Trattoria Maria (The Marches)
October 10, 2007
Via IV Nov 86, Fano; 0721 808962
(September 26, 2007) Our most sumptuous and the most creative meal in the Marches was at the Madonnina del Pescatore (see separate listing), but perhaps our most memorable meal was at Trattoria Maria, a restaurant we would never have found without Anna Passi at Relais San Guillia and GPS.
Maria is on a main street, which we had driven several times in and out of town. It isn’t really a commercial area, more a quasi-residential neighborhood with nothing to catch your eye. At night, all we could see was a neon sign in the window that said “Bar.” In the front part of the large main dining room was a table of twenty or so Italians from four generations celebrating some occasion or other.
Further back was a table of two men and a table laid for the three of us (an Australian lady, Judie, also staying at the Villa Giulia joined us). We were told that reservations, made at least a day in advance, were a must. Maria and her daughter Dominica go to the market each morning and buy just enough fish for the number of reservations; no more and no less.
There is no menu, you just sit back and wait. And, from the owner’s perspective, there is no waste. Pretty savvy. The only decision is wine. White or red. If red, Domenica proffers a folder with pictures of five or six different bottles on offer. We chose the 11€ red, which was quite local. Our first treat was great grilled garlic bread, grilled polenta with fish and then a platter of 7 types of small fish including shrimp, and a sweet, white, crustacean known only in the Adriatic. We did our best with it all but left the three fish heads (just as they had been served) along with some other fish.Domenica wouldn’t let us do that and scolded us in Italian, insuring that we eat the cheeks which were the best part and served on the platter as a special delicacy. We did try them and while they were tasty we were not bowled over. This would have been enough for us, but Maria and Domenica worry that people won’t have enough to eat, so out came one large fish, maybe 2 or 3 kilos, which Domenica boned at the table.Since the two men had arrived before us, we knew from watching them what was coming and therefore tried to pace ourselves accordingly. Thus we did not do justice to this beautiful fish. Sure enough, out came a steaming earthenware pot with all sorts of fish cooked in a tomato broth. Domenica picked through it to serve us the pieces she thought each of us would particularly like, based on who knows what assumptions.
Dessert was a layered concoction of coffee, cream and a liqueur that was superb. Now for the moment of truth. What would this feast of fish and seafood cost? We had no idea but were quite pleasantly surprised to see that it was 45€ each! I don’t think I could have bought that much fish for that price.
As we left, both Maria and Domenica had to kiss us all and thank us each warmly; all of this done with no Italian on our part except for the basic politesse and no English whatsoever on theirs.