As soon as they opened L’Argine A Vencò in 2014, Chef Antonia Klugmann and her partner, Romano de Feo, won accolades and, then in December, 2015, a Michelin Star. After dining and staying the night, I found out what is behind their meteoric success.
Antonia’s creative cuisine is seasonal and local but a complete departure from traditional dishes. Her mantra is “senza confini“, which means “unbounded or limitless”. It is an ironic play on words in Italian because the restaurant is only a few kilometers from the border (confine in Italian) with Slovenia, the former Yugoslavia.
The senza confini theme carries into the restaurant and the guest rooms with transparent walls of glass. The long modern structure that Antonia and Romano built almost disappears into the landscape.
The front wall of the guest room I stayed in (door open to the far left in photo above) gave the feeling of being outside inside.
It looked out onto Antonia’s enormous garden…
And in the distance, to the Julian Alps.
The restaurant is in the center of the building with glass walls on both sides.
The back looks out toward the river, which used to power the 18th century mill, that is the original part of the structure .
When I sat down for dinner with friends, the table was elegantly “transparent” as well.
We chose a tasting menu (100 euro), which Romano paired with three wines beginning with single vineyard cru I Clivi Friulano San Pietro 2015. The vineyard is only a few kilometers away. (Read more about I Clivi)
The crisp, fresh minerality of the wine and its delicate but complex aromas complemented the food.
Insalata arrostita Fresh greens topped with a warm sauce of sardines and bottarga.
Zuppa tiepida di pomodoro Garden tomato soup with local black truffles.
Fegato Liver with dandelion greens and honey.
Cicala di mare “Cicada of the Sea”, a Mediterranea crustacean, with porcini and chanterelle mushrooms with nutty butter and greens.
Calamaro nostrano Local squid with camomile
Maccheroncini al ferretto Tube pasta with mussels, mint and potatoes
For the meat based courses, Romano poured a pinot nero (pinot noir) from the nearby vineyard of Le Due Terre. (Read more about Le Due Terre)
Cappelletti al cinghiale Boar Cappelletti with prune sauce
Agnello Lamb with sauce.
Pesca e Vino Peach with ice cream and wine sauce
Then, finally with the cheese course, Romano’s wine choice was an orange wine made from Chardonnay, Friulano and a small amount of Picolit, a native variety usually used for sweet wine. (Read more about Ronco Severo) Its warm, spicy aromas and flavors brought out the best in the cheese.
After this spectacular meal, I wanted to know more about Antonia and Romano. Born in Trieste, Antonia is a native of Friuli Venezia Giulia, who left to study law in Milan. After a short time, she moved to a top cooking school and returned to Trieste as an apprentice at Harry’s Grill. Four years later in 2006, she was sidelined by serious injuries in a car accident. After her recovery, she and Romano daringly opened their own restaurant in Pavia di Udine.
In 2009, Antonia stepped onto the national stage when made it into the finals for the prize of MIglior Chef Emergente in Nord Italia “Best Up and Coming Chef in Northern Italy” and, then, won on popular Italian television show, La Prova del Cuoco (Cook’s Competition) during the 2009-10 season.
Even with all the successes, Antonia had another idea: the dream of L’Argine a Vencò. She and Romano closed the restaurant in Udine, bought the mill in Vencò with a new dream, and went to work in Venice at the newly founded at Venissa on the island of Marzorbo in the Venice lagoon. Antonia carried elements of their experience into their own creation at L’Argine a Venco.
Hats off to this dynamic and talented couple!
L’Argine a Vencò
Località Vencò 15 15
34070 Dolegna Del Collio (GO)