A story of resourcefulness and the audacity of two young entrepreneurs Giorgiana Guidi and Raffaele Tomaino
This story is not about the opening of a new place, nor a new business, but about the radical change that Giorgiana and Raffaele brought to their lives, to the life of a village and its inhabitants.
A gamble, many unknowns, and one certainty: the determination that drove them to invest in a place destined to fade away, whose great charm they appreciated and whose potential they understood. This is a virtuous entrepreneurial tale of the redevelopment and enhancement of Gualdo Cattaneo that has led to the creation of new jobs, new growth opportunities for local businesses, and finally to the reversal of the tendency of many inhabitants to abandon the village while encouraging new settlements.
Conquered by the ancient beauty of a quaint medieval village made up of castles and fortified buildings, a veritable defensive complex among the verdant Umbrian hills, Giorgiana Guidi and Raffaele Tomaino were able to grasp its uniqueness and decided to revive it with a sustainable tourism project and original and authentic receptivity.
Within the 15th-century walls of the ancient Gualdum Captaneorum, the work of Count Edoardo Cattaneo dating back to 975 A.D., the couple are opening hospitality at Il Grottino Hosteria e Residence, masterfully combining the most welcoming hospitality with a genuine cuisine featuring typical Umbrian flavors and fragrances.
“This project was born precisely as a challenge. – say Giorgiana and Raffaele – We arrived from Rome and discovered in Gualdo Cattaneo a magical and beautiful place where an activity capable of welcoming and offering a high level culinary proposal was missing. Our goal is to enliven this spectacular village, making it a destination to spend a pleasant evening for local visitors and a place to fall in love with for tourists. We let our clients experience beauty in the round, starting from the stay in our rooms, through the aperitif, to the dinner with delicacies from the kitchen and from the grill. We want life to flow through the alleys of this town that is a little gem: that’s why on Friday and Saturday evenings (and in the summer almost every night) we also offer musical entertainment, with evenings of live jazz music, of which Umbria is the home of choice. Gualdo Cattaneo is a magnificent village to experience, and we are working with the aim of making it widely known: already in the first months of activity, despite the difficult moments the world is experiencing, the responses have been enthusiastic.”
THE GROTTINO – PALACE OF TASTE
What was once the village rectory, i.e., the residence of the parish priest of the church in Beato Ugolino Square, is now a small palace, completely renovated and graced with many pots filled with plants.
On the ground floor, it is home to Il Grottino, in which different rooms welcome guests in every season of the year for lunch or dinner in full “premium osteria” style: inside is the central dining room with an open grill, and outside, on the terrace, stands a brightly lit crystal boule that makes it comfortable to eat immersed in the medieval heart of the village both in winter and, once the transparent walls are opened, in fine weather, cheered by a pleasant breeze. Opposite, in the same small square, a second patio also makes it possible to dine surrounded by beautiful historical and natural sights.
On the upper floors, occupying the entire building, is the residence, consisting of four rooms (two doubles, one triple and one quadruple on two levels) that provide the opportunity to stay and experience relaxing days where the car is forgotten and relaxation is a must. The landscape that can be admired from the windows of the rooms starts from the heart of the town, which was founded as a defensive complex consisting of castles and fortified buildings, and opens up to the surrounding hills.
In fact, the natural setting, not least the streets of Sagrantino, contributes to making the whole scenario even more enveloping, a truly unique place in which to refresh oneself and indulge in small wonderful luxuries: a walk, bike ride or horseback ride, refreshing dips in the pool, an afternoon spent reading, an evening of good food and good music.
THE HOSTERIA: CAREFULLY SOURCED PRODUCTS FOR AUTHENTIC DINING
Entering Il Grottino restaurant, one instantly feels embraced by a reassuring warmth: the welcoming ambiance, the smile of manager Luisa Minrath, who leads the dining team with a youthful and enthusiastic flair, and, last but not least, the excellent dishes curated by chef Marco Micucci, a native of Perugia who has made food his passion.
The son of art, who has always been involved behind the stove, Micucci lets his creative vein and energetic spirit express themselves in a proposal that combines Umbrian tradition with a desire for novelty, looking even beyond regional borders. The menu consists of dishes with genuine flavors, made from zero-kilometer ingredients, carefully selected from suppliers of local companies, such as vegetables from Cannara or the ever-present black truffle, a precious gastronomic jewel of the region.
The menu ranges from appetizers such as the Tagliere di salumi from the Torre Brado company, in Giano dell’Umbria, which specializes in raising pigs in a semi-wild state, to the Tortino of potato with creamy parmesan cheese and black truffle from Norcia, to the egg puff with truffle, prepared by double cooking and served in a small copper pan.
Then there are the first courses, where seasonality plays a starring role in dishes such as Beet Ravioli stuffed with burrata cheese with cream of zucchini and mint, Cantabrian anchovies, melon and yellow date coulis; the stuffed pasta, from the La Spiga pasta factory in Santa Maria degli Angeli, meets the sweetness of the local yellow date, which gives a cream that lends itself well to the contrast with the anchovies, in a balanced mix of sweetness – added by the melon and zucchini – and savoriness.
A bastion of territorial cuisine, among the main courses the Embraced Pork nuanced with Sagrantino and crispy guanciale stands out: the fillet, freshly floured and cooked in oil, is nuanced with the famous local wine, left to reduce until it becomes a very thick sauce to be garnished with crispy guanciale leaves.
The chef’s flair and the desire to provide a varied proposal to the clientele means that the menu also features a dish like the Portuguese Cod, with panko breadcrumbs, mango pearls and yogurt sauce: the fish from the Jolanda De Colò company, is desalted and then pureed in egg, flour and bread flakes. The mango pearls lend sweetness in contrast to the saltiness of the cod and also have a tart aftertaste that helps cleanse the palate, along with the yogurt sauce that helps add a hint of acid.
Desserts are also superb with the great house classics: unfailing Tiramisu del Grottino and the Variegated Coconut and Hazelnut Cheescake, made with cream cheese whipped with coconut that’ s chilled in the refrigerator, then decorated with concentrated hazelnut, a hazelnut butter, homemade passion fruit cream, syrup and mint.
A long and painstaking renovation of the entire structure allowed owners Giorgiana and Raffaele to further differentiate Il Grottino’s gastronomic offerings, where along with the kitchen, an indoor grill, made from different woods, has been installed, in which fine-cut meats from the best suppliers are cooked.
An experienced grill master, Damiano Morici juggles perfect cooking times and methods, capable of bringing out the best in the quality of the raw material on offer. The meat is placed in fridges to let it pull out excess juices; the maturing process reaches up to 60/70 days, so as to make it as tender as possible, and is then put into paper. There is a rich national and international selection: present is the prized Prussian Manzetta from the Jolanda De Colò company, selected rump aged less than 30 months, with a delicate but distinctive taste, bred between Germany and Poland, present in different cuts, from the cuberoll cut, to the rib and up to the florentine steak.
Then there is the Starj Cow, raised in Eastern Europe: adult cattle about five years old that offer meat that with a more intense flavor with medium marbling and more fat. And again, there is no shortage of Galician ribs from Spain, Irish Filet and Tomahawk Steak along with Lamb alla scottadito, authentically Umbrian, also enhanced by barbecuing.
If cuisine and hospitality were not enough to make the experience of beauty and taste complete at Gualdo Cattaneo, not far from the structure and in the heart of the village, there is also La Bottega dedicated to the inhabitants of the village but also to tourists who wish to take with them a souvenir of their visit.
In a sort of open pantry, inside the small store in the historic center you can buy all the products used in the restaurant’s kitchen, from local excellences to those from outside: unfailing Urbani Tartufi truffle lines, Locci’s selections of extra virgin olive oil, Bertini’s pastas and preserves, and even Trentino black cherries, Morelli’s jams and compotes, a wide selection of Umbrian wines and beyond, above all Sagrantino, but also spirits, liqueurs and spirits.
It is like shopping in the same pantry as the restaurant, to take home the memory of a flavor linked to a place where one has enjoyed a good time. And always to offer a complete service, patrons staying in the hotel’s rooms will appreciate various activities organized and recommended on site: from horseback riding through the streets of Sagrantino, to stops by the pool at local agritourisms, complete with picnic baskets prepared in the Grottino’s kitchen, and even valuable advice for experiencing the beauty and richness of Umbria to the fullest and imprinting in one’s memory a magical and unforgettable memory of Gualdo Cattaneo.