Ronchi Rò: Cuisine, Wines and Hospitality on the Vine-Clad Hills of Collio

A treasure trove in the middle of the green surroundings of Collio, Ronchi Rò offers a profound full immersion of the hilly area in the eastern edge of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is is located in Dolegna del Collio, close to the border of Slovenia, and an hour's drive from the city of Trieste and just a few minutes from the enchanting town of Cividale del Friuli. Ronchi Rò is an agritourism with two hectares of land cultivated with rows of local grapevines and a small production of honey from its beehive boxes. Between hospitality and fine dining, Ronchi Rò is an agritourism that also has its own creation of a small number of wines.

With the arrival of 37-year-old Syrian Fares Issa at Ronchi Rò last year, he was entrusted by the owners, the Pacorini family from Trieste, the total makeover of the concept of the place which had already been functioning for a few years. Putting his knowledge attained from engineering studies, aptitude for learning, culinary skills, managerial abilities to maximum use, with just a bit over a year of carrying out his new philosophy for the place, he has already concretized aspiring projects that make up the world of Ronchi Rò. "Our dream is to create a network with everything that the territory offers, to give sound and color to silence, to convey the voice of the Collio to the customer," says Fares Issa, Engineer, Chef and Manager of Ronchi Rò.

The main house, a completely renovated stone farmhouse, has five spacious rooms designed to give the guests moments of relaxation, a restaurant and a convivial hall with a fogolar as its central point. In the old Friulian tradition, a fogolar is more than a fireplace or a rustic stove because it is the focal point a community life where families and friends huddle around it for warmth and for cooking food for everyone. The property is at 150 meters asl, giving it a slight elevation from its vineyards on the soft sloping hill towards the stream and woods under.

 Production of Wines
Ronchi Rò is located in one of Italy's important territories for the production of fine wines, most especially the whites, where viticulture is assisted by an ideal climate mitigated by sea breezes from the Adriatic Sea as the Julian Alps form as a natural barrier from cold winds. Ponca, the name of the soil that comprises the hills, is made of a mixture of marl and sandstone of oceanic origin that has been stratified over thousands of years. It is rich in salts and micro-elements from which the wines get their elegance and minerality. Its new production is quite limited with just 999 bottles of Merlot DOC Collio, aged in stainless steel for 14 months; 939 bottles of Friulano DOC Collio, aged on lees for 6 months; and 879 bottles of Sauvignon DOC Collio, aged on the lees for 6 months with frequent batonnage.

With the help of agronomist Alberto Faggiani and oenologist Erika Barbieri, experts in their fields who are also behind the excellent wines of neighboring winery Tenuta Stella, and converting to organic cultivation, Fares was able to accomplish one of the philosophies of Ronchi Rò - to recreate a new line of wines obtained from three varieties that thrive well in the territory, giving the excellent profile of climatic and geographic conditions of Collio.

In the typical Friulian spirit, the hospitality at Ronchi Rò is in a classical sense, a full-immersion of country-style relaxing with an input of layers of excellent enogastronomic preparations of Fares. The five rooms with bathrooms, located on two floors of the property that overlook different sides of Collio are given their utmost privacy and quietude in accordance with the place but not forgetting the comforts of technology like the wi-fi available throughout the hotel and electric charging of cars.

For the wellness of the guests, massages can also be booked in advance, as well as activities like foraging which is a great way to discover Collio's natural offerings that sprout from its soil, a close observation of how beekeeping is done, walks along the vineyards and even horseback riding with guides. The welcoming arms of Ronchi Rò is also aimed to familiarize its guests to the quality and the beauty of the place of the area. 

"We want to accompany guests through the experiences that we and our territory offer, take them by the hand and let them discover this extraordinary land," says Fares Issa. The small restaurant, designed with elegant simplicity and warmth, can accommodate 12 guests in the indoor dining room with an open kitchen, while in the summer the outdoor area can seat about 20 people.

Fares, who, among his many other expertise, is also a chef who has made his mark at the Il Giardino Segreto Ristorante in Rieti (close to Rome). One of the many talents of Fares is his fervent passion for learning and constant research. Not being local to Friuli, he has amassed an extreme load of knowledge about their traditions, culinary history, wild herbs and plants growing hills, artisan producers of local products, and age-old family recipes - all these were merged to his own culinary philosophy of Ronchi Rò.

The cuisine of Fares is clear and simple with total regard for seasonality of the raw materials. The familiar tastes of the Friulian tradition can be redefined with his own representation and as concluding dishes, the flavors are explicit with delicacy, balanced, and never one top of the other. There is transparency with minimal manipulation and the desire to put some local raw ingredients in the central point.

Appetizers (€10 to €12) such as La Rosa di Gorizia with Egg and Fricis, present only for two months a year, wherein following the tradition of Gorizia, the local radicchio is left to ferment under the peat until it becomes sweet then cleaned until its core which looks like a red rose. Served with steam pinto beans, poached egg and crumble of fricis pork belly. Whereas with the Tasting Platter of 14 Ham and Cheese (€22) selected personally by the chef from the best local producers like the goose salame of Agriturismo Tina in San Giorgio della Richinvelda and the smoked ham of D'Osvaldo Prosciutti in Cormons.

For the first course (€13 to €16), there is the Soup of Jerusalem Artichoke and Hay with snails and local herbs. Main course proposals (€16 to €30) are the Salàm Tal Aset, a traditional Friulian recipe of salami in vinegar; the Beef Tartare with Mont Radic or Alpine Sow-Thistle, a small radicchio that is harvested only in the high mountains as soon as the snow melts which is appreciated for its sweetness. Then for dessert (€8), there is Fares' interpretation of the Gubana, the sweet flag of Friuli, which he presents as a tart after he combined all the ingredients in a different way. The restaurant is open on Fridays and Saturdays for lunch and dinner, and Sunday lunch.

Another gastronomic element of Ronchi Rò which is the antithesis to the fine dining concept at the restaurant but consistent with the knowledgeable style of cooking of Fares is the preparation of the outdoor cuisine wherein tandoor oven and Swedish torch on fire and wood are the protagonists in cooking outside. With this, the interaction between the chef and the guests is a part of the experience, from foraging of some ingredients together (depending on the season) to taking part in setting the table as the chef finishes cooking the lunch, which in our case was tandoori chicken cooked on tandoor oven and potatoes cooked in the Swedish torch oven mixed with the foraged wild garlic leaves at the nearby stream bank and juices of the chicken. This is available only if booked ahead with a minimum number of guests.

Agriturismo Ronch Rò
Località Cime di Dolegna, 12
34070 Lonzano (GO) Italy
Tel: +39 371 4295269