Do you know about the Buon Ricordo card? It's a membership card for the Unione del Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo (Associated Restaurants of Good Memories), an association that was founded in Milano in 1964 for both visitors and residents to help promote tourism in Italy. The Buon Ricordo is a private, non-profit group of gastronomic entrepreneurs who support regional cuisine and local specialties and recover recipes based on local traditions and local products. Its motto is Viaggio tra i sapori e i colori della cucina Italiana -- travel through the tastes and colors of Italian cuisine -- and most of the 120-member restaurants are in Italy, but some are elsewhere in the world (Austria, France, Japan, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Switzerland).
As stated on the Buon Ricordo website, the group's common denominator is "the observance of local traditions, on the unquestionable quality of food, and on the professionally warm welcome to make guests feel at home." Member restaurants may be located in cities or small towns, may be expensive or moderate, or may be family run or formally professional. But they all share a desire to serve good food: "If all roads lead to Rome," the association believes, "many roads lead to restaurants serving authentic Italian meals." A charming aspect of the group is that each member restaurant has its own colorful ceramic plate crafted by Solimene in Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast -- if you, like me, are a fan of ceramics and have never been here, I promise you will love it! The building was designed by Paolo Soleri and is among the most unique structures in the world, with ceramic pieces pressed into the terracotta and cement exterior. The inside, which is vast, is filled chock-a-block with stacks and stacks of "seconds" (with nary a noticeable mistake), incomplete sets (instead of a dozen of something there might be only ten, so you have to mix and match), and older pieces that have gone out of fashion (I bought eight plates in the shape of a fish that about twenty or thirty years ago were very popular at seafood restaurants on the Amalfi Coast but are no longer), and brand new pieces (which cost more but are still less expensive than regular retail). All of this is on the first floor, while the upper floors are where the ceramics are made. It is completely worthwhile to come here as the prices are very good, plus Vietri is filled with dozens and dozens of other ceramic shops if you want to shop around. It seemed the best prices were at Solimene, but of course you might not find styles or colors you like there, so it's good to know you can walk around and find other wares you prefer. It's also good to know that the Solimene staff happily ships around the world.
But I digress: the Buon Ricordo plates bear the name of the member restaurant, and feature a specialità della casa (house specialty), so that you will see a chicken on one, or a fish, a pig, a wild boar, a vegetable, a fruit, whatever. These piatti del buon ricordo (piatti is plural for plate, piatto) have become collector's items, and if you order the house specialty at any member restaurant the plate is complimentary. I have heard that you receive the plate whether or not you are a Buon Ricordo member, but I can't confirm that personally.
A recent search of restaurants turned up 10 in Tuscany (one each in Florence, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Tirrenia, Volterra, Livorno, Impruneta, Viareggio, and Ristorante Da Delfina in Artimino, one of my own favorites (see previous post just before this one) and 5 in Umbria (two in Norcia, one in Perugia, one in Assisi, and one in Gubbio). Another good reason to join the Association is that there are also Buon Ricordo member hotels, such as the lovely Relais Ducale in Gubbio and the Podere Marcampo Agriturismo in Volterra, with 3 double bedrooms, 2 apartments, and 1 suite -- there are 8 member hotels in Umbria and 3 in Tuscany.
A membership card is free, and some hotel and restaurant discounts are offered to members. I got my card simply by logging on to the Buon Ricordo site and clicking on 'The Card.' However, that was six years ago, and it appears that this function isn't working properly as I type this, so if that's the case when you log on to the site, contact the organization directly and inquire how you may receive a card:
Unione Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo
Corso Italia 10, 20122 Milano
(39) 02.80582.278 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org