Country Roads: Orvieto’s Etruscan Chef

Legend has it that a 12th century Catholic bishop, while en route for a meeting with the Pope in Vatican City, sent his personal aide ahead with instructions to scout out the inns that serve the very best wines along the way.

Country Roads: Orvieto's Etruscan Chef | ©Tom Palladio Images

As the aide made his way, he would mark the front doors of inns that had reputable grape with a large EST! (Latin for “it is”). Upon arriving in Orvieto, once the epicenter of Etruscan culture and religion, he tasted the wine at a particular inn and was pleasantly surprised by its bouquet and quickly wrote on the door EST! EST! EST! to ensure that his bishop would dismount and quench his thirst.

The bishop did stop, and loved the wine so much that he never kept his appointment with the Holy Father down in Rome and remained in Orvieto for the remainder of his days. No doubt with a much smaller liver, but quite content.

Country Roads: Orvieto's Etruscan Chef | ©Tom Palladio Images

Now, let’s fast-forward to the here-and-now where my group of international media dismounts Insight Vacations’ “Country Roads of Italy” motorcoach to meet Orvieto’s latest triple-EST! — a transplanted Roman who serves as the executive chef and owner of Ristorante Zeppelin, the effervescent Lorenzo Polegri, a.k.a. The Etruscan Chef.

An elevator ride to the top of the rock carries us close to Lorenzo’s culinary hideaway, located in the heart of this once proud Etruscan village chiseled out of volcanic tuff millennia ago in the Umbria region of central Italy, where we’ll pass the afternoon making pasta, eating and drinking.

Country Roads: Orvieto's Etruscan Chef | ©Tom Palladio Images

Our host jump-starts the palate with an aperitivo of chilled sparkling white wine complimented by nuggets of aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and squares of fresh focaccia bread topped with prosciutto ham.

Smiling, we’re ushered into the dining room of Zeppelin’s — named in honor of Led Zeppelin, the 60s English rock band, Lorenzo’s fave — and our group of travel scribes and photographers is entertained and enlightened as The Etruscan Chef brings strands of fresh tagliatelle pasta to life with simple flour, eggs and strong hands.

Kneading and talking — his version of walking and chewing gum — Lorenzo explains his love of the kitchen and the joy that it brings to the faces of the guests that grace his table.

Country Roads: Orvieto's Etruscan Chef | ©Tom Palladio ImagesThe pasta-making demonstration now over, we take our places at la tavola and dine on the fruits of Lorenzo’s labor: those freshly made tagliatelle prepared al cingiale (boar’s meat sauce) followed by a simple, but delicious, panna e cioccolato — a whipped cream mold drenched in a dark chocolate sauce topped with crushed walnuts. Around and in between courses there was plenty of local red and white wine. And no Italian lunch or dinner is complete without the obligatory small cup of strong espresso coffee.

Country Roads: Orvieto's Etruscan Chef | ©Tom Palladio Images

Our bellies full like hot-air balloons, we bid Arrivederci! to Lorenzo and waddle out of Ristorante Zeppelin with an autographed copy of his book, The Etruscan Chef, tucked under our arms.

What a guy! What a visit! What a journey! In other words, EST! EST! EST!

Where to next, Belinda?, someone asks our tour director/concierge/storyteller.

Let’s go meet Marco, Umbria’s best art historian, she replies, and discover the jewel of Orvieto, the Duomo of the Assumption of the Virgin. How’s that sound?

We yell out our approval in unison: Si!

Take Me along, Country Roads | ©Tom Palladio Images

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

See you in front of the Duomo in just a couple of minutes. Last one there buys tonight’s aperitivi!

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images



    1. Hey Diane — Glad you’re enjoying my dispatches along the cobblestone. I thought you and Mike weren’t coming to Ski Trek this time. Glad I heard wrong. C u in Villabassa. Until then, keep it in the vault. 🙂

    1. Timeless — It was a great way to pass part of a Saturday afternoon. The Etruscan Chef was quite the character and his restaurant is fab. It’ll be moving soon to a brand new locale just up the street, even more rustic but modern, too. Next time you’re in Orvieto, stop in and tell Lorenzo TPT sent you. 🙂 Next on the travel adventure, that beautiful duomo of Orvieto. Look for the story soon.

    1. Cara Valentina — To be a bishop, or just a member of the clergy, made you a rock star. It was quite a nice day revisiting Orvieto and chatting it up with The Etruscan Chef. More stories to come on this journey around Umbria, Tuscany and Venice. See you soon, virtually.

      1. I know all about bishops, cardinals and all “compagnia cantata” as we say in Italy. One of my friends had a bishop as a uncle in her family and it was like she got help from a divine intervention to advance her life.

  1. Orvieto has always been high on my wish list, but – for some reason – I have never actually visited it. Your description of lunch is positively mouth-watering. You certainly have a way with words. 🙂

    1. Orna — I’m sure you’ll get there someday soon. The Etruscan Chef just asked me to consider hosting a tour/culinary adventure around the area. I’m a writer/photog; not sure I can lead the pack. More when I know.

      1. That sounds like a lot of fun and a worthwhile challenge. I am sure you would have no problem leading the pack whatsoever; a tour/culinary adventure means a group of like-minded people who want to enjoy themselves. What could be better?!

  2. Oddly, I just made pasta on Sunday, in my case, ravioli. Looks and sounds fantastic, Tom. Now I’m off to the more mundane and getting ready to head out tomorrow morning for the holiday.


  3. A perfect description! I think I’m still full and the panna e cioccolato was one of the very best sweets I’ve ever eaten. You are very, very good at taking us (back) there. Great job Tom! I hope to travel with you again – it was a pleasure!!

    1. High praise coming from you, Cyd. Thanks very much. I’ve cranked out four articles so far, but feel like I’ve written 100, and we’ve only left Orvieto. It’s taxing, but fun. I hope you’ll take a gander at the other three when you have time and all those that I have yet to tackle. I’ll be sure and do the same when you publish. Lemme know. Maybe we’ll sit side-x-side in France, if we’re hand-picked by Insight for next year’s FAM. Keep in touch, girlfriend.

      1. Ce serait merveilleux! I look forward to reading all your posts!! Mine probably won’t be up for another 3 weeks – and yes, lots to write about. I’ll shoot you a mssg when they post.

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