Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cookout in Campo Imperatore

We left Santo Stefano di Sessanio in a hurry because Daniele, our driver, had told us that the place where we were going to eat in Campo Imperatore closed at 8pm. The road curved around mountain tops and wound its way through the Gran Sasso National Park past sheep and cattle tracks. Then we descended into a vast plateau and came across a herd of cows, some of which blocked the road for a few minutes! Slowly they made their way to the other side and we continued on.
Daniele told us that some of the Spaghetti Westerns - a sub-genre of Western films dating from the mid-1960’s - were filmed here (as well as in Spain). As we drove along past the miles of open, uninterrupted land surrounded by mountains - I could just imagine cowboys galloping by. It really does look like the old Wild West complete with semi-wild horses, golden eagles and peregrine falcons flying overhead. This unspoiled landscape provided the perfect background scenery for these films.
The Corno Grande in the distance
In the lower plateau of Campo Imperatore there are wooden log cabins that were originally built to equip the cinematographic sets of these legendary Spaghetti Westerns. Years later these cabins were left to the families of shepherds. Ristoro Mucciante is one of these and is open from April to October.

Inside the cabin they sell arrosticini (mini lamb kebabs - 1cm cubed lamb on sticks), sausages, pecorino cheese, beer, olive oil and some local wine.

Outside there are many wooden benches and tables scattered around and several burning braziers available so that you can cook your own meat after you purchase it. We cooked it in two batches, about 10 minutes for each one. It is a fun and very special way to enjoy typical Abruzzese food. The embers in the charcoal of the coal brazier (fornacella) were already glowing. The air temperature dropped to 18C so it was also a nice way to warm our hands, because we actually started to feel cold. It was strange, because back in Ireland 18C would be considered to be a warm summer’s day.
They provide the disposable plates, knives, forks and plastic cups, so you don’t have to bring anything of your own. The price for 50 skewers of arrosticini, bread, olive oil, 5 sausages, water and beer was €45 (not bad for a meal for 5 people)! If you'd prefer to have this food served to you rather than take the risk of cooking it for yourself, you could try the other Ristoro in Campo Imperatore that Bodach of About Abruzzo went to.

I had my first taste of arrosticini on ferragosto 2007 and I loved them from the very first bite. Accompanied simply by sausages, crusty bread drizzled with delicious olive oil (from Loreto Aprutino) and Perroni beer this rustic traditional food was so enjoyable. The sun was setting as we took in the expansive surroundings, sitting out the middle of nowhere.

When the lights of the Ristoro went out Daniele put his car headlights on until we finished eating as we were the last to leave. Then he announced dramatically “and now for the light show - everyone look up” …

He switched off the headlights and we were awe-struck as we gazed up at the layers of thousands of stars in the black night sky. We could even see the Milky Way directly above us. It was truly an amazing sight, humbling and magical, and a perfect end to an unforgettable day…
The mesmerizing Milky Way
Where is Campo Imperatore?

Click on map to enlarge


  1. Hi Nora,

    thanks for the mention. I've never had the chance to be on Campo Imperatore in the dark - the stars must have been amazing.

    Having read your post I feel the sudden need for plate of arrosticini. :-)

    All the best.

  2. You’ll have to go back to see the colours of the sunset in Campo Imperatore! When the darkness comes, the absence of artificial light there, as you know, makes it ideal for stargazing. It is hard to decide which was better, the arrosticini or the amazing landscape and the sky.

  3. Great post, Nora! Thanks and congrats! Photos are very picturesque.

  4. Thanks Tatiana! Glad you like the pictures.

  5. What a wonderful experience!

  6. Yes it was Janie - an experience I'd highly recommend to anyone visiting Abruzzo.

  7. try the arrosticini in Coffee to get her 12 south richmond street , Dublin 2.......Run by italians!

  8. I tried the delicious arrosticini in 'Coffee to Get Her' in Dublin at the Sagra last month. I've since discovered that they serve arrosticini at lunchtime Mon-Fri. This place really is a little piece of Abruzzo in Dublin! Wonderful!!