Before we even arrived at Ristoro Mucciante, I was blown away by Abruzzo. Then, on that first full day, we drove north over the mountains. Past landscapes that had Keith yelping, “ARE WE ON THE MOON???” and others that had us begging him to pull over because we had this primal craving to leap about. After about an hour, we pulled into Ristoro Mucciante, a butcher shop settled in an alpine meadow against the foothills of the Campo Imperatore, otherwise known as “Little Nepal” for its sheer and impressive ring of mountains.
Mucciante was a little overwhelmingly packed, I should tell you, which may have been because it was Sunday, or it may be because there was a Mini Cooper convention as well as an enormous motorcycle group.
I’m going to walk you through the process at Mucciante, so no matter how nutsy it is, you’ll be a-okay.
First things first. Map your route ahead of time. We went to Mucciante with friends who used their car's GPS which was far more straightforward than Google Maps. We all made it, but we arrived a little more carsick than they did.
Once arrived, corral your people who probably dashed off as soon as the car door opened. Those meadows are beguiling, it’s hard not to run and spin, Sound of Music style. At least get someone to stake out a table, and unpack your goods. I recommend bringing a corkscrew, your own wine if you are at all fussy about such matters, a decent knife if you’ll be getting a kind of meat that needs cutting, and glasses/plates/silverware if you’d rather not use their plastic offerings.
Once you’ve got a home base, walk into Mucciante, and grab a number from the ticket dispenser on your left and one from the ticket dispenser on your right, and get the lay of the land (if it’s not crowded, feel free to delay getting tickets until you are confident you understand the system).
The counter on the left is for raw meat. Abruzzo is known for its arrosticini, or lamb skewers, so make sure you get those. We got about three per person and it wasn’t enough. I recommend five. I also heartily recommend the pancetta (pork belly, not cured, also called magro e grasso at least in Umbria, which grills up with a delicious caramelized edges) and the pork chop. Though it must be said that everything we saw cooking looked completely swoon-worthy, including the sausages and the steaks.
The counter on the right is for everything else. There you can purchase cheese, cured meats, bread, little bottles of olive oil for drizzling on your finished meats or over your bread, marinated artichokes, drinks, etc.
Just a heads up, our meal (minus wine, which we brought) for nine of us totaled €45,00. That was for 30 arrosticini, a pork chop, and two pieces of pancetta plus bread, cheese, a couple of vegetables like artichokes, water, and soft drinks. Doing it again, we would have gotten about 45 arrosticini, more pancetta, and probably something else to try.
Once you have your goods, drop off the ready to eat stuff at your table, and proceed to the grills. There are long rectangular grills for the arrosticini (genius), and there are also grilling baskets for easy cooking of other meats (it clamps around your meat, so you can just flip it, without having to flip each piece of meat). When fires go out, a guy comes around, loads the grill up with charwood and uses a blowtorch to ignite it. It’s a sight to behold.
Carry your cooked meat to the table and feast! There’s nothing like eating freshly cooked meat with other local products while surrounded by magnificent mountains. Everything we ate was absolutely fabulous.
After you eat, some people might want to nap, some might want to continue nibbling and sipping wine, some might want to play in the meadow, and some might want to hike. Gabe, Siena, and I hiked up one of the little foothills and it was breathtakingly gorgeous, but I warn you—the distances are deceiving. I thought it would be a 20 minute giro, but it was over an hour. It may have approached two. Luckily our friends back at the table had been polishing off the wine so weren’t fussy about our prolonged absence enough to tell us how long it had been. We excused ourselves by noting that a literal flock of sheep crossing the meadow had impeded our return. Plus, there were all those photos to take.