Here’s my list of where and what to eat in L’Aquila, the capital city of Abruzzo. My boyfriend and I were in L’Aquila this past week to celebrate my birthday with some skiing at the nearby ski resort, Campo Felice. A 30-minute drive up into the mountains, the ski resort was peaceful, relaxing, and fairly empty. While we didn’t have a lot of snow until the last day, we lucked out with a couple of gorgeous warm sunny days on the slopes. It felt more like spring skiing.
The city of L’Aquila made international news in 2009 for a deadly earthquake. Over a decade later, some scars still remain and many buildings remain closed and held up by scaffolding and metal braces. Yet the city’s elegance is pervasive, and the streets were lively. Bright stores line the main street which was crowded in the early evening with locals out for a stroll and to grab a pre-dinner drink.
Overall, great service and good food seemed constant in L’Aquila wherever we went.
Where to eat in L’Aquila
Casetta nel Parco is a short drive from the city center. We went at night on a Wednesday in February and it was a dark drive and we passed few other cars. We were also one of only two tables that night. But no matter, we had a wonderful evening. The food was delicious and the service top-notch. I especially loved the traditional arrosticini made with lamb liver and onions. Although I’m not complaining about the fried pizza or the pasta with lamb and tomato either. They even gave us a cute package with an amaro made from genziana, or the herb gentian in English, and a couple of cookies to go.
Casa Elodia was well worth the roughly twenty-minute drive from the city. A glass fireplace burned bright in the center of a cozy dining room where the food was both traditional and inspired. My boyfriend ordered the traditional Abruzzese dish, scrippelle ‘mbusse in the local dialect or crespelle in brodo all’abruzzese in Italian. In English, it is basically a thin pancake stuffed with cheese and served in broth. The light flavor of oranges enhanced the dish at Elodia.
Italian ski resorts often have bars serving food and drinks on the ski slopes themselves. Campo Felice was no exception. There are at least three bars are on the trails, surrounded by sun chairs and picnic tables. For lunch, I had a simple grilled sausage and broccoletti sandwich served on toasted bread that tasted more like home cooking than ski mountain fare. And don’t forget the classic bombardino, a hot, sweet drink made from espresso and egg liqueur served on Italian ski mountains.
Where to drink
The Public Enemy gastropub makes great cocktails and a substantial apperitivo. We had the large apperitivo for dinner one night with well-made whisky sours. The burgers also looked great. While the room was empty when we arrived, it filled up fast. My boyfriend liked it so much he wanted to go back the next night but I managed to convince him to try something new.
Just down the street from Public Enemy, we also stopped in for a beer at the local microbrewery, Anbra. L’Aquila is famous for it’s saffron and I tried a unique beer made with local saffron. The bar is cozy and low key and had almost a dozen different beers to try on tap.
What to eat in L’Aquila
- Abruzzo is famous for arrosticini which are essenitally meat skewers made with tiny bits of lamb.
- They also make a delicious arrosticini variation with fegato or lamb liver and onion.
- The local pasta shape is maccheroni alla chitarra or spaghetti alla chitarra, a long square shaped pasta. Chitarra means guitar in Italian and the pasta is sliced on wires, like guitar strings. I had it served with tomato, small bits of lamb, and pecorino cheese.
- Lamb is ubiquitous in Abruzzo which means so too is sheep cheese or pecorino d’Abruzzo.
- Fried pizza is popular in L’Aquila. The Abbruzesse language is unique in that it is similar to the neapolitan dialect. And the links to Naples run deeper and crisper in fried pizza. We had a fried pizza with mortadella and chickpea cream.
- Harvesting saffron is a long standing tradition in Abruzzo and the spice shows up in many dishes.