Local Flavor: Discover Italy’s Special Supper Club

Each region of Italy boasts cuisine with its own flavors and style. Explore off-the-beaten-path dishes that you will remember forever with the Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo supper club.

Plates adorn my family’s kitchen walls. Each hand-painted plate tells a story about the restaurants we enjoyed during our three years living in Italy; looking at them brings back memories of not only a particular dish, but the family and friends we shared it with.

We’ve collected these treasured souvenirs while participating in an Italian touring club called the Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo. Since 1964, the group (whose name loosely translates to the Union of Good Memories) has been facilitating delicious opportunities to explore the flavors of Italy.

Courtesy of Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo

Each restaurant is selected for its focus on traditional Italian cuisine and designates a dish as its Buon Ricordo feature. The meal is paired with a unique commemorative plate — creating a truly special dining experience.

Dining Off the Beaten Path

At the start of our culinary exploration, an Italian friend gave us the club’s guidebook. My parents would pore over a map and plot how to visit as many Buon Ricordo restaurants as possible. It was a way for them to discover family-owned regional eateries — places we never would have known about if left to our own devices.

During our three years living in Naples while we were growing up, my sister and I visited more than 30 Buon Ricordo restaurants and never knew what to expect.

Courtesy of Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo

Each establishment’s Buon Ricordo specialty, or “dish of the house,” remains on the menu year round and represents local tradition, produce and ingredients. Some dishes we enjoyed were benign, like a fish stew with fresh seafood. Others skewed more exotic, like the rabbit terrine from Taverna del Lupo in Gubbio, or the ox-tail stew in a hole-in-the-wall café outside of Rome. One of my favorites was the pasta e fagioli from Hotel Ristorante Le Padovanelle in Ponte di Brenta outside of Padova. We normally had no idea what the dishes were made of until our parents decided to enlighten us — which was always after we had tasted a few bites. It’s safe to say our young palates developed quite nicely over the years.

Quick Tip:

When you sit down at a Buon Ricordo restaurant, tell your server you’re there for the Buon Ricordo specialty. They will know you are there for the plate (and will probably be thrilled that you know about it!).

Courtesy of Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo
A Special Supper Souvenir

After each meal, we would receive our commemorative plate. Buon Ricordo plates are handcrafted by the famous potters in Vietri sul Mare, located in Salerno. Then, artists paint the plates one by one, copying a master design for each series. And while the pattern is the same, each has the unique style of the artist that paints it.

Courtesy of Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo

Every keepsake plate is a record of a cherished family memory. The name of the restaurant adorns the top; the town where it is located appears along the bottom. The center of the plate includes the name of the dish and a visual interpretation. For example, rabbit stew might include a picture of a rabbit emerging from a terrine.

Buon Ricordo has offered me a satisfyingly different way to travel. Savoring those signature dishes gave me a taste of what it’s like to experience local flavors. In fact, it still affects how I vacation to this day. As I continue to embark on culinary adventures, I’ll always cherish those plates that hang in my family’s kitchen — passport stamps, of sorts, that remind me how memorable and delicious travel can be.

Quick Tip:

Choose from 109 Buon Ricordo restaurants in Italy and 14 more in Austria, Luxembourg, China and Japan.

Explore More:
Find your perfect pasta dish during a culinary tour of Italy, available through the Marriott Vacation Club DestinationsTM Program.

Katie C. is a freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado.