Five kilometers from the autostrada, the A24, and about 300 meters before your car reaches Elodia (A-low-dee-ya), you see the building rising two-stories high above the sloping foothill meadow where it is set. As others have explained, Elodia is situated at the base of the massive Gran Sasso mountains, near a tiny village, Camarda, and a bit less near to the earthquake ravaged city of L’Aquila.
The place is composed of three parts: (a) restaurant Elodia itself, (b) the Relais, a six-room hotel, and (c) a special events component for banquets, weddings and meetings. These components occupy the two above-ground floors of a very modern structure of recent origin. The exterior is pleasantly unremarkable, as is the first floor of the interior that houses the kitchens, the wine cellar and the spacious areas available for special events. The second and top floor is another matter. Here are the six guest-rooms, one a two-room suite, all of them comfortable and impeccably clean, as well as Elodia, the restaurant itself. The ceilings are tall, very tall, and that in the dining room spans a space about 10 meters wide, front to back, and 25-30 long. This ceiling is supported by large, exposed beams of beautifully-finished, laminated wood that run the entire length of the room. This design affords each of the handful of tables and unimpeded view out the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that let onto a terazza adorned with stone flower boxes.
The family that owns and operates the property consists of at least the five people who were visible during our visit: the father, whose role seems mainly advisory, the mother, Elodia herself, the original chef, who is in charge of breakfast and serves as consultant to her two daughters who are the chefs, and the forty-something son, a sommelier, maitre d’ of the dining room, and hotel manager. They had begun construction on the site when the 2009 earthquake hit l’Aquila. Before this disaster, the plan for the place was that it would be devoted exclusively to housing special events, but when the earthquake hit, it destroyed the original Elodia restaurant, located near l’Aquila. So the family changed course and added the gorgeously modern restaurant and the guest rooms.
During our two evening meals at Elodia, we enjoyed two little stuzzichini, appetizers. One was a spuma (froth) of ricotta (very airy, fresh and delicious) served with a parmigiano 'cracker', and the other a bit of nicely-flavored bread salad. Among the first courses was an egg flan with deep fried verza (savoy cabbage), a surprise combination that worked superbly. Another first was a porcini and black truffle “risotto” made of faro instead of rice, again a surprising combination that produced scrumptious flavors. Yet another creation of the chefs’ light and inventive touch was strips of perfectly cooked trout fillets draped over alternating dollops of pureed small white local beans and of pureed purple potatoes. In a fourth “primo piatto,” the chefs revealed their other persona, this one stemming from their mother’s roots in the cooking of the Teramo provincia of Abruzzo. Diced lamb innards had been sautéed, wrapped in leaves of radicchio and then deep-fried. These crispy cylinders were served bathed in a very intense tomato reduction.
One of the second courses also exhibited the Teramo persona: pigeon breast, roasted to medium-rare, then served sliced with a rich, intense sauce made by reducing the roasting juices mixed with some Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Another second showed again the light, modern, delicate touch: crepes wrapped around fresh porcini sautéed in a way that offered up an explosion of their flavors. This persona also shone through in the crisply-encased square of baby pork loin roasted very long and at a very low temperature so that each bite was meltingly and crunchily tender.
The wines and the service were in keeping with the cuisine, that is, they were quietly excellent. Among the wines we tasted with the two meals, especially memorable were two bottles of intensely flavorful Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, by two small nearby producers, and a lovely rosè of Montepulciano that combined beautifully with the porcini crepes. The wines were selected for us by the maître d’-sommelier and served to us, as was the food, by the cordially professional waiter. A final word of praise, this time for the warmth and deftness of Elodia herself as she served us breakfast each morning.
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