Fine Dining Atop Ruins of Ancient Roman Dwelling in the Heart of Assisi at La Locanda del Cardinale

Imagine a dining room where you can eat atop the ruins of a Roman-era house over two thousand years old, situated within a historical 16th-century inn that once housed prominent figures of Assisi. To display and protect this ancient flooring, a transparent glass floor separates diners from the historic remains. However, La Locanda del Cardinale is more than just its historical surroundings. Recently reformatted, the restaurant boasts an exemplary culinary team, powered by Executive Chef Andrea Impero and Resident Chef Diego Pennacchia, who have elevated the gastronomic experience to new heights to be paired with a selection of a thousand labels of wine. Interested? Then open the door!

Situated just a stone's throw away from the lively Piazza del Comune and the majestic Basilica of Santa Chiara, La Locanda del Cardinale is located in a quiet part of the center of Assisi housed inside Palazzo del Cardinale. As the old wooden door of the building opens, you walk through the entrance hall and it opens to the brilliant glass floored dining rooms of the Locanda with walls adorned with magnificent frescoes from the Renaissance era and the stonewalled wine cellar underneath. Graceful and minimal like its environment, the protagonists are clearly the ancient ruins of the Roman dwelling, the wines and the gastronomic offerings of the chefs.

Built in 1549, Palazzo del Cardinale was once the residence of Cardinal Bartolomeo Roverella, a prominent figure who was appointed governor of Assisi and Perugia by the Pope. Subsequently, it went to the powerful Bensi family then to the rich counts of Fiumi, consolidating its importance in the historical context of Assisi. The story of this inn is intrinsically linked to the evolving history of Assisi, revealing layers of cultural and architectural significance.

The Amazing History of Palazzo del Cardinale

The fascinating history of the La Locanda del Cardinale was unearthed during renovation works in the basement rooms of Palazzo del Cardinale. Roberto Damaschi, the owner, wanted to build an underground wine cellar to host the most comprehensive collection of wines in Umbria. And from this excavation, the profoundly layered history of Palazzo del Cardinale was uncovered, from the significant discovery of the two thousand year old floor adorned with geometric designs as part of an ancient Roman dwelling from the 70 BC. The floor is a testament to the Roman presence in Assisi being crafted using a mixed technique of lithic-based cement and colored glass pastes. Further excavations revealed that the site continued to be significant long after the Roman era. Artifacts, including fragments of pottery and ceramic material from the 6th-7th century AD were found, indicating the site’s continued use and importance through successive centuries. These discoveries provide a glimpse into the rich and stratified history of the location, showcasing its continuous occupation and the layers of civilization that have passed through it.

Elevating Umbrian Cuisine

After years of directing the kitchen of La Locanda del Cardinale, Chef Alessandro Lestini passed the baton to a couple of equally outstanding chefs to keep the stoves running. Roberto Damaschi brought in Chef Andrea Impero from multi-awarded Elementi Restaurant to redefine the project. Chef Impero, in turn, selected his trusted friend and collaborator, Chef Diego Pennacchia, to join him in the kitchen. This new partnership produced a menu that embraces the classic themes of La Locanda del Cardinale made from local ingredients and seafood, with dishes that exhibit stylistic and conceptual perfection, hallmarks of Impero's expertise. 

From L to R: Alessandro Lestini, Andrea Impero and Diego Pennacchia

Chef Andrea Impero is a leading figure in haute cuisine in Umbria who heads the kitchen team of the Michelin-starred Elementi Restaurant in Borgobrufa Spa Resort, another gastronomic reference point of excellence in Umbria. His kitchen is a model in the dedication of highlighting the value of the territory. 

Roberto Damaschi, the owner of La Locanda del Cardinale, expresses his enthusiasm for the new chapter at his restaurant, "This new synergy between culinary talent and passion for excellence, which has always characterized La Locanda del Cardinale, certainly promises new and further growth for the level of catering in Umbria. Personally, I have always felt the responsibility of safeguarding and enhancing such a special place, and with all my collaborators, we have always thought that aiming for the highest quality in terms of products and service was a way to give it the right value. From today, with the collaboration of Chef Impero, everything will be even more amplified."

"The collaboration with La Locanda del Cardinale represents a further opportunity for me to bring value to the region that welcomed me," says Chef Impero. "Together with Diego Pennacchia, we have developed a menu that reflects the sensitivity and uniqueness of this extraordinary place."

Diego Pennacchia, Resident Chef

The menu at La Locanda del Cardinale is both a homage to tradition and a bold statement of innovation. The two chefs have crafted a dining experience that maintains the restaurant’s steadfast commitment to quality while introducing original and concrete cuisine. Chef Impero's innovative approach ensures that each dish is a tribute to the rich heritage of the region while introducing contemporary flavors and techniques. This concept is poised to delight a wide range of discerning palates while providing an unforgettable experience of being completely surrounded by the stratified history of the Palazzo del Cardinale. 

Having a thousand labels of the finest Italian and international wines at the cellar curated by the owner, Roberto Damaschi and sommelier Marco Venarucci, the range of enjoyment of the dishes widens to an extremely higher level. This further amplifies the restaurant’s reputation as a food and wine treasure within the walls of a historical cache of valuables.

In conclusion, La Locanda del Cardinale is really more than a restaurant. It is a portal to the past, offering a culinary experience that is deeply rooted in history. With its privileged location, historical significance, and exceptional cuisine, it stands out as a premier destination in Assisi. Dining at La Locanda del Cardinale promises an unparalleled union of history and gastronomy, ensuring a truly unique and unforgettable experience for everyone. 

La Locanda del Cardinale

Address: Piazza del Vescovado 8, 06081 Assisi (PG), Italy
Tel: +39 075815245