I hadn’t dined at Marchetti’s in Castelnuovo for some time and it was a real pleasure to return to this shrine to good home-style cooking which is situated in one of the most picturesque areas of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the palazzo in the centre of town with the arches, behind the town hall.
Founded shortly after World War II by the great-grandpa of the young barman trattoria Marchetti has remained in the family for over seventy years now. In the warmer season the restaurant spreads its tables out onto the portico itself but on this blustery, rainy mid-day I huddled with the other diners in the cosy interior. Indeed, even in February it’s often necessary to wait if one doesn’t book ahead. I waited just five minutes before a place was found for me.
If you are a group of at least six it may be a good idea to book the tiny annexe which is almost like an Irish snug.
It’s nice when the owners recognise you in a restaurant even if you haven’t been there for some time and I received a warm welcome.
For my primo I chose penne with pesto. The sauce was abundant and exquisite, the penne al dente just as I like them.
My secondo consisted of bistecca di maiale con patate lesse (i.e. pork chop with boiled potatoes). Again, the ingredients were cooked to perfection and I doubt whether I have enjoyed such a chop for some time.
Wine was as-you-please from a big (shared) fiasco on the table and water could be ordered either stilled or bubbly.
I rounded off the meal with a caffé macchiato, nicely frothy as I like it.
As usual, grated cheese, bread and condiments were supplied as part of the meal.
Thankfully, tipping is not normal in family-run restaurants in Italy and my delicious lunch cost me just ten Euros – less than what I am now reliably informed is the price of a standard take-way fish ‘n chips in London.
The restaurant has some interesting old photographs and mementoes on its walls which are worth looking at. Like a few other places its decor doesn’t seem to have been updated for years and it has a quaint unplanned retro feel about it which I like.
There was even a song dedicated to the restaurant on one wall:
It was good to have a good Italian workers’ lunch before I embark tomorrow into the wilds of northern Europe, in particular to the great Wen (term coined in the 1820s by William Cobbett for London when he saw how rapidly it was expanding just like a sebaceous cyst on the face, which is what ‘wen’ means).