by Kate Navarro
On a small, dimly-lit side street off the Piazza Mercada, in a hillside village in Italy, there is a madman. He’s been there for years, but the residents of this Umbrian village of Spoleto have no intention of removing him. Far from being a hazard, he is a draw for locals and tourists alike.
Filippo Proietti, nicknamed “il Matto” – the madman – since college, serves up a unique experience in his eponymous eating establishment. Step into L’Osteria del Matto, and you’ll be greeted personally by this charismatic restaurateur. If you don’t speak Italian, he’ll ask where you’re from. You’ll be strategically seated at one of the long wooden communal tables, most likely with folks from the same part of the world. Il Matto likes for his guests to be social.
There are no menus at L’Osteria del Matto. The only choice you are asked to make is whether you’d like red or white wine. Pitchers of water with mint leaves are set on the table and replenished frequently. You’ll get one plate, and one set of utensils, just like home.
The décor is chaotic, as befits the restaurant’s namesake. A much-photographed phallic-shaped lamp sits above the door. Mismatched wooden chairs, tables, and benches are scattered around the room and are easily moved to accommodate various sized parties. Old hardback books in a variety of languages pepper the bookshelves, along with various knickknacks and items of curiosity. There is also an outside area, across the alley, where larger parties gather in the nicer weather.
When the kitchen is ready, the courses begin. On our visit, we counted 15. Because Filippo personally shops each morning for the freshest ingredients, the menu is never the same. Filippo’s mother is the chef, and his sister helps out in the kitchen.
Filippo serves each course personally, explaining it as he places it on your plate. Occasionally, if the restaurant is crowded, his father will assist. The portions are small, but thoroughly satisfying, reflecting the authentic character of Umbria. L’Osteria del Matto is featured in an English-language cookbook called, fittingly enough, “A Taste of Umbria,” which Filippo was instrumental in publishing. The books are available at the restaurant, and he’ll gladly autograph a copy for you.
Filippo is an engaging fellow, chatting with his guests and regaling them with stories (his English is quite good). We felt as if we were at a large dinner party given by a friend.
The best part comes at the end of the evening, when you are presented with the bill. For 15 courses, the charge on our visit was a mere 16 euros per person! (Cost may vary depending on the season and offerings.) There was an extra charge for the wine (you pay for only what you drink), as well as one euro for a cup of coffee served on request, bringing the total bill for two people to a most affordable 45 euros. Filippo the Madman delivers the best value in Spoleto, a warmly satisfying experience!
Osteria del Matto
Via del Mercato, 3
06049 Spoleto (PG)
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