Apricale da Delio (and a sidetrip before)

September 29, 2006

(September 27, 2006)   Lunch was our main reason for this outing, but we wanted to stop at Cactus Mania in Ventimiglia en route.  What an eye-opener.  Their supply of succulents and cacti is overwhelming.  One large greenhouse is full of nothing but little guys (1€60), many of which are very unusual. Then there are several other greenhouses and outdoor areas jam-packed with more mature, and again, some highly unusual succulents and cacti, as well as large pots of mixed ones that they have artfully assembled. They also carry a huge variety of pots in all shapes, colors and materials. We surmise the reason for the large inventory is that they are major wholesalers and are constantly shipping huge orders around Italy. Just because we could, we decided to take the scenic route, so leaving Cactus Mania, we turned right on the Ss20 to get to the SP 92 in the direction of Verranda, and was this a breathtaking drive!  Many turns later we had wound our way up one side of a mountain, across the col and down the other side, ending up on the SP64 on the far side of Dolcacqua. 

The SP63 snakes up the hill into Apricale, and the restaurant hangs over the road at a little square.  To park, continue up the road and there is a garage on two levels that is a short walk back to da Delio.  (Piazza Vittorio, 9; Apricale.0184 20 80 08 www.ristoranteapricale.it; closed Monday & Tuesday)

da-dalio-2.jpgSince it is only the end of September we had requested a table on the terrace, and the weather cooperated.  In fact, it would have been too sunny and warm if the terrace had not been shaded by two large plane trees with canvas stretched between them, none of which blocked the view across a valley and up the back of the old town. With prosecco in hand we focused on the menu. 

The autumn menu offered several options—hors d’oeuvre and pasta at 23€, hors d’oeuvre and main at 27€, and pasta and main at €27, and of course, a la carte.  One could choose any of the five or six a la carte dishes listed in each category to make up the fixed price menu.

Gary and I started with the “3 hors d’oeuvres for the table” which upped the charge €4 each.  First came some thinly sliced Parma ham with figs that had been cut and turned inside out, exposing the perfectly ripe flesh, then warm Pigna beans with slices of wood-smoked duck, bacon bits  and a green valerian sauce drizzled around the plate; and finally, a room temperature salad of rabbit and girolles tossed with a little oil and herbs.

Pleasantly full at this point, Gary dug into his rabbit ravioli, house-made of course, with a rabbit, thyme and pine nut sauce which he pronounced delicious. Varian loved her Vitel Tonne with an unusually light tuna sauce, garnished with a salad of baby greens, sliced tomatoes and large, preserved capers on the stem. The cheese trolley is a virtual one, actually a list from which to choose a tasting of 3 at 8.50€ or 8 cheeses at an obviously higher price which I forgot to note. Gary opted for Robiolone di capra mature (goat), Pecornio del Montel Bergu (sheep) and Maccagnetto thyme (cow). 

Varian’s Tometta ubriaco (goat) in dregs of Dolcetto was fantastic, with its layers of twigs and purple dregs, as was La Rosa (also goat) wrapped in cherry leaves which really did taste of cherries and thus was a particularly nice complement to the fairly mild cheese.  Her third choice, the Tometta dei pascoli alpine (sheep) was very good but the others were such stand-outs that there isn’t much to say about it.With it all we drank an artisinal Rossese di Dolceacqua by Anzo Guglielme, from 2005 (18€).  While the wine was young, it had a very smooth taste and we quite liked it. In nice weather, reserve one of the 20or so tables on the terrace, each decorated with a pot of herbs instead of flowers.

For colder weather, there are about 10-15 tables, in a rectangular room, with glass along its length to capture the same view over the valley and back into town as on the terrace.

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