And the Winning Restaurants Are…

Coniglio in Porchetta, Olive Ascolane, Vincisgrassi
Coniglio in Porchetta, Olive Ascolane, Vincisgrassi

At Casa Pace e Gioia, we are fortunate to be in a beautiful location equidistant from the beach and the mountains. And we’re also lucky because there are a lot of fantastic local restaurants that offer a variety of fresh local dishes inspired by the Adriatic, the Sibillini Mountains, and the valley farmland. We recommend 25 restaurants (and counting) in our Digital Welcome and Area Guide. 

To simplify your selection, Matt and I are awarding “prizes” to featured restaurants that really excel in a particular category. 

We had considered a category for “Excellent Value for the Money” but we’d have to add all of these to that list. None of these prize-winners are overpriced.

Best Family Friendly Restaurants

The play area at Norcineria La Centrale del Gusto

Most of the restaurants in the Marche, and all of them in our Digital Welcome and Area Guide are family friendly to some extent, but our featured winners have something that makes them stand out, especially for younger children. 

Norcineria La Centrale del Gusto near the Abbadia di Fiastra off SP78

This informal restaurant specializes in meat dishes, huge sandwiches, fresh pastas, and daily specials. They have a lot of outdoor seating in a large garden area with swings, a slide, and playground games for children. There is no table service. You order at the counter and when it’s ready you bring it to your table, but in our experience, this meant a very short wait for our excellent meal. 

Ristorante Pizzeria L’Antico Approdo in Ripe San Ginesio 

This family run restaurant is popular with families of all ages. It’s a large space with a casual and friendly vibe. They have a huge grill and pizza oven, and their extensive menu has something for everyone. Their homemade pastas are all delicious and the tagliata di pollo con rucola (sliced chicken on arugula) is a nice secondi. A courtyard provides outdoor dining, and they have takeaway. We eat here often. It’s a particularly good value. 

Terra Nostra in San Ginesio

While I recommend Terra Nostra to everyone, I especially make sure to tell our guests with children about it. The inspired menu features seasonal fresh pasta dishes and meat-centric secondi choices that are all prepared creatively. Their thin crust pizzas crunch when you bite into them, and in addition to their usual delicious pizza options, they also offer seasonal specials. Terra Nostra is located in the city park with a lovely view of the Sibillini Mountains, and a playground, which is one reason I recommend it to families. They have outdoor dining and offer takeaway. 

Agriturismo La Selva in the Natural Reserve of Abbadia di Fiastra, Urbisaglia

This is a great place to take kids. They have farm animals, and on our visit, we saw geese, peacocks, donkeys, a small pony, and several cats and dogs. A large outdoor seating area and a playground give the kids plenty of amusement. The staff is family-friendly and can make pretty much anything for children to eat. Their pastas are homemade and delicious, and they use a lot of their own ingredients in their dishes. Their secondi, based largely on meat, are expertly prepared. 

Best Date Night Restaurants

Fresh fish at Il Santo Bevitore

These winning restaurants would be equally good with groups of friends. Indeed I have been to all of them as such. But for a relaxing evening without TVs on the wall, these places are where we go. 

Il Santo Bevitore in the historic center of Tolentino

With a lovely ambiance, airy vaulted ceilings, thoughtful interior design, great music, and big spacious tables that are spread out, this restaurant is easy to recommend. Outdoor seating in the stone-walled courtyard is also available. But the food takes center stage of this atmospheric scene. Il Santo Bevitore is one of the rare restaurants that excels with both fresh seafood and meat. The homemade pasta starters are fabulous and rely on what’s fresh seasonally. The Australian Angus steak sizzles on the platter. This is a great place if you want to try the best of the Marche’s signature dishes with an elevated twist. Paolo and Nadia provide excellent service and wine suggestions.

Il Sigillo in the historic center of Camporotondo di Fiastrone

This intimate restaurant with stone walls and wood beams has a warm ambiance and a relaxed vibe. With two small dining rooms upstairs, and outdoor tables in the piazza, reservations are essential. The Cicconi family is welcoming and passionate about local, traditional, Marchigiani food and wines. All of their meats and cheeses come from local producers that they list on the menu. Pastas and Olive Ascolane are handmade in house. The Marchigiana steak is outstanding and big enough to share. Desserts are innovative, homemade, and worth it!

Locanda Le Logge in the historic center of Urbisaglia

The outdoor dining tables under the vaulted loggia are particularly suggestive but the inside dining rooms also have a warm inviting atmosphere with fresh flowers and crisp linens on the table. It’s a beautiful setting and the Tombolini family is very inviting. Chef Andrea proposes a set tasting menu, or you can choose from the menu which features traditional Marchigiani specialties prepared inventively using local ingredients. They accommodate vegetarians very well.  

Best Places for Live Music

Live music at Osteria San Nicola. Photo courtesy of Osteria San Nicola, Grazie!!! 🙂

Le Marche is not famous for our party scene, but we do have exceptional local talent. If you’re in the mood for live music, these two winners immediately come to mind. 

Osteria San Nicola in the historic center of Tolentino 

One of our local standby favorites, Osteria San Nicola often has live music, even this crazy Covid summer. Check out their Facebook page for the lineup. Their seasonal, fresh, 0 km menu changes often but the food is always great. Their pastas are made in house, and they make pizzas even at lunch. They can make almost everything without gluten for celiacs. Their secondi are a mixture of very local meats and fish. They also have a lot of vegetarian options. In a historic building, tastefully decorated and with outdoor seating, this is a great place to eat even if you’re not listening to live music. 

La Taverna in Loro Piceno

La Taverna is open Wednesdays-Sundays for dinner and often has live music, especially in the summer. Check out their Facebook page for their lineup. They have a varied menu, from typical local fresh pasta dishes to huge hamburgers and fries. My stuffed pasta was delicious. The service is attentive and friendly. The live music was excellent, and it was not too loud so we could still converse freely. It’s a casual place with a local feel to it. 

Best place for Sunday Family Lunch

Ravioli at Ristorante da Rosa

Many Italian families have a tradition to enjoy a leisurely family lunch out on Sundays. If you’d like to take your part, I suggest you reserve your table at one of these winners. 

Ristorante da Rosa in the Natural Reserve of Abbadia di Fiastra, Urbisaglia

Ristorante da Rosa is always a terrific restaurant but it really knows how to host a Sunday Family Lunch. One Sunday we were the table of two next a table of 14, and the service never faltered, and our meals were just as fantastic as they are on date night. On Sunday afternoons, da Rosa is filled with locals who flock to this traditional airy restaurant with stone walls, wood beams, and a lot of natural light. Outdoor seating is available on the large patio, and being in the park, it is quiet and immersed in nature. Their homemade ravioli dishes are notable and are often offered as a special with seasonally inspired sauces. The secondi feature local typical meat dishes.

Pippo e Gabriella in Sant’Angelo in Pontano

Pippo e Gabrielle is popular with local regulars, but the Domizi family warmly welcomes everyone as an old friend. They dress in bow ties, provide stellar service, and offer excellent suggestions. The space is large and light, filled with old art, posters, and awards. The vibe is quintessential Italian. It’s a casual yet serious restaurant with a huge grill that is the basis for most of the secondi. Their primi dishes are all made in house; their cannelloni di carne and crepes are delicious and unique. They make fabulous homemade Olive Asocolane. If we had an award for the best fried potatoes they would win that too. Save room for the homemade tiramisu! 

Best Seafood

Lobster at Il Ristorantino

We’re lucky in the Marche because the nearby Adriatic gives us bountiful fresh fish and we have talented chefs to prepare them a myriad of ways. 

Il Ristorantino in Tolentino

This small restaurant is popular with locals and fills up fast, so I advise reservations. In a light and tasteful ambiance, the service is friendly and welcoming. They brought out the still-squirming lobster that would be my dinner. The chef prepares dishes starring fresh seafood with flair and creativity. The fish may play the starring role, but the breads, vegetables, rices, and pastas that accompany are also top-notch. The homemade desserts are especially inspired. 

Ristorante Seta Cruda in Loro Piceno

This airy restaurant focuses on fresh, local seafood prepared creatively. Their pizzas are also very popular. Do not come here looking for meat. We usually get a tasting portion of each seafood antipasti. They are served (beautifully) as courses, and we never have room to order more food at the end. The owner Elia, and the staff know a lot about the local wines and will perfectly pair a local wine with your meal. They have a large variety of Verdicchio wines. Sometimes they have live music, and they can open the walls up when the weather is nice.

Il Santo Bevitore in the historic center of Tolentino

Their fresh seafood dishes warrant including them in two categories. (See also Best Date Night.) They offer a tasting menu of seafood with an antipasto, first course, second course, and a side and I highly recommend it. But they also offer fish-based courses off the menu. Their seafood carbonara is delightful and they are very creative in pairing fresh fish and pasta for innovative first courses. I usually prefer meat, but I’ve eaten seafood I never thought I would try here and loved it all. You really can’t go wrong. 

Best Outdoor Dining

A view from Duilia

Outdoor dining is even more in demand this summer and I can’t think of a restaurant that does not have it. But these three winners are in quiet and peaceful locations, with exceptional views that add to the experience. 

Ristorante Duilia in the historic center of Sant’Angelo in Pontano 

This jewel of a restaurant has fantastic views of the valley and the village from their outdoor tables, so reserve in advance to enjoy the sunset! Signora Caporaletti started her restaurant in 1968 and at 90 years old, still makes pasta by hand. Her son Roberto now runs the restaurant which is noted for its traditional local cuisine, especially lamb. Their stuffed olives are homemade and you can taste the difference! The service is friendly and attentive, and the food is fantastic. In fact, if it was raining, I would eat indoors, but for a fabulous view, Duilia can’t be beat! 

Ristorante da Rosa in the Natural Reserve of Abbadia di Fiastra

Ristorante da Rosa is also a best Sunday Family Lunch winner, but their outside dining deserves special merit. It’s a large, tiled patio space with umbrellas to shade the tables, which are not tippy. The restaurant is in the large peaceful Natural Reserve, so traffic does not detract from the tranquility. One side of the patio faces a small garden area. It’s a lovely environment and the food and service never disappoint! 

Terra Nostra in San Ginesio

Terra Nostra is located in a large city park with views of the Sibillini Mountains, which is one reason it also won a Best Family Friendly award. It’s a gorgeous backdrop at any time, but especially at sunset. They have several outdoor tables spread throughout a large area. The adjacent street is not busy so it’s quiet. Their food is always delicious, whether it’s empanadas, a fresh pasta starter, a local meat second, or a seasonal pizza. The music adds to the atmosphere and the service is always fantastic. 

Best for Vegetarians

Fresh vegetables at Osteria San Nicola. Photo courtesy of Osteria San Nicola, Grazie!!! 🙂

While the Marche is famous for fresh fish, pork, rabbit, wild boar, and lamb, we also have fabulous local vegetables. When my pescatarian daughter came with me, I thought I’d be eating seafood all week but we found these restaurants had fantastic options for vegetarians. 

Osteria San Nicola in the historic center of Tolentino

In addition to being one of the Best Places for Live Music, Osteria San Nicola is also a great place to go for vegetarians (and Celiacs, and people who eat fish and meat)! I brought my daughter here for lunch and Letizia was very accommodating. They always have a variety of vegetarian antipasti and first course options on the menu, but they also had a soup special that used vegetable stock rather than a meat soup base. 

Locanda Le Logge in Urbisaglia

I brought my daughter here for dinner and when we mentioned she was a pescatarian to our waitress, she ran into the kitchen to see what was available. She came back with an abundance of options that Chef Andrea could create either from scratch, or by omitting meat from dishes already on the menu. I was impressed with the variety they were able to offer, especially without advance notice. My daughter said it was delicious, and I was happy that I could enjoy my rabbit. 

Il Sigillo in the historic center of Camporotondo di Fiastrone 

In addition to winning in the “Best Date Night” category, Il Sigillo is a good choice for vegetarians. They always have a first dish of pasta with cheese and /or truffles, and they also offer a seasonal 4-course tasting menu for vegetarians complete with a salad, pasta starter, a second course, and a dessert. 

Best Pizza

One of my many favorite pizzas from Best Of

Pizzeria Best Of  just off SP78 in Colmurano 

We always get take away here on the first night we arrive and are jet-lagged. They are very close to Casa Pace e Gioia so the pizza stays hot and delicious. If you prefer to eat there, they offer table service with indoor and outdoor seating. Their dough rises for days, and they offer a lot of innovative topping combinations using local, quality ingredients. Check out their seasonal specialty pizzas. The service is super friendly and it’s an informal, local place. If you want to take out, you can order by phone or wait there while they make it.  

Restaurants Worth the Drive 

Osteria Scherzi a Parte

Osteria Scherzi a Parte just outside of Sarnano 

Osteria Scherzi a Parte is a 35-minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia just outside of Sarnano in the Sibillini Mountains. Gabriele is the consummate host and his wife Tiziana reigns supreme in the kitchen. From their particularly good antipasto misto to the delicious homemade desserts, everything is local cuisine made with care and quality ingredients. The ambiance is friendly and relaxed, with very good background music. They are open for lunch and dinner daily except Wednesdays. It’s worth driving here expressly to have dinner, and to plan a day trip to the Sibillini or the surrounding areas to lunch here. 

La Taverna dell’Artista in Montelupone, a Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

Montelupone is famous for the artichokes that grow here and are listed in the Slow Food Presidium. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia and the town is indeed beautiful and worth a visit. La Taverna dell’Artista has an entire menu that features artichokes when they are fresh in season. Try the artichoke-stuffed Olive Ascolane! But even out of artichoke season, La Taverna has an extensive menu of typical local specialties, pizzas, and risotto dishes. They use very traditional local ingredients and add a creative spin to them like prosciutto-wrapped risotto. In an 18th century palazzo, the ambiance is historic, and the outside garden dining area is very relaxing. 

Picciolo di Rame in Caldarola

In the walled medieval hamlet of Vestignano, Il Picciolo di Rame is only a 30- minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia, but it’s definitely worth reserving a table! Down the stairs, in a 16th century former olive oil mill, in a 13th century castle, stone walls and candlelight provide a memorable ambiance for 25 diners. Dining here is more than a meal. Twelve tasting-sized portions are offered, of which five are fixed and the others change seasonally. Using local high-quality ingredients to prepare historic local recipes, this is a gastronomic feast and a cultural delight.

If you have a recommendation that deserves to be added please let me know, we enjoy trying new places but keep coming back to these! 

Buon appetito! 

Author: Heather Erica von Bargen

Heather is the host of Casa Pace e Gioia, a holiday rental home with a private pool, olive groves, and grapevines on 8 acres in the countryside hills of Le Marche, Italy.

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