A long, lazy Sunday lunch is a great tradition in Italy, a time to relax and catch up with friends or family, either at home or in a restaurant. We were feeling exceptionally Italiano yesterday so we headed out for lunch at Fregene, a small seaside resort about 25 miles west of Rome. Italian beaches seem odd to us because they are full of ‘stabilimenti balneari’ – closed off sections of the beach where you pay a daily rate to use the sun loungers, toilets, bar and other facilities. Or you can eat at a restaurant and enjoy the beach that way.
We ate at a fairly trendy, modern place called Contro Vento. It was busy with Italian families enjoying lunch in the hot sunshine but the waiter was very accommodating and had no problem moving a table into the shade for us. There was no written menu; fortunately our waiter spoke English and reeled off a long list of antipasti (starters) and primo (first course) dishes. There was a lot of fish featured, no surprise given that we were eating on a beach in an area known as Villaggio dei Pescatori (Fisherman’s Village).
To start we chose fried octopus, a plate of antipasto misto (mixed fish starters including smoked salmon, calamari and anchovies) and bruschetta (tomatoes on top of grilled bread). This was a pretty risky selection for us as we’re not big fish lovers but we gave it our best shot and managed to eat half of it – not bad going considering that Italian portions are HUGE and easily rival anything you’d get in Florida!
For the primo course (what would be the first course for Italians, to be followed by the secondo course when meat or fish dishes would be eaten. We’ve never been able to cope with all three courses), we steered away from fish, opting instead for ravioli and fettuccine with courgettes. When the dishes came, the ravioli was filled with…fish and the fettuccine was topped with…what else, more fish! The food tasted exactly as I’ve come to expect when eating out in any restaurant in Italy – fresh, with very simple flavours.
We couldn’t even think about frutti o dolci (fruit or dessert) after the meal but plenty of other tables were eating plates of fresh pineapple and strawberries. The total bill came to €90 for four of us, including a couple of beers, which is about average for Italy. I would definitely recommend Contro Vento as a lunch or dinner venue. The setting was beautiful, the food was fine and it had a laid back feel.
We finished the afternoon off with a stroll along the beach (very Italian) and a dip in the sea (not so Italian, particularly not in April!)
Fregene is a nice resort to visit from Rome with lots of restaurants to choose from, a lovely beach and a tranquil atmosphere. It is, however, the resort of choice for half of Rome so it might not be quite so relaxing in the middle of August when you can’t walk across the beach without tripping over bronzed, 50-year-old men in very small Speedos…