The Amici family have been in the business of offering refreshment to weary travelers since 1880, and so we have chosen well to stop here for lunch in the town of Rieti in the Lazio region of Italy. The trattoria’s long history began with the current owner’s great, great grandparents, the first of several generations who inherited both their energy and their vision, establishing more than one restaurant and hotel in the area. In 1880, Emilia Ricci in Amici managed this small trattoria which, at the time, was positioned close to the public baths. Her hand-written recipe book is on display today in the main dining room, along with many framed photographs that capture the long history of the family and its association with the world of home-cooked food and hospitality.
Cucina casareccia, authentic home-cooking, is what continues to draw hungry travelers and locals who appreciate the freshness and full-flavor of the cuisine. The menu offers a generous array of selections. Following an antipasto of traditional cured meats, we sample mezze maniche alla gricia. Everyone is familiar with the classic dish, spaghetti all’amatriciana, but way before tomatoes were introduced to Europe, the local shepherds prepared this dish without a tomato sauce. Using what they carried with them while they were pasturing their sheep – pasta, aged pecorino cheese, and guanciale – they made this simple dish to sustain themselves. The bacon is chunky and fried to a crisp and the resulting dish is both simple and divine.
The surrounding countryside inspires visions of these shepherds gathered together to enjoy una grigliata, a mixed grill of lamb, pork and poultry, accompanied by grilled garden vegetables. Again, simple fare in the hands of the right cook, who knows how to use the local herbs and spices, is elevated into an abundant feast. And feast it is. No room for dessert, but sweet memories of a sun-filled day and a visit with proud owner Giuseppe Amici at his restaurant.