Dining on the Wine Trail: L'Òrt(o) aux Serres de Cessenon
Italian émigré chef-farmers Ludovic, Anna, and Enza Bosi bring a sincere Slow Food ethos to their homespun terrace restaurant outside Béziers.
Yes, it is mildly absurd to write about an outdoors Languedoc restaurant during the off-season, when it is not open for dinner. But quality dining options are so thin on the ground in the Languedoc that the opening of L’Òrt(o) in Cessenon-sur-Orb feel newsworthy enough to discuss in December. Alongside Ute Zwanzig’s ice creamerie and épicerie in nearby Bédarieux, L’Òrto represents the beginnings of a much-needed renewal in Languedoc cuisine and hospitality.
Fellow wine travelers - keep the address in your back pocket for next spring (if not for lunch in the meantime).
Throughout harvest this past September in Faugères, my friends at Clos Fantine and I enjoyed a weekly, dealer’s-choice delivery of vegetables from a local farm. There were heaps of eggplants in white, purple, and black, none bigger than a man’s fist; a bonanza of sweet red and green peppers; and coarse, half-bitter cucumbers resembling small melons. It wasn’t until late in the season, at Sybil Baldassarre and Alex Durand’s end-of-harvest party, that I met the source of all this seasonal bounty: the Bosi family, who since June have also run at their farm a quiet seasonal terraced restaurant called L’Òrt(o).
Ludovic Bosi, originally from Parma, and Anna, from Sicily, arrived in Cessenon-sur-Orb in 1998, and ran a pizzeria in the area before founding their farm in 2012. Today the farm comprises three hectares, and over seventy varieties of vegetables. Their daughter, Enza, joined them this year after completing culinary studies in Paris and work experience in Sicily, and together the family opened L’Òrt(o).
“It’s very difficult to find fresh things in the region,” says Anna. “We felt we had to do something so that people remember their taste.”
SIMPLICITY WITHOUT PRECEDENT
L’Òrto’s tiny, rustic Italian menu was offered at lunch and dinner throughout the summer. (As of end September, the restaurant has been open only for lunch service, complemented by monthly evening events.)
I visited for the aforementioned end-of-harvest dinner, and returned a week later during daylight, in the hopes of doing better justice to the Bosis’ sincere, farm-to-table Italian cuisine. The latter is a rarity even in Paris; on the wine route, and particularly in the culinarily underserved Languedoc, it is almost unprecedented.
A meal begins with local charcuterie with olives and gélée, a wicker bowl of fresh-fried arancini. Soon a trio of contorni arrive in paper plates: caponata, black rice with figs, and a simple green salad with parseman flakes. (The caponata, hearty and piquant, with a refreshing celery-driven snap, steals the show.)
Accompanying the restaurant’s slim menu is a similarly precise list of inexpensive, local natural and organic wines.
From the start, some of the Bosis’ best and most supportive clients have been the local natural vignerons, whose ranks also include Jeff Coutelou, the Andrieu siblings of Clos Fantine, and the Lavaysse family of Le Petit Gimios. (I ran into Pierre and his New Jerseyaise girlfriend Heather on my second visit to L’Òrto, which is conveniently situated midway between Faugères and their corner of the Minervois.)
“Natural wine is very important for us,” confirms Enza, after a brief tour of the farm behind the restaurant on my second visit. “My parents discovered it little by little when they came here. So it’s the only sort of wine I’ve ever known.”
By the time next summer rolls around, the family plan to elaborate the wine list with a few selections from Italy. For now, Jeff Coutelou’s 2021 young-vine clairette is a low-key delight, as instantaneous and as uplifting as the pointilist harmonies in a Dirty Projectors song.
L’Òrt(o) aux Serres de Cessenon
1413 Chem. du Moulin Neuf
Tel: +33 6 62 07 15 51
A 2020 video interview of Ludovic Bosi by AgriLocal34.
In nearby Bédarieux, Ute Zwanzig’s new paysan ice creamerie and épicerie, Rue de la Glacière.