As we arrive in Isola San Biagio, just outside Montemonaco, tucked away in the little known Le Marche countryside, we wonder where we are heading. The tiny, rustic village in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by majestic mountains which seem to rise straight from the hamlet. We park and cross the road, spotting the beautiful new metal door with ‘Tiglio’ cut in style. We’ve arrived!
With great anticipation and excitement, we ring the doorbell and are immediately welcomed by one of the waiting staff. We pass through the restaurant, which has been designed in a wonderful mix of modern and rustic and is perfect blend for the old stoned walled building which houses the new Tiglio.
Our waitress shows us out to the terrance and immediately we are struck by the simplicity of the table surrounded by the magnificence of the mountains. The bright blue sky contrasting with the bright yellow broom or ginestra in Italian. Just stunning.
We start with a welcome prosecco, chilled perfectly for this hot summers day. A salute to the return of this special place and to Enrico who has worked tirelessly to carry on and make a success of his passion and his life.
Soon the wonderful food starts to arrive. With some tiny amuse bouche to start. A dark chocolate casing around a liquid truffle centre which just melts in our mouths. The most amazing sensation and flavour. Yes Il Tiglio is definitely back!
We delight our tastebuds with these tasty morsels. First a basket of oyster shells topped with open shells filled with a light mix of oyster, celery and cream. Wow. Accompanied by Ribona, a fresh, crisp Le Marche white. Well where else would it be from?
Next we try the toasted almond wrapped in lardo. The crunch of the almond mixed with the softness of the lardo is a great combination.
We stare at the little, perfectly formed golden ‘eggs’ sitting in front of us. Knowing our chef, Enrico, very often things are not quite what they seem, so carefully we bite into the crispy round spheres. Inside a surprise. A wonderful gooey Parmesan sauce oozes from within. Just sensational.
A tiny tart entices us from across the table. A thin crunchy case filled with the most intense roasted onion purée. So perfectly tasty.
And we haven’t even mentioned the bread yet. Simply the best brown bread with locally grown grains. A crisp crust encases a soft, warm interior. Served with lemon thyme butter. The perfect combination. The lightest, thinnest grissini and soft focaccia fills the basket. We know we shouldn’t eat so much as we have so many wonderful courses to come but it’s simply irresistible!
Our first official starter arrives, a wonderful steak tartare with cheesy pastry and light dressing.
Next the most stunning combination of softness and crunch. A crispy lettuce shell encases a slow cooked egg which just oozes to our delight as we cut them open. Topped off with tasty, soft lettuce picked straight from the orto, this really is a texture sensation.
And now to the carrot. THE carrot. The most tastiest carrot in the world we are sure. How anyone can pack so much intense flavour into one carrot is beyond us. A tiny miracle sitting in front of us waiting to tickle our tastebuds.
We move onto our funghi course. A mushroom lovers delight. Perfectly cooked porcini with a soft outer and a firmer middle bathing in the most tasty broth and served with tiny roast potatoes. Another wow!
Next to arrive is the first of our pasta dishes. Enrico brings us a delicious cherry Rosso Piceno wine to pare with simply the richest hare pasta we have ever tasted. The handmade pasta, made from locally grown wheat is again cooked to perfection and is perfectly combined with a creamy potato sauce.
Now tiny tortellini appear nestling atop a pine jus. Yes pine! Intense in flavour and definitely unique, Enrico once again goes for the wow factor. He certainly does not disappoint.
Our main course is lamb. Perfectly cooked and deliciously soft and moist, it is served with summer greens and a carrot purée.
And finally to the dessert. That dessert! A unique combination and we would never have guessed it. Enrico explains the lightest, chilled lemon foam sits next to a celery purée. Yes celery. And we were simply blown away. The combination of flavours work so well. Refreshing, simple, light and just the perfect ending to our most memorable dining experience.
But it wasn’t quite the end. A little silver tree arrives with glistening berries. Poached apple balls are surrounded by a raspberry gel. Simply stunning.
As now, as coffee is served, we reflect on a most memorable lunch, whilst gazing with full tummies at the wonderful Le Marche scenery.
Simple fresh flavours, the best homegrown produce, an intensely passionate chef in an unassuming hamlet with a charming rustic restaurant set under the majestic Sibillini’s. Bentornato Enrico and Il Tiglio team. You are back and we just know your are going to be a wonderful success.
We dined at Il Tiglio, Isola San Biagio, Montemonaco. The excellent value tasting menu is €38 per head excluding wine, water, coffee and cover charge.
Open every day for lunch and dinner.
We stayed at Il Nascondiglio The Hideaway farmhouse apartments and bed and breakfast, a pleasant 30 minute drive away www.thehideaway.eu
Flights available from the UK, with Ryanair to the nearby airports of Ancona, Perugia or Pescara, all less than a 90 minute drive away www.ryanair.com