Apparently, we stumbled upon the biggest party of the year. During the week of Umbria Jazz, thousands upon thousands of music lovers, locals and tourists alike, descend upon Perugia, whether it’s to enjoy shows headlined by the likes of B.B. King, Santana, and Prince (or shall I say, the Artist Formerly Known as Principe), a 12-man brass band blasting their funk through the cobblestone streets, or frenetic drum circles that last until dawn.
Maybe it was the jetlag, but I’m shocked to report that I could actually hang with the big boys, loitering in the piazza, and listening to some great music, until…well…until it was time for breakfast! (And what an amazing breakfast it was. More on this in a bit.)
First things first though — fuel for this night of revelry.
Stop numero uno: Gelato (obvi).
On our way to meet up with Frank, we made a pit stop at Augusta Perusia Cioccolato e Gelateria. Now, sweet toothed cognoscenti may already know this, but Perugia is famous for producing delightful chocolate treats. With flavors like Baci, Raffaello, and Kinder, on the menu, I knew this would be a good stop. I was right. The gelato was creamy, the servings were plentiful, and our night was off to a great start.
We couldn’t reach Frank on his cell phone, so we did the next sensible thing. We got pizza. Not just any pizza, mind you. This is the pizza that Hua has been swooning over ever since we decided to visit Perugia (in fact, it could have been a large deciding factor). So, we made a beeline to Pizzeria Mediterranea. I was charmed as soon as we stepped in. The room was filled with a warm, golden aura that seemed to emanate from a majestic pizza oven at the center of it all. I loved the cavernous stone walls that curved up into a high domed ceiling. I loved watching the old pizzaiolo work with speed and familiarity. But most of all, I loved the Quatro Formaggi.
You can order the Pizza ai 4 Formaggi (four cheese pizza) with tomato sauce or white. I prefer with sauce, maybe because I’m a tomato freak. The pizza is Neapolitan style – cooked for about 90 seconds for that perfect crusty yet chewy texture, and a slightly floppy center that warrants being eaten with a knife and fork. What makes the angels sing though, is the transcendent combination of Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Scamorza, Romano, Pecorino, and basil on top. It is un-real. Not to mention, technically a 5 cheese pizza.
We came back here as often as possible to get our Quatro Formaggi fix. I can also highly recommend the Pizza Boscaiola (with fresh tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, mozzeralla, pecorino, and basil) and the Pizza Mediterranea (with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto crudo, shaved parmigiano, pecorino, and basil). But the Quatro Formaggi. Man, that’s where it’s at.
Adequately fueled up with gelato and pizza, we were well-equipped for the adventures ahead of us. We met up with Frank and Mike and joined the festivities in the streets.
The night seemed to stretch on forever, but the music never stopped. When the main stage performances ended, to the jazz club we went. When the lights came on at the club, to the piazza we fled. When the impromptu jam sessions under the moonlight faded into the cool indigo of dawn, it was time for breakfast…where a whole different kind of jazz riff blew up my taste buds.
Like moths to a flame, we drifted towards Panetteria-Pasticceria Porta Trasimena. The only spot open at 5 am this bakery serves only one item at this hour: Cotoletta di Pollo. Essentially, it is a chicken cutlet sandwich. But oh, it is SO MUCH MORE. First, the bread is amazing. Minutes fresh from the oven, it has an incredible texture, with the outer crust crackling into a soft, pillowy dough (almost like how the surface of a macaron cracks and crumbles when you bite into it). Nestled between the slightly sweet bun is a breaded and fried chicken cutlet, layered with melted cheese, slices of ripe tomato, lettuce, and Italian mayo (don’t ask me why, but the mayo just tastes better here – similar to Japanese mayo).
The bakery’s proprietress, Pina, has been making this breakfast of champions for 28 years. Bless her heart.
As my head hit the pillow with a thud, I felt pure gratitude.
Via Pinturicchio 2
Tel. 075 5734577
Piazza Piccinino 11/12
Tel. 075 5721322
Panetteria-Pasticceria Porta Trasimena
Via Dei Priori, 108