Welcome to the "New" Friends

Welcome to the "New" Friends

Sunday 9 February 2014

The New "FRIENDS" will be Opening this Spring at Piazza del Municipio,11 e 12

The cold winds and rains of winter have held their sway over the Sabine Hills and the Tiber Valley these past months... Recently severe floods have hit our region hard. The Tiber overflowed its banks near Stimigliano and Poggio Mireto Scalo flooding homes and businesses along the main road to Rome. The Eternal City was flooded in places but more severe damage was done in the low lands around Fiumicino, especially Isola Sacra and Ostia. Closer to Casperia there have been some mudslides and roads washed out here and there, but no major, long term damage... And spring and hopefully better weather is just around the corner.

Through the winter we have been hard at work planning, reimagining, designing, building, painting, and furnishing our new "Friends". So much has been accomplished. 

When we open this Spring our customers will be able to enjoy their favourite items from our traditional menu, but there will a range of new menu items added, including new appetizers and a selection of sure to satisfy home-made dishes... But that is not all... From September/October we will have our new pizza oven in operation and so we will be  adding delicious home-made pizza to Friend's menu...

We are not ready to reveal everything yet, but here are a few photos to give you an idea of what it will look like. Allora, entrate! So come on inside! 

The main entrance
The view out the main door...

The vestibule
Steps up to the second floor
There is so much more to show... The new Friends will be a combination wine bar, restaurant on three levels that will include a lounge room with comfortable sofas and a fireplace! And as we mentioned earlier, from September we will also be a pizzeria.


The new Friends will offer panoramic views of the Sabine hills and the scenic farms and olive groves in the nearby valley from seven windows.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

Like our former location, we will be offering al fresco dining in a sheltered outside patio with tables and umbrellas on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. 

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

Our customers will be able to enjoy coffee and cocktails, lunch and dinner inside and outside as before.  

Lighting installed... Feel the atmosphere!

So stay tuned... We will be posting more as work progresses and as we get closer to the new opening. Again, thank you for all your support and words of encouragement. What would Friends be without our many friends?

Some things change and some things are forever!


Tuesday 19 November 2013


Hello Friends! The cold rains of autumn are upon us as our regular busy season winds down. This has been a tough year for Italy, what with our ongoing political and economic crises, and a year of great challenge for us here at Friends Café

The weather, which so often determines the amount of spontaneous visits we receive from other parts of Europe, was particularly bad this year. But we have survived, thanks to your support. 

So, as our 2013 season comes to a close, we have some big news. After a good run of 10 years, our lease at our current location above the Porta Romana in Casperia has not been renewed. Though we are sad to leave this place which is imbued with so many amazing memories, we must take this news in stride and plan for our future. 

There is an  saying in English, something along the lines of, "When God closes a door, He opens a window".  In Italian we have something similar, and perhaps better: "Quando si chiude una porta, si apre un portone" which translates into "When a door is closed, a larger door is opened." 

So today we close the door of our kitchen at Friends Café on Piazza Umberto I. We will continue to operate the bar for a short while, but very soon we will vacate our former premises and will be working hard to open a bigger and better Friends Café to serve you. This new Friends will be located just a few steps more inside Casperia's centro storico on the Piazza del Municipio.

An old post card showing the Piazza del Municipio prior to our town's name change to Casperia
The New Friends Café will be located just a few doors down from the entrance to the Commune's Municipal Offices. This was the location of my mother's former restaurant which was called "Ristorante A Casa di Anna".

The new Friends Café will have three floors. When you come to see us next year, we will be operating not only our usual Wine-Bar/Ristorante with our tried and true regular menu featuring bruschette with Sabina D.O.P. olive oil, Stringozzi O.M.G., and our signature Negronis, we will also have a pizza oven and make delicious pizzas that you can enjoy here in the restaurant, or have delivered to your door if you live or are staying within the centro storico. 

Last, but not least, for those who want to relax with a glass of Pecorino, Falanghina, or a G&T or a Negroni beside a fireplace, our third floor will be a comfortable lounge. 

So there you have it. Over the course of the winter we will be posting updates on our progress with some sneak previews of how the inside of the new Friends Café is looking and a count down to our Grand Opening in March of 2014, so please stay tuned. 

In the meantime, we would like to thank all of you, our faithful patrons: both local, Italian, and from outside of Italy, for your past patronage, support, and your friendship. Without you, there would be no Friends. Salute!    


Thursday 31 October 2013


If you travel abroad, one of the most popular television programmes on Italian language channels is Magnifica Italia from Rete 4. Our country's spectacular ancient and medieval cities and hill towns with their breathtaking surrounding scenery are shown off from the sky. Watching this television show people must think that Italy is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. 

No doubt for this programme small airplanes or helicopters are used to take the camera person up in the air to do the filming. However, there is another way to get these amazing bird's eye views, and this is by using a small flying camera mounted on a drone.

This past week some friends of some Canadian friends of ours visited Casperia with one of these amazing flying cameras and took some aerial videos of our town. It was a great pleasure to meet with Nicola and Irene. Click the LINK to see their amazing video.

New friends of Friends Cafe: Nicola Moruzzi and Irene Vecchio, the creators of this amazing video.


Thursday 26 September 2013


There are many excellent bars and restaurants in the Sabina, each with their speciaties for which people will drive for many kilometres to enjoy, but there are few restaurants in the world in which you can enjoy delicious, honest, home-made local food and enjoy sunsets like these as you sip on your favourite libation.

In Italian, the word for sunset is Tramonto, and the Tramonti seen from Friends Cafe are truly spectacular. 

Sometimes the rays of the sun fan out so perfectly you would almost expect to begin hearing heavenly trumpets sound and angelic choirs sing out... You don't need much of an imagination to figure out where the painters of the Rinascimento got their inspiration.

The Renaissance is long gone, but the spectacular Sabine sunsets remains with us. They still inspire artists and photographers from all over the world. You will often see painters with their easels set up in the piazza in front of friends. The sunset hour is the favourite time of people to come to our bar, buy a drink, order a snack and wait with their cameras for the sun to set. 

They are rarely disappointed... Negroni and camera in hand... A spectacular sunset and bubbling fountain to their left, a happy little piazza with children playing soccer to their right, and the ancient stones of Casperia turned golden orange by the setting sun behind them. In terms of an Italian experience, it does not get much better than this.

Very often we see people take photos of their sunset shadows on the walls of our restaurant.

But when the sun finally sets, people come back to their tables and sip on their Negronis... the brilliant deep rich orange of the strong fragrant liquor the final physical stage of imprinting their Sabine sunset experience forever...

Now, would you like some delicious bruschette drizzled with Sabina D.O.P. and a plate of Stringozzi O.M.G. with those Negronis?  

Thursday 11 July 2013

Summer Fun in Casperia and Nearby - SAGRE

Summer at Friends Cafe

Summer is a wonderful time to visit the Sabina. The weather is hot, the skys are mostly clear, and there are lots of things to do in the towns and villages in the Sabina. You may have heard of Sagre (plural of Sagra), the popular food-themed festivals we Italians like to celebrate. Summer is one of the busiest times for these festivals. Just recently in nearby Selci was celebrated the Sagra del Fallone

Fallone are a type of baked pastry filled with wild and cultivated greens. The contents of the Fallone vary from season to season and according to traditional recipes of different towns where they are made. The Fallone come from the kitchen of the poor farmers in the region. It is a simple dish, tasty and nutritious dish very typical of Sabina.

A simple dough is made using flour, a little warm water, olive oil and salt. The dough must be kneaded for about ten minutes then divided into smaller portions that are stretched out with a rolling pin.

Greens and pot herbs such as spinach, chard, or chicory are wilted in a pan with garlic, sage and pepper then spooned over the rolled out dough which is carefully wrapped and sealed around the greens. These raw fallone are then pricked with a fork, drizzles with Sabina D.O.P. olive oil and then put in the oven on a baking sheet.

The resulting golden brown rolls of baked pastry filled with the green bounty of our Sabine fields and hills is delicious. Though they are mostly typical of Stimigliano, Torri in Sabina, and Montebuono, you will find them sold in many of the alimentari and supermarkets in the region. You will often find them here in Casperia at the alimentari outside the town walls. If you have not tried one, I recommend it. 

Three Sagre that are coming up soon in the region are the Sagra della Pizza Fritta, or Fried Pizza Festival in Cottanello on July 13th...

the 13th annual Festa degli Gnocchi in nearby Cantalupo on July 25th through 28th...

...and the 32nd Annual Sagra  dei Stringozzi in Casperia, which takes place over four days, August 1st through 4th.

First, let's look at the Sagra della Pizza Fritta in Cottanello as that is the one almost upon us. As the poster above advertizes there will be three type of fried pizzas offered for sale: sweet, savoury, and stuffed. Our sweet pizzas are like the so-called "Elephant Ears" I hear you have in America, or the "Beaver Tails" you will find in Canada.
Canadian Beavertail
The savoury version you will find all over Italy. The famous British chef Jamie Oliver fell in love with them during a recent stint in Italy for one of his shows, and uploaded a recipe for one version online. I am sure Signor Oliver's version is quite good, but if you want to taste the best pizze fritte, you must come to the Sabina where it is so popular there are Fried Pizza Festivals also in the towns of Canneto Sabino (famous for its ancient Olive tree) and in Morro Reatino.

Image of Sabine Fried Pizza courtesy of Italiavirtualtour.it
Of course during our Sagre we have entertainment, usually some live bands and dancing. There are contests, prize draws, and local produce and products for sale. It is fun for the whole family.

Gnocchi are known the world over... those delightful potato, flour and egg dumplings have fans everywhere, and the Gnocchi you will taste at the Festa in Cantalupo are special because they are of course made with potatoes and other ingredients produced here in the Sabina. 

Stringozzi, on the other hand, you may not know...

Stringozzi alla Cottanellese at La Foresteria Restaurant in Cottanello, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Stringozzi, or hand rolled string pasta, is very typical of the Sabina. We serve two versions here at Friends Cafe, Stringozzi al Ragu', which is served with a meat sauce, and Stringozzi oh my god, in which the noodles are dressed in Sabina D.O.P. Olive Oil, peperoncino chili pepper flakes, and a mixture of hard cheeses.

Here is a link to a video uploaded from the 2009 Sagra dei Stringozzi which will give you a taste of what happens.

You may also enjoy this video of some of our local children demonstrating how stringozzi is made: Gnam Casperia.

The programme for the 2013 Sagra dei Stringozzi is still being finalized. When things are more set, we will let you know the details.

You can see from the 2012 poster that music, gastronomy, entertainment and local crafts were advertised as part of the fair.

And if you look carefully at the poster just above the space between the words "Sagra" and "dei" you will see us waving at you from Friends Cafe just to the right of Piazza Umberto I.

Photo courtesy of Massimo Fidale
Come on by for a visit, a Negroni or two, of perhaps a bottle of Pecorino during the festival. Remember, we have the best place to enjoy a summer sunset in the Sabina.

Photo courtesy of Ine Dennekamp

Monday 17 June 2013


Our world famous bruschette drenched in Sabina D.O.P. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You will find Friends Café is ideally situated, first of all, because of our proximity and easy access from Casperia's main gate, the Porta Romana. Just a few dozen easy steps up past the gate and you are at Piazza Umberto I, arguably one of the most charming piazze in the Sabina. Here, seated at one of Friends' outdoor tables you can enjoy the ebb and flow of life in this hilltown. 

Friends Cafe seen from Piazza Umberto I at sunset courtesy of Ina Dennekamp

While you sip on a Negroni, or a glass of bubbly Prosecco you will see the townsfolk of Casperia of all ages ascend and descend the stone stairway that leads up past our restaurant to the Piazza Comunale.

The steps leading up to the Piazza Comunale, courtesy of Giorgio Clemente
Nonne and nonni weighed down with their afternoon shopping are escorted up the winding stone cobbled steps by their children and grandchildren and sometimes the family dog, to many a "Ciao!" or  "Buona sera!" from friends and neighbours chatting in the piazza. 

During the afternoon hours after school and the early evenings it is not unusual to see a number of our youth, and sometimes not so young, enjoying an impromptu game of calcio, or football (soccer for you Americans and Canadians) on the piazza. Casperia is a friendly town. If you like to kick a ball, feel free to join in. Just be aware that an enthusiastic kick very often results in the ball going over the wall and bouncing all the way down to the Petrocchi Bar. If you are playing a game with one of our young people, they will usually oblige by running down and fetching the ball. And sometimes, if you are lucky, you will find someone who was chatting down below will catch the ball and kick or toss it back up for you. If you run after the ball yourself, well, it is great excercise and we at Friends Café are happy to provide you with liquid and solid sustenance to help you recuperate once you make it back up the stairs.

Our world famous Sabine sunset-coloured Negronis
We have a simple menu, but one that features fresh pasta made at a family-run pastificcio just outside the town gates. Most pasta lovers are familiar with fettucine, the thin flat ribbons of pasta which we serve with a hearty mushroom sauce, but you may not be familiar with stringozzi, the traditional hand made pasta typical of the Sabina and parts of Umbria, where it is known as Umbrichelli.

Here is an excellent video that shows how stringozzi is made by hand. In this video you will see children from our town learn how to make Stringozzi Aspresi using just flour, water and salt, and using their hands.

Here at Friends Café we serve stringozzi two ways: one with a traditional Bolognese-style tomato and meat-based Ragù. The other is something new we introduced to the menu this year. 

New Menu, as of April 2013
 The stringozzi noodles are dressed with red chillies, Sabina D.O.P. extra virgin olive oil and a mixture of hard cheeses.  The initial response from most of our foreign visitors who taste this version is to exclaim, "Oh, my God!" So we felt we really had no choice and decided that that is what it should be called.

Toasting the launch of Stringozzi O.M.G., April 2, 2013
Of course, Friends is proud to offer a variety of wines, beers and mixed cocktails, from G&Ts to our famous Sabine sunset coloured Negronis, to go along with your meal. If you are a white wine lover, you will probably enjoy a bottle of crisp, dry Pecorino from Abruzzo.   

And when you see the spectacular Sabine sunsets from the comfort of your table here at Friends Café you will want to have something to toast with. Alla salute! Cin cin!

Sunset as seen from Friends Cafe in Casperia