Hidden in a corner of a tiny square in the outskirt of Udine - an hour and a half's drive from Venice is a gourmet oasis called Agli Amici
This summer, why not discover one of Italy’s best-kept secrets? Located just outside Venice is one of the best restaurants in northeastern Italy, a family run establishment called Agli Amici. This Relais & Châteaux owned restaurant started out more than a century ago as a café-cum-tobacconist, and today it continues its tradition of hospitality by offering superb food and wine produced from forgotten vineyards in the area.
Hostess Michaela Scarello offers a warm welcome when you arrive. She looks after the restaurant as well as the customers, purchasing all the produce and choosing the sublime wines to pair with the delicious dishes created by her brother, Emanuele. Emanuele is a veritable magician, reinventing traditional dishes into magnificent delights for the palate using all of the region’s famous produce from both the mountains and the sea. Dishes appear from the kitchen laden with exquisite sea bass, sea urchins, pork and vegetables, all flavored with the fragrant wild herbs gathered nearby. The dishes are a labor of love, the ingredients the region’s blessings. The result? A marriage made in heaven.
Emanuele refuses to take credit for the stunning food. He considers his mother Ivonne as the teacher, and himself a mere student following in her footsteps. She taught him sensitivity, he explains, and how to give his cooking a heart. Since 1999 he has been part of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe, an association of young chefs from 13 different European countries that is now recognized as one of the most prestigious culinary associations in the culinary world. As a result, he not only offers his customers his culinary creations, but he shares his knowledge and passion as well, in a selection of cooking workshops that are open to the public.
This summer, if you are in the neighborhood, and have time to enjoy more than just a meal at this esteemed establishment, you can join chef Emanuele, his staff who will impart secrets and insight of Agli Amici’s kitchen. Each class covers one single theme (for example, fish, meat or dessert) and the chef and his staff painstakingly demonstrate how to transform the produce from raw ingredients to a dish fit for royalty.
From the sublime setting to the superb cuisine, a meal at Agli Amici is a sensory delight. And if you can add the joy of learning from the master chef, then truly, your cup runneth over.