Mario Batali on Where to Eat in Italy

The chef, TV star, and F&W guest editor, divulges his favorite restaurants in Italy, from Puglia to Piedmont.
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Villa Maiella, Guardiagrele, Abruzzo

"On a farm just south of Chieti, my grandma's ancestral home, Villa Maiella is the kind of place I dreamed about before I happened upon it. Abruzzese cooking is considered to be the apex of Italian food south of Bologna; Arcangelo Tinari, the son of the original chefs, has taken his parents' ideas to another level in purity of traditional flavor. I started with a plate of salumi that made me cry, including a blood sausage that was as dense and dark as a moonless night in the mountains and twice as intense. Next up was handmade and super-firm fusilli with three textures of baccalà, and then a roast pork loin with crispy skin, fragrant with myrtle and juniper. I washed down all the food with legendary Montepulciano d'Abruzzo by Valentini at fire-sale prices. This place merits a whole weekend of sleeping upstairs (it's a 14-room inn) just to taste the entire menu."

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