The tavern without a host.
Winding the Prosecco Route through rolling hills of vineyards, stop for lunch at this one-of-a-kind spot you'll never forget.
A typical Italian osteria is a merry, rustic establishment with local wines and simple foods but this one is completely unique - it has no host! (oste)
Years ago, Cesare De Stefani sat at a simple wooden table in his family's stone cottage. As the sun dipped low, he finished his tumbler of wine and took once last glance at the green hills stretching before him. He thought, "How lovely if my friends could enjoy this even in my absence." Before setting off, he left three bottles of wine with 'ombre' glasses on the table and the door unlocked. But as much as they too loved the peaceful setting, his friends never visited without him. The next time, he left a note on the table saying, “Valore della bottiglia 10 euro, servitevi da soli e buona degustazione” (Value of a bottle 10 euro, serve yourselves and enjoy) and a collection box for any heartfelt contributions. Suddenly word spread from friends to villagers as the little cottage began to grow in popularity. It was known locally as a calm place of trust and honesty, stocked simply with local wine, salami, bread and cheese where people could relax at rustic tables amongst the vineyards and light a fire in the colder months. Where they were trusted to treat the osteria with respect and come and go as they pleased.
Osteria Senz'Oste grows in fame
Since 2005 when Cesare first left his front door unlocked, little Osteria Senz'Oste has become an iconic stop along the ever popular Prosecco Road from Valdobbiadene to Conegliano. After being picked up and published in many an international mag, Osteria Senz'Oste has had to expand their parking areas to accommodate an increasingly steady flow of visitors. In summer months parking fills up quickly and as much as the place extends over slopes of shady vines and never feels crowded, you'll have to queue for food and wine so do time your visit well. Depending on how early in the day a glass of chilled wine feels appropriate, mornings are a favoloso time to visit. 5am till 10/11pm are the tavern's official opening times but no-one truly minds.
The old farmhouse sits below a dirt track leading off the Prosecco Road through San Stefano, a small hamlet of Valdobbiadene, capital of Prosecco production. In 2019 this area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it really is a sight to behold - spectacular rolling hills of closely packed vines claiming the right to bear the prestigious label of 'Prosecco di Valdobbiadene'. And if you thought this was special, there's more. Smack bang in the middle is the famous Cartizze Hill. Due to specific soil quality, winds and geographic location, the best of the best is grown on the tiny hill behind Cesare's Osteria Senz'Oste. Few realise the importance of this humble place's positioning, in fact approaching a fork in the dirt road, there stands a sign: 'Osteria Senz'Oste/ Cima Cartizze' - the top of the hill.
“Having a piece of land in Cartizze is like having a Ferrari in your garage,” - Primo Franco, vintner at Nino Franco winery.
It's the 'top del top' - the most expensive vineyard land in Italy and somehow slips through the international market. Cartizze is well-known in Italy as being the best Prosecco of Valdobbiadene, where the best Prosecco in Veneto is arguably grown. Astonishingly, Cartizze is labelled, 'Superiore di Cartizze' with no mention of Prosecco at all, it's not permitted. So understandably it escapes keen overseas Prosecco drinkers and for now remains Italy's little secret.
Foods and wines
Cesare's family are artisan butchers, wine makers and farmers. They decided to expand the family butchery to stock their own salami and cold meats with the growing success of Osteria Senz'Oste, In prized Prosecco territory, the Glera grape is grown in abundance for the world-famous title of 'Valdobbiadene Prosecco'. You'll see the lines of vines creeping as close to the road-side as they can. Sample the best Prosecco Italy can offer right here.
On the Cartizze hill stands an impressive collection of high-tech, Italian-designed vending fridges keeping a selection of beautiful wines at perfect temperatures while providing glasses and a minimal selection of snacks. It's a little odd juxtaposed against a rugged set up of rickety tables and chairs amongst the ancient, twisting vines. Find a corkscrew to the left of the machines and expect simple foods that Italy does best - local cheeses, salami and crackers or tarralli. No cutlery needed, this is finger food, a mere compliment to the panorama who's the main contestant here.
In the original house, lower down on the hill, you'll find a wider selection of foods - breads, boiled eggs, more cheeses, cold meats and water. Sadly now everything has to be priced although payment is still voluntary and placed in a box - Osteria Senz'Oste's honour system proved very unpopular with the mistrustful Financial Police.
Get all your heart desires in the form of foods and wines and find a spot under the shady vines. There are busy tables near the farm house but higher up, simple wooden seats have been constructed to face the views. There are no rules here except to leave the place clean and tidy; some bring blankets and picnic for the day, some stop by with friends for the view, it's as easy-going as it gets and even in the height of tourist season, where parking spaces are few and far between, tables are not. Somehow even when it's full, there's a calm, respectful space for everyone.
Have a read of all the written notes left hanging in the Osteria to get an idea of just how internationally-famous this humble little place has become. One man's dream to share his favourite spot with his friends that became the world, I wonder if he still stops by?