A trip for the century is exciting locals and beyond thanks to one Newport chef’s extravagant inside view.
A look above Umbria
Over 4,000 miles away lies the vastly green and hilly region of Umbria, Italy. Bordering Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche, Umbria is often referred to as the country’s “green heart” and is known for medieval towns, dense forests and local cuisine—and this October, you can experience it all. In partnership with Oldways (oldwayspt.org), chef Kevin O’Donnell of Giusto Restaurant (giustonewport.com) in Newport is bringing a select few guests to a weeklong adventure in Perugia, Umbria, where cooking classes, truffle foraging and winemaking abound. “If you’ve been to Umbria before, you probably stopped at Assisi, which is a very religious town because it has so much history, or maybe you stopped at Perugia, but you probably didn’t go truffle hunting. You probably didn’t have a private cooking class by a chef and sit down and eat the food together on the farm. So we’re doing these really cool experiences together,” O’Donnell says of the trip, which is slated to take place Oct. 2 to 9.
O’Donnell, who trained in Italy, shows his expertise at Newport restaurant Giusto with traditional plates like rigatoni
The Newport chef himself is no stranger to the region, having lived there for over two years as he trained. One of his first positions happened to be in Umbria, where he was sous chef at Ristorante Zeppelin in Orvieto under Lorenzo Polegri, who is also participating in the excursion. “When traveling to a new region or town in Italy, I would always do research on local dishes and wines before I went. Once I got there, I would try those dishes at multiple restaurants to learn how it was made,” he reminisces. “Even if it was back to back, I would go to three lunches. I did a lot of traveling by myself because not many people want to go to lunch at three different restaurants to eat, but that’s how I learned all about regional Italian food.”
The Scotch meatball served at Giusto
Of course, this unique training experience shows in dishes at his popular eatery, featuring mouthwatering bites like ricotta frittelle dotted in honey, truffle and Parm, rigatoni doused in a rich lamb ragu and heirloom carrots sprinkled with Sardinian feta. “I not only learned about restaurants… but I also learned about where the food came from,” O’Donnell explains. “[Lorenzo and I] would go to these places together to go pick up cheese and meet the farmers, and it was just this holistic, amazing experience that was like a crash course in food and culture.”
Caprese and oysters are popular at the Newport eatery.
And now, he’s bringing it to others who want the same. Think a full day of truffle hunting, followed by an all-truffle lunch before free time to walk the city; visiting Orvieto, which is known for its white wines; and a scrumptious adventure to Norcia, a mountain town in the region that specializes in curing meats. Throughout the trip, time to shop and explore with or without the group is also worked into the schedule, along with a luxurious stay at Brufani Palace Hotel-Perugia. O’Donnell concludes, “The people we will meet traveling together and the connections we will make with the locals of Umbria will create a one-of-a-kind trip.”
Chef Kevin O’Donnell
Photography by: COURTESY OF OLDWAYS; ANGEL TUCKER