At Casa Vissani, between Todi and Orvieto, Umbria boasts one of Italy’s most famous restaurants, but its rare Michelin-starred cuisine and price tag of over €130 (£112) per person are the exception.
Instead, the region’s culinary strengths are its many long-established, old-school trattorias — small, cozy, and often family-run establishments that have been making simple fare for locals for decades — and its abundance of robust ingredients like truffles, mushrooms, lentils, ham, spelt, and mountain cheese.
Redibis has a remarkable setting – the three dining rooms form part of the amphitheater of the city’s former Roman amphitheater and present an elegant and stylish blend of history and modernity. Many of the seasonal dishes are time-honored recipes, with the original date marked on the menu. It may sound tricky, but it always works: like this Strappatelle al rancetto al profumo d’erba bona (handmade pasta with tomato and bacon and marjoram sauce) dates back to 1935 and dolce dell’attesa (dried fruit compote with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce) from 1925.
This is a wonderfully intimate, pretty and comfortable place to eat, a (tiny) part of a former monastery with rough stone walls and wooden beams. The simple things like homemade pasta are well done, but most dishes have a creative (but never overdone) twist. The standout is the shortcrust caramella antipasti stuffed with melted cacciatina cheese, Parmesan and truffles – you eat one and want the other. It has been a staple on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1991, as have some of the delicious puddings, notably the ice cream-like semifreddo made from fresh peaches.
Reservations: Essential for lunch and dinner
Norcia is a no-frills mountain town with a superb gastronomic tradition that has found its refined expression in the Michelin-starred and Relais & Chateaux-listed Vespasia. The dining room is bright and clean, with modern art on the walls, but occupies part of the stables of a Renaissance palazzo, so it retains some appealing period details. Neapolitan chef Valentino Palmisano has spent some time in Asia and occasionally adds an Asian touch to some dishes without straying too far from his Italian roots. Menus change regularly, but in this part of the world, anything with truffles should be high on your bucket list.
La Palomba, Orvieto
This welcoming, no-frills, family-run old-school trattoria has been serving rustic but well-prepared Umbrian and Orvieto specialties since 1965, including pigeon and venison, local cold cuts, and more unusual specialties like spaghetti all’ascaro (a version of carbonara with black truffles). Service is personable and professional, both for visitors and the many locals, making this a popular city-centre hangout.
Taverna del Lupo, Gubbio
The Tavern of the Wolf has been in business for more than 30 years in a beautiful 14th-century building with columns, wide vaulted ceilings and arches made of old stone – try a table in one of the more intimate vaulted corners. Go ahead and spend excessively on one of the many excellent truffles (Tartufo) Dishes on a menu that could be described as ‘Umbria revisted’ – although there are plenty of other options, with the homemade pasta always being a good choice. However, do not overdo it with antipasti and first courses, because millefoglie al caramello is a must for custard.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends, in summer and on public holidays
Prices: ££, £££ with truffle dishes
Successful for several decades, Coccorone has updated its decor from time to time – warm reds and creams and dark woods in its current incarnation (with unchanging medieval arches, a grand fireplace and a sturdy wooden ceiling) – while maintaining its high standard of Courtesy and restraint maintained service and dishes that can always surprise. You’re usually looking for a standout dish — and grilled meat always wins — but here’s one wine you have to try: the local red Sagrantino, along with its sweet dessert version, the Sagrantino Passito. Both feature prominently on the wine list, but also in the kitchen as part of sauces for pappardelle pasta and meat.
Dining in the tourist town of Assisi can be strained, but the Balducci family, owners of this humble but dependable trattoria, ensure consistent standards, with Margherita serving Umbrian classics such as saffron in the kitchen stringhozzi alla Pallotta (pasta with mushrooms and olives), Zupa di fagiolina (Soup with sweet green beans from nearby Lake Trasimeno), or piccione alla ghiotta (dove) and a chunky one coniglio alla cacciatore (rabbit stew). The two dining rooms are simple: plain white walls, tiled floors, and touches of beamed ceilings, but an open fire adds warmth and atmosphere in season.
Al Mangiar Bene, Perugia
Al Mangiar Bene (‘Where to eat well’) occupies part of a memorable medieval building, characterized by venerable stone walls and huge brick vaults. The decor is simple – simple wooden tables and chairs – but the food is carefully and skilfully prepared. They pride themselves on their local wines and microbrewery beers (including organic and biodynamic options) and on their (listed) locally sourced ingredients. The cuisine is mostly classic Umbrian, so opt for the classic option of umbricelli, a thick, chewy pasta made with just water and flour (no eggs). Pair it with a choice of sauces, the savory the better – wild boar for example or guanciole (pork cheek) and tomato.
Reservations: Recommended for dinner
Pane e Vino, Todi
Guidebooks for Todi direct visitors to Ristorante Umbria, off the town’s quaint piazza: nothing wrong with that (though the food can vary) as long as you’re sure to eat on the terrace, which overlooks half Umbria. But for honest food at honest prices, Pane e Vino is informal, family-run, and has cozy, rustic dining rooms and an attached wine bar. For pure variety, the house appetizer (antipasto della casa) offers a wide variety of charcuterie (including wild boar, venison, and goose), cheese, crostini, and more. Pasta can include tagliarini with lemon and fresh tomatoes, while more ambitious venison and truffle mains are available in season.
Reservations: Recommended for dinner
Il Giardino da Giovanni, Orvieto
This tiny spot doesn’t win any awards for the decor, which could be described as a monastic trattoria, with a few tables, the odd painting, and an unforgiving tile floor. But it offers very good, local, seasonal food and a small garden for al fresco dining; Be sure to leave room for puddings, which are small pieces of presentation art and change from day to day.
Reservations: Recommended for lunch and dinner
L’Acquario, Castiglione del Lago
While you won’t be staying in Castiglione, it’s worth a day trip for the charming little medieval center, time spent on the town’s little beaches, and swimming in the warm lake. Lunch or dinner should be taken at L’Acquario, a long-established favorite on the pretty main street (with alfresco tables in the summer) and a menu that mixes lake fish and traditional Umbrian dishes like grilled wild boar skewers with more creative contemporary offerings like Duck fillet with orange and chocolate.