Welcome to Al Vecchio Convento a so called Albergo Diffuso, which best can be translated to “Spread out Hotel”, situated in Portico di Romagna a medieval village , in the Appennine Hills between Florence and Ravenna in Tuscan Romagna.
In the kitchen you’ll find the men of the Cameli family: dad Giovanni with his two sons, Massimiliano and Matteo and the flamboyant mamma Marisa
Their cuisine is real, simple, never boring.
I tried a Matteo’s masterpiece:
a creamy tagliatelle alla canapa with basil, literally melting in my mouth.
Then the amazing crema di ortiche, a nettle soupy cream enriched with potatoes , onions and fresh herbs. The hotel is famous for his restaurant and the real , simple yet sophisticated menu, not to mention those Marisa’s cakes…
Experimenting a Albergo Diffuso means living the town the nontouristytourist way having as neighbors local inhabitants and letting yourself being absorbed by the relaxed rythm of local life. I met with Chef/Owners Matteo and Massimiliano Cameli, who not only manage the venue, but also promote the territory while organizing cooking courses that provide the Guests with the amazing discovering of the great local food culture and learning how to make typical, Italian recipes such as home-made pasta, risotto, truffle, mushrooms, home baked bread and pizza while Massimiliano will take you on wine and gastronomy tours discovering local wine and olive oil producers,They organize horse-riding, trekking, cycling in the National Park, excursions to the Art-city Ravenna.and all levels Italian language courses, in the suggestive old Canon’s house, on top of the village, not to mention the exciting truffle hunts guided by Matteo and his dogs. Every year Portico hosts Chef Sotto il Portico. The event, organized by the Pro Loco Portico di Romagna in collaboration with Al Vecchio Convento, is a cuisine bonanza featuring a valange of international chef sharing their culinary creations with visitors. A festive meeting of different culture and tastes. In this year team Laura Verhust, pastry chef of Madam Bakster https://madambakster.be/ in Gant, Belgium prepared two vegan dishes, lemon avocado pie with almond crust and rusberry coulis .A warn rice pudding cooked in homemade almond milk, fresh vanilla and wild berries. Both no gluten, no sugar, no fat, no lactose, no butter, no eggs and…miracosly delicious. Argentine born Carlos Horacio Gimenez representing Ryotek Restaurant in Rykiavick, Iceland, served a shared tuna with avocado, picked melon, fresh coriander and amarillo pepper that he brought with him from South America. Omar Gallego from Barcelona cooked a crunchy taco with pork cheek cooked in red wine, coriander, tomato, garlic and ajoli. I wanted something easy to eat, easy to go, he said, that could perfectly go with a nice beer.
From Stockholm, Axel Zuber food scientist, restaurant Kitchen inspector of kitchens loves to cook , For his fifth time in Portico, he created a piatto per bambini a colorful dish for kids: kinda a homemade hot dog style sausage in a salted croissant happily paired to colored vegetable cubes made with vegetables.
Encocado de bacalao was the cod dish made by Marco Alvarez who likes fusion between dishes of different nationalities like Thailand and Ecuador. His dish was garnished with pea pureè, spicy coconut, corn sauce in Aonoriko seaweed crust.
Fabio Jesus, from Sintra, Portugal, works with known Bartlett catering. He prepared a Vino Santo and peach cheesecake, watermelon sorbet, fresh raspberry sauce and roasted white chocolate. You have a lots of different textures, says Fabio, a bit sour, a bit sweet, some alcohol… to party!
Stuli, from Iceland created a summery dish with a lobster and crabs patè floating in a dark green cucumber gaspacho
Was fun to check people s reactions. Some ‘experiments’ were much loved, some…less.
I am talking of Finland Mikael Mihailov’s spicy papaya salad, served with tomato-chilly foam, caramelized nuts, nitro kaffir lime drops, crispy rice and dried vinaigrette with seaweed. Great intentions, nice presentation, interesting prospectives, but to me the contrasting ingredients were not going anywhere…Some Chefs became instantly popular, like Scottish Scott Forte his ,,, was super requested and pretty soon sold out…So I tried it the next day (there is a lunch time repeat) I wasn’t very impressed, perhaps because the heath of the day didn’t really suit the quite winterish dish.
Let’s go to my favorites!
Croatian Toni Milos, manager of Martinis Marchi restaurant located in a historic castle in Maslinica on the island of Šolta’s west coast, eenchanted the guests and me with his perfectly coocked octopus, pan roasted with leeks, red onions and served over arrugula. (I loved, I had it twice… To British George Gordon Brandford, now adopted by Vecchio Covento, goes my ‘Most Suprising Dish Award’. A vegan watermelon steak served with cucumber, gin granite and crispy tonic water. The watermelon slices were first carefully barbequed then ignated, to obtain an unknowen substancy. The technique was just amazing. I never tasted something like that. Bravo Gorgon!
Last but not the least!
Matteo Cameli from Al Vecchio Covento. To me Matteo in more than a chef, he is a visionary and a poet. His challenging dish was a risotto al fienoI like to run in the morning, Matteo told me, in a very cold day, I had the vision and the comfort of a warm hay essence. I made it, distilled bio hay, added herbal essential oils to obtain a concentrated broth to be cooked with a 7 years old arlecchino rice, garnished by tasty crusty layer of burned goat , garnishing with wild herbs and flowers. I made it, I closed my eyes, tasted it and yes, the aroma of my fields in a sunny day was all there.
I tried his risotto. I rated 9, then I had a bite of those crunchy goat’s milk croutons and the my score went up to 10!
Beside the hotel activities, the venue offers various initiatives like Italian language classes, excursions, vistit to local oil and wine producers, exciting porcini and truffle hunts, cooking courses for the guests who are interested in discovering some secrets of the Italian food culture. It’s possible to do just 1 lesson or 2 or 3 or the whole cooking-week.
A venue, a village and a vacation to remember….
for more info
Al Vecchio Convento, Portico di Romagna, (Forlì) Italy