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From the moment I started thinking maybe we actually could go to Italy, I started searching for vegetarian food recommendations online. Much to my surprise and delight I found the Country House Montali, an entirely vegetarian inn on a 25-acre olive grove near Perugia. Alberto Musacchio runs it with his wife Malu Simões da Cunha (the genius chef in the kitchen). It’s a remote location and no trains go there, but since Eric is made of magic, he bravely volunteered to drive us there in a rental car.

So, after a few days in Rome, we ventured out with with what turned out to be an Italian-language-only GPS. Once we’d figured out prendere a destra (turn right)and prendere a sinistra (turn left), it was surprisingly useful. We arrived at Montali early in the afternoon.

Some of those are fig and plum trees. We saw two wild boars digging about soon after we arrived. It actually felt like I had jumped Mary-Poppins-style into one of my childhood drawings. I suppose I could go on about the scenery but that could take pages so let’s get down to the food.

The dining room at the Country House Montali

To start, Alberto and the servers brought out warm squares of olive focaccia, which was nicely salty with bursts of flavor from lovely fresh olives.

Next came Bignè con Crema di Funghi, delectable tiny choux pastries filled with mushroom cream and served with a wild herb creme fraiche.

The dish I’d been most eager to eat in Italy, Gnocchi di Patate, came next. The gnocchi were small and delicate with a perky bounce and the four-cheese sauce with black truffle complemented it perfectly.

The secondo were melt-in-your-mouth eggplant spring rolls where the eggplant was the wrapper (why haven’t I thought of this before?) and an arugula salad. The rolls were filled with creamy buffalo mozzarella and served with fava bean hummus and fresh pesto. Must. make. this.

We were already blown away by the meal but Malu and her chefs had one final trick up their sleeves – a luscious chocolate and nut-studded semifreddo with rich chocolate salami and raspberry creme and a mini almond tart all in a row, with drops of sweet mint syrup. This picture was taken a split second before the wispy caramel lace on the semifreddo fell down.

A visit to the Country House Montali is well worth the trouble of renting a car in Italy. I just hope I will see it again soon. To tide me over until then, I’m working on re-creating some of Malu’s recipes from Montali’s fabulous cookbook, Vegeterranean.

Via Montali, 23
Tavernelle di Panicale, Perugia, Italy
0039 -075 8350680

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