The 20th century Ristorante La Rocca sits comfortably in the towering shadow of La Rocca, a 14th century fortress in the historic center of Umbertide. The outdoor dining room is in the middle of a busy square and parked cars, but in spite of this, one is pleasantly surprised by the seafood lunch that unfolds like a leisurely walk along the seashore. Brother and sister owners, Mirco and Daniela, know how to satisfy customers in search of a quality seafood meal in Umbria, the only land-locked region on the Italian peninsula. The restaurant was opened by their parents 28 years ago, starting simply as a pizzeria, then a spaghetteria, and finally offering what they loved most – seafood, influenced by the many years they had worked in Naples. The fish is delivered fresh from Fano, on the Adriatic coast, three times a week.
The tables in our sheltered outdoor dining room are cheerful with their raspberry-checkered table linens and jewel-tone glassware. The feel is homey and the food both genuine and abundant. Although typical Umbrian cuisine of all kinds is on the menu, we select a sampling of their seafood offerings, beginning with an appetizer of varied tastes and textures: marinated fresh anchovies, a crisp calamari and cuttlefish salad, shrimp in a home-made cocktail sauce, to name only a few. The delicious handmade pasta is coated with a tomato-based sauce that started as a fish broth and was made creamy by adding a purée of calamari and other gifts from the sea – a ragú di mare.
A platter of fried calamari and shrimp arrives at our table and we manage to find just enough room to savor their goodness. Oh why did we eat so many slices of their freshly baked bread with sun-dried tomatoes! All this with a local white wine, sparkling and refreshing on this sunlit day. We have lunched for over two hours, recipients of the 28 years of experience that went into making this experience so memorable.