Carrara's Osteria Vittorio. The Tordelli Education

Where Every Day Is Fat Thursday

Tortelli becomes Tordelli in Apuana.                                                                                                        Osteria Vittorio, Carrara
Looking for the best lunch in Carrara can be kind of weird. It’s not a town oriented towards casual visitors, and while there are plenty of eating places, they’re often skewed more toward price than quality.

Osterio Vittorio - don't judge by the door.
Years of Carrara visits had passed for us, we tried lunches at restaurants large and small, but no great hits. Then we found a reference to a place serving authentic cucina Carrarina - Carrara cooking - right next to the anarchist bookstore. Irresistible. We went for lunch, it looked cozy, with yellow half curtains and an old fashioned entrance. By the time we sat down, we realized that we were the only ones there under 80. Old men sat alone at tables, all facing the same way, like sad fish facing a murky current. The food was sad, too. I got lasagne, which turned out to be little squares of plain pasta. No oil, no sauce, no salt! We moved it around for politeness, but didn't eat it. For a secondo, the menu offered veal in white wine. The veal was probably good, but it was coated in gummy flour, not browned, just floating in an unreduced wine sauce. Yuck. My dining companion - being both daring and clueless - got the tripe, which was a house specialty. It was mushy, tasteless, and the sauce characteristics that usually make it almost palatable, entirely missing .  We left more food than we ate.

Osteria Vittorio
And so for once our enthusiasm for lunch was low. After a visit to Carrara's Accademia di Belle Arti, we decided to try more restaurants from the same source that had recommended the catastrophe, just to see if they were universally wrong. We passed a few places by: a rather fancy French fish restaurant; a nice looking old cafe that was closed that day; a place that featured more cheap menus. We trudged to the last name on our list on Via Camillo Cavour, a bar where we were directed around the corner. We stopped short at the door to the restaurant. This wasn’t auspicious. There was a flashing neon ‘Aperto’ sign in one window, the venetian mini blinds were all drawn, many of the slats were bent or missing, and there was no sign of life. But the menu...well, let’s see, maybe it’s worth a try.

Osterio Vittorio, a legendary restaurant for Cucina Carrarina.
Push bravely through the door, and it’s as if you’ve been delivered. You enter a whole different restaurant than you imagined. Warm yellow table cloths, exposed brick, a marble chair rail – warm, cozy, almost elegant. We sat in a corner and started with an antipasto of crostone (bruschetta) with lardo and cherry tomatoes, and began to relax with the very decent house wine. We’d never seen lardo with a thin streak of actual meat before, but it was delicious, the warm crusty bread almost melting the lardo over the tomatoes. Perfect. 

Taglierini with fagioli.           Not Dean Martin's pasta fazool. 
For our primi piatti, in keeping with the piatti tipici theme (local specialties), we ordered taglierini con fagioli and tordelli. At first taste, taglierini with beans seemed a rather plain dish – fresh long pasta in a thick soup of flavorful beans. Kind of blah looking.  But the more you ate, the more you loved it.  Just so simple, comforting, delicious. Tortelli are tordelli in the dialects of the Apuan mountains.  They are big squares of pasta filled with meat and cheese and greens including thyme. Originally tordelli were made only on Fat Thursday (giovedi grasso) which is the pre-Lenten all-you-can-eat celebration that begins the week of Carnevale. In modern times, you just pay money. Sometimes served in brodo (broth) today they came with a rich, fabulous chunky ragu, and we ate every last molecule.

Ristorante Vittorio. Frittura di Terra with rabbit, chicken, zucchini, artichoke.

We only ordered one piatto secondo.  Called a Frittura di Terra, the platter of fried bits was ethereal, almost like tempura, with little chunks of chicken, of rabbit, artichoke, and zucchini served simply with a wedge of lemon. Really outstanding.

The owner is a local legend called Vittorino by all. We saw him gauge our chatting skills, and wisely he just gave us a smile and a nod - but while we waited for the check, homemade limoncino was delivered to our table, ice cold.

The bill for a starter, two primi, one secondo, house wine, and mineral water was 32 Euro. This is a great lunch place. Treat yourself: read up on Carrara speciaties and push through that inauspicious door.

Osteria Vittorio  (a/k/a Ristorante Vittorio)  Closed Wednesday  0585-71450   Google Map
Via Camillo Cavour, 28  (the entrance is around the corner on Via Cavatore)    Carrara (MS)

Learning More  Here's a link to our Ugly Photo of la carta posted outside the Osteria the day we visited - you'll have to enlarge it to be readable (under View). Be aware that often the verbal menu recited inside will be different from the posting outside.

Read the Trip Advisor Reviews to practice your Italian - it's also a fun way to get clues on what to order.When we looked, there were 31 reviews - none in English (think about it - that's good).  One example: 'I tordelli di Vittorio sono una delle dieci cose che ci porteremmo su un'isola deserta...' (Vittorio's tordelli are one of the ten things we would take to a desert island....).

Carrara  The marble quarries are great, but there's much more in Carrara, see our story Carrara - Anarchy, Michelangelo, Marble.

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Written by Martha