If you’re looking for a gourmet food and wine experience near Rome, Epos Bistro at Castelli Romani wine estate Poggio le Volpi is an excellent and original choice.
Located in Monte Porzio Catone, near Frascati – right in the heart of Rome’s wine country – Poggio le Volpi is an award-winning producer of Italian wine just a 20 minutes drive from Rome.
While this distinctly Roman vineyard has been making local, superb quality wine for nearly 100 years, 2014 brought a quiet revolution to the estate, with the development of an elegant, country manor to serve gourmet food in idyllic surroundings.
The project reached a new level with the launch – at the end of 2017 – of a brand new gourmet restaurant Barrique and refined bistro Epos at ground floor and second floor respectively, with stellar chefs at the helm of both.
German chef Oliver Glowig is executive chef of Barrique, a long, sinousy dining room flanking the vineyard at ground level, which manages to be both airy and intimate. A faint smell of wineskins and the reassuring presence of hundreds of bottles of wine – many of them rare and exceptional vintages from all over Europe – defines the purpose and heart of the restaurant: to serve great food with great wine.
I recently returned to Poggio le Volpi to dine at Epos Bistro, which is now guided by Daniele Corona, a talented Italian chef who has been Glowig’s right hand for the last 10 years in a number of exciting enterprises.
Epos Bistro has an enviable location on the second floor of the villa, with a handsome balcony and dining rooms enjoying exceptional views over the long plains of the Castelli Romani. This cluster of hill top towns above Rome is the region’s traditional wine-growing district, subject to a slow revolution of its own.
While the Castelli Romani have typically been associated with table wine and rustic fare, projects such as Poggio le Volpi are a reminder that excellence exists in these hills.
Review of lunch at Epos Bistro
We began the meal at Epos Bistro with an excellent straw coloured glass of bubbly, the Asonia Brut Frascati Spumante DOC made with Malvasia grapes grown in the fields below. Then it was on to the starter or antipasti dishes.
I plumped for this delicate, locally farmed poached egg cooked at low temperatures, with tender broad bean skins, pancetta and pecorino cheese (€12). One of my dining companions ordered this exquisite beef tartare, simply dressed with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (€18).
The starter menu includes a good range of charcuterie plates as well, with prices ranging from €10 to €12. If you’re looking for a treat, there’s also a plate of hand-cut patanegra ham for €25.
Epos Bistro prides itself on homemade pasta dishes, and we were certainly spoilt for choice when perusing the first course menus. Pictured left, spaghetti, garlic and oil with hazelnuts and a drizzle of anchovy oil is a rich, satisfying dish priced at €10. I tried the pasta with beans ‘al profumo di mare’, with juicy chunks of white fish, set off perfectly by the tomato sauce (€16).
There was also a sensational risotto with mussels and pecorino (€14) plus some dishes from the Roman tradition, including cacio e pepe (€10) and fusilloni with pajata (€12), a veal offal dish.
Second course options included this sensational grilled octopus with lentils and burrata (€16), as well as a crispy sea bass with broccoli and almonds (€18), plus baccala, salted cod, with chick peas and puntarella greens (€18). Or how about an oxtail stew with mashed potatoes? (€18).
Another key thing to note about Epos Bistro is it’s commitment to excellence in terms of meat dishes. This sensational Fiorentina steak was as good as it looks – cooked to perfection and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and coarse grain salt. Expect to pay between €7 and €10 per 100 grammes for the meat dishes, which include fillet, sirloin, entrecote, as well as chicken breast.
The dessert list – just like the rest of the menu – featured seasonal goodies including Roman carnival favourites chiacchiere as well as perennial favourites, from left – small doughnuts filled with confectioners cream; an exceptional dark chocolate bombe; and a delicate creme caramel infused with orange. This course was also a triumph in flavour and taste.
One of the most satisfying parts of the experience was the sense of having been transported far beyond Rome, in the lush green vineyards overlooking the long plains of the Castelli Romani, finishing in hazy horizons tens of miles away. This oasis of peace isn’t merely a destination for those seeking tranquility – it’s a mecca of good food and excellence in wine, which I am delighted to recommend.
Testaccina was a guest of Epos Bistro