Tuscan Restaurants

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					                   Niven’s Travel Notes
                       NIVINO.COM                                     Updated June 2010
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                                                                                                    UNDER THE TUSCAN TABLECLOTH

        We average over a month or so a year in Italy, much of it in Tuscany and have hit most
of the good restaurants. This region of Italy provides the best combination of food, wine, and
charm at the greatest value level (price vs. quality) in all of Europe. Remember, the heart of
Tuscan food is simplicity and using the finest and freshest ingredients possible. Don’t expect to
find fancy sauces and elaborate presentations. Do expect to savor bursting flavors that are
designed to go well with the local wines. And it is quite healthful. Don’t expect fancy digs and
elaborate décor. Quite the contrary. It seems that little thought or effort is given to the
surroundings (excepting the glories that Mother Nature provides). The emphasis is on the food
                                                 and wine. It is unlikely that any of these
                                                 restaurants will find their way onto anybody’s
                                                 “Top 100 in the World” list. Yet, this is the
                                                 food that we like the most. We would prefer to
                                                 eat in Tuscany more than any other place.

                                                          My same comments above regarding
                                                  value apply to the wines of Tuscany. Make
                                                  sure that you sample all of the various
                                                  varietals and sub-regions. Even the every-day
                                                  Chianti is delightful (forget about the straw-
                                                  bottled plonk of a few years ago). Today, this
                                                  is the hottest wine making region on the
                                                  planet. There are so many small, local
                                                  producers that are never seen in the USA.
 A Typical Tuscan Table. 84 Corks In The Bowl.   Always feel comfortable asking for assistance
             Good Work Team !! !!                and recommendations. You’ll be pleased with
the wines offered and with the price. Ask that the red wines be decanted (even the young ones).
They are generally big wines and need to open up and will drink much better. The restaurant
will also recognize that you are serious about your wines and who knows where that might lead!

        Tuscany is a very popular tourist destination. This results in some restaurants being
able to get away with offering shoddy food that would be unacceptable to the locals (the Brits
and Germans don’t know the difference – they are just delighted to be away from their national
cooking). A simple precaution is to listen to the languages being spoken at the tables. The
higher the percentage of Italian, the better the food will be and the happier that you will be.

        We tend to go out to restaurants for lunch rather than dinner (unless they are very
nearby to where we are staying). The menu is the same for both lunch and dinner. We are not
talking about a “quick bite” but rather a serious meal. Figure on a couple of hours, several courses
                                                               RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
and plenty of wine. Always reserve ahead (you will receive much better treatment and a better table)
and request outdoor seating when available.

        This should be the focal point of your day. Or, if a lighter meal is in order, go to an “Enoteca”
which means wine shop. These are popping up all over Italy and many serve dozens of wines by the
glass and wonderful pasta, panini, pizza and antipasti. As we get older, this has become more and more
a part of our day. Less food and more emphasis on the wines ….. as it should be.

        My evaluations are based on a simple, three happy-face system that depicts my personal feelings
about the restaurant. One face means that we would definitely go back; two mean we would not only go
back but go back soon and three mean going back soon and often. With few exceptions, we have dined
in every place listed below. Those exceptions are only included here because of recommendations that
we have received from others who are trusted sources in whom we have a high degree of confidence (at
least in culinary matters).

       Prices are moderate (by Italian standards) except where noted. (CAUTION: The Dollar has
tanked against the Euro so prices are going to be higher than you may have remembered.) All usually
take credit cards but it is best to ask when reserving in order to avoid the ultimate embarrassment.
Reservations are always advised. Dress is Euro casual (no shorts or sport shoes). English is
universally spoken.

CHIANTI CLASSICO (Greve, Panzano and Passignano) – Our Favorite Part of Tuscany

       Osteria di Passignano 
       Via Passignano, 33, Badia a Passignano
       Tel. 055-8071278

        The historic late nineteenth-century Monastery
has been converted to the cellars of the Marchese
Antinori. Stored in these cellars are the aging barrels
of Solaia and Tignanello. Deepest reverence is in
order. I have stood in these cellars among the barrels –
a religious experience. When you arrive, ask if there
might be a tour of the cellars available, you might get
lucky and be able to tag along on one of the occasional
tours. This family consistently produces the top stable
of wines in the world (they have been at it for 600 years
– 26 generations). In any given year they might have as
many as four or five wines on the Wine Spectator’s Top
100, at least one in the top ten and one or two per
decade make it as the “Number One”. No other winery
anywhere can even come close to matching that. Beyond           The Window Treatment At The Osteria –
their big scoring wines are a dozen moderately priced yet            24 Empty Bottles of Tignanello
high quality bottlings that are great values. We have
complete confidence in all of the Antinori wines – never been disappointed. Most of their wines are
available by the glass in the Osteria. This is the sixth restaurant that they have opened (Florence,
Vienna, Zurich, Moscow and Pebble Beach). Without a doubt the best food in the central Chianti
Classico region. Go for the chance to taste all of these wines; the excellent food and scenery are a

                                                                RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
bonus. There is a small garden for nice-weather dining. If you are in need of special wines, this is the
place to shop. Gift items, older vintages and large format bottles are in stock. Make sure to introduce
yourself to Marcello the manager and Matia the chef. Yvonne and her friends have cooked in this
kitchen. Marcello and Matia have become good friends of ours. Expensive.

       Ristoro di Lamole 
       Localitá Lamole
       Tel: 055-854-7050

        Going south on the road from Greve to Panzano, the turnoff for Lamole is clearly marked on the
left. Follow the signs up past the Vignamaggio winery, the Mona Lisa's birthplace. You will pass several
tiny groupings of houses and other small wineries until you arrive at the tiny hamlet of Lamole. The
                                                          gorgeous four mile scenic drive alone is worth
                                                          the effort. The restaurant has a lovely terrace
                                                          with a knockout view, which is why it is a good
                                                          idea to reserve a table. While this is a very
                                                          simple place at first glance, the service is
                                                          excellent and the wines and food match.
                                                          Featuring fabulous wines from these hills, the
                                                          wine list has grown over the years from a single
                                                          handwritten sheet to an impressive collection of
                                                          the best of the Chianti Classico at very
                                                          reasonable prices (I keep encouraging him to
                                                          raise his prices – he works too hard to be
                                                          giving wine away). Many of these wines are
                                                          available at retail in their cantina. Filippo and
                                                          his lovely wife Kalinka are the perfect hosts
                                                          and have become dear friends of ours. When
           Filippo And Kalinka Have Just Added Up The    we return every year, we find that it is better
                   Niven Family’s Bill !                 than before. We have eaten here more often
than any other place in Italy and have hosted numerous gatherings of friends and family at Filippo’s
tables. Everything is great. Good local wines at bargain prices. Good food, gorgeous scenery and
wonderful people. It is incredible! If I had a choice, I would have my final meal on earth here. If you
are in the area in early June, make sure to attend the wonderful wine and food festival held in Lamole.

       Pizzeria Il Gallo Nero 
       Downtown Greve
       Phone 055 854-4802

        We have often eaten here. It is open late and serves a vast selection of wood-oven fired pizza
(pizza only served in the evenings). Also pretty good basic Tuscan dishes. It is quite reasonable. The
wine list is adequate (actually quite good considering it’s a pizza joint). Perfect spot for a large group
(they will take reservations). Right off the main square in Greve. Very accommodating staff and rather
pleasant surroundings. Air conditioned. We always felt very welcome. One drawback is that it is
occasionally the lunch stop for upscale bus tours out of Florence (it can be a hoot to watch the bus
people from outer space deal with Italian food and wine and then try to split the bill thirty ways).

                                                                  RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY

       Cantinetta di Rignana
       Badia a Passignano
       Phone 055 852601

        Tough to find, down a dirt road below the Badia, but worth the trip. There is a large, shaded
outdoor area with seating at “picnic tables”. Rather rustic but tasteful. This attracts large groups of
local families. The menu and wine list are simple but all is well prepared. A terrific value. Just as you
leave the Badia, you will see a sign pointing the way. Be perseverant, it is about 5 kilometers down a
dirt road. Nothing fancy but very popular with the locals.

       La Fattoria 
       Strada del Cerro, 11 - Tavarnelle Val di Pesa
       Phone 055 807-0000

       We were sent here by the people at Antinori and have gone back several times. It is just off the
Firenze-Siena Raccordo at the Tavranelle-North exit (there is a south exit also) and up the hill a bit.
Very good food. Great owners. They serve a very unique appetizer selection that you should always
order. It varies from season to season but is always terrific. Nice courtyard for dining in the evenings
when it is warm. This place is not well known to tourists but is very popular with the locals. Booking
ahead on the weekends is essential.

       Taverna del Guerrino 
       Via Montefioralle, 39, Castello di Montefioralle (outside Greve)
       Tel: 055-853-106

       Driving from Florence just as you enter Greve, there is a right turn by the park following up the
hill (yes, it is a two-way street!). You will arrive at the Castle of Montefioralle, the tiniest medieval hill
town you've ever seen! Follow the one road into the castle (no cars) and on the left you will see a tiny
door open; this is the trattoria. Mama's in the kitchen (which also serves as the family’s living room),
Papa's helping her, and their son is waiting tables. The menu is very simple and classic Tuscan. We
usually start with salami, bruschetta, and black olives, followed by pasta and their fabulous grilled
meats. During the summer in the evenings they move the dining room out onto a lovely terrace
overlooking the vineyards. Classically simple and beautiful.

       Cantinetta del Nonna 
       Via 4 Novembre, San Casciano in Val di Pesa
       Phone: 055-820570

        Walk through a front-room shop, where you can buy prosciutto and other cured meats, then past
an open kitchen, and then into the back dining room. If it's warm, sit outside under the tented terrace
lined with impatiens. The menu offers very simple typical Tuscan fare. Service is gracious and prompt.
Order the grilled porcini. This place is simple and plain but a real find and quite a bargain. Due to its
location in a pedestrian only zone, parking is difficult. You’ll more than likely have to go to the edge of
the town to find space (maybe a five minute walk). It’s worth the effort.

                                                                RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
       Enoteca Fuori Piazza
       Via Prima Maggio, 2, Greve

      Just a short walk down the small street that exits the main square on the wide end right next to the
bank is this tiny shop. The wine selection is wonderful, although limited. But the real surprise here is
the food. There is a small outdoor garden under an awning and a few tables inside. The miniscule
kitchen puts out some amazing dishes. Last time I was there, the stove was manned by two Japanese
chefs using three foot long chopsticks to do all of the cooking. Wonderful pastas and other simple
dishes. Exceptionally reasonable.

       Oltre il Giardino 
       Piazza G. Bucciarelli 42, Panzano
       Phone: 055-852828

      This is at the very top of our “try next” list. An ancient stone house has been converted into a
tasteful dining area with a large terrace and spectacular views of the Panzano Valley. Try to book a
table in time to watch the sunset. The menu captures a little more fantasy than typical Tuscan cuisine.
We have received very strong recommendations.
Very popular with the locals.

       Vescovino 
       Via Ciampolo da Panzano 9, Panzano
       Phone: 055-8560152

      This restaurant changed hands last year
and first reports are that it is even better than
before. The new owners come from nearby
Pietrafitta and have a good reputation in the
community (maybe they have fixed the service
which had been the one weak point). Thankfully,
the patio has not changed. The terrace, festooned
with wisteria, acacia, jasmine, bay and brightly                       The Terrace At Vescovino
colored furniture is the best thing about this place. The magnificent view of the valley below is amazing,
and the interior, with its high ceilings and Arts and Crafts chairs, is as pretty as the view from outside.
Absolutely delightful.

       Enoteca Baldi 
       Piazza Bucciarelli, 25
       Panzano in Chianti
       Phone: 055-852-843

        Right on the small piazza in the heart of Panzano. This little gem has a large selection of wines
to enjoy by the glass. The great local wines are featured. There is also a very good wine shop. Owned
by the family that recently sold Vescovino, the food is a healthy cut above most Enoteca although the
menu is somewhat limited. A classic neighborhood Enoteca. We hang out here a lot. On nice days, buy
some wine and sit across the street in the small tables in the park.

                                                                 RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
       Il Vinaio
       Via S. Maria 12, Panzano (up the hill by the church)
       Phone: 055-852603

       This place bills itself as an "enoteca pub." It's a very simple and homey spot; you almost feel as if
you've walked into someone's living room as locals linger over coffee, watch TV, and catch up on the
latest gossip. The menu is simple and inexpensive and offers some nice, whimsical treats, including
various panini corretti ("corrected" sandwiches, a play on “caffe corretto”, which is espresso
"corrected" by the addition of grappa). The modest garden in the back offers an absolutely stunning
view. Fun to hang out here and get the local flavor.

        Also in Panzano we have just heard that Dario Cecchini (the world’s most famous butcher) has
opened a small very casual restaurant right across the street from his shop (see our Touring Tuscany
issue). It features only meat and has a daily fixed menu complete with wines that Dario has selected.
He is such a hoot and his meat products and seasonings so good that this might be worth a look. Prices
are said to be very reasonable.

       CASTELLINA & RADDA in Chianti

       Albergaccio 
       Via Fiorentina 63, Castellina in Chianti
       Phone: 0577-741042

      Just outside of the main town, this small restaurant, serves a mixture of traditional and creative
cuisine with an excellent wine list. The ever-changing menu boasts some real seasonal treats. Probably
the best food in this region, it now carries one Michelin star. Somewhat upscale without being fancy.
The service tends to be a bit too serious and slow (I have actually had a couple of discussions with the
owners about serving wine the way I wanted it to be served – just bring the bottles, open them and leave
them on the table and stay out of our way!). Alfresco dining on the charming terrace is an option when
it's warm. The entire terrace is covered by the most elaborate market umbrella system that we have ever
seen. Especially lovely in the evenings. Expensive. Recent visits have left me so frustrated with the
attitude of the owners that I am on the verge of giving up on this otherwise very lovely spot. Still, I want
to encourage you to go as you are undoubtedly not as anal about wine service as I am so you are very
likely to thoroughly enjoy it.

       Al Gallopapa 
       Castellina in Chianti
       Phone 0577-742939

        We left here totally bewildered. I had never eaten food like this anywhere in Italy. While it was
creative, it was way over the top. Tiny portions of odd looking stuff. I felt like we had just dined on
Mars or Pluto. The place is full of ambiance (actually located in the old wall of the town) and the staff
and owners are extremely friendly and fun but you just can’t figure out the food. Also very expensive
and hard to get into. To be fair, we had a party of eight and were required to take a predetermined fixed
menu (I think that he was trying too hard to impress and exceeded his kitchen’s capabilities - which was
the cause of the whole problem). Others that we have talked to are unanimously very enthusiastic about

                                                                RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
it. You should try it. The ambiance and staff are just fantastic. Hopefully our experience was an

       Osteria alla Piazza 
       Località La Piazza, Castellina in Chianti
       Phone: 0577-733580

      In the middle of a vineyard 15 km north of
Castellina (just 5 km south of Panzano), with one of
Chianti's most spectacular views. It's worth the short
drive into the countryside to relax on the terrace and
enjoy the sophisticated menu. This is one of the most
colorful restaurants we’ve seen. The table linens and
settings are worth the trip alone. Very festive. Don’t
miss the grilled porcini which you get to hand pick from
a huge basket full of freshly harvested gems (as is the
case in most restaurants, this is usually not on the Finishing Up A Giant Bistecca Florentina At The Osteria
menu but always available by request – I order it at
every meal - outstanding). All of the food is great. Excellent Bistecca Florentina. Also a strong local
wine list. Very popular with locals so reservations are essential.

       Le Vigne 
       Podere La Vigne Est: 1 km, Radda in Chianti
       Tel: 0577-738-640

     Podere Le Vigne is hard to see from the road as it is set down a dirt road deep in a vineyard just at
the eastern outskirts of Radda. Look for the sign. This is a very simple trattoria and a big favorite with
families. Especially kids friendly. What more could you ask for than to eat out in the vineyards with
great food, nice wines, and good service in a relaxed and very casual atmosphere. Very reasonable, an
excellent value.

       Badia a Coltibuono 
       Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole in Chianti
       Phone: 0577-749031

     Just outside the abbey walls is Badia a Coltibuono's extremely pleasant restaurant, with seating
outside or in soft-yellow rooms divided by ancient brick arches. One of the prettiest and most charming
dining spots in Tuscany. Go for lunch (one of our favorite lunch stops in all of Italy). The wines from
the Badia are excellent and a value. Note that this is the headquarters for the Medici cooking school
(perhaps Italy’s most famous). You’ll find that the food is more innovative than most other spots in
Tuscany. If you can spare the time after lunch, make a reservation for one of the tours of the Monastery
and gardens that take place in the afternoon. Four kilometers north of Gaiole in Chianti. Expensive.
Essential to reserve. On the roadside just at the entrance is a shop selling all of the Badia’s wines and
their famous olive oils and wonderful honeys. Also lots of nice gift items. Worth a stop. They also now
have available one-day cooking classes and have recently added a few very nice guest rooms.

                                                               RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY

       La Locanda di Pietracupa 
       Località La Piazza, Castellina in Chianti
       Phone: 055-8072400

        Located just a short distance beyond La Piazza on the road to San Donato, this spot is run by
two brothers. We have not dined here but it comes very highly recommended by our most revered and
trusted source on Italian dining (who shall remain anonymous). The restaurant is rustic but with a hint
of elegance and has a nice garden for summer dining. We will be trying it on our next visit.

       Osteria del Castello 
       Località Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti
       Phone: 0577-747-277

    Just down the hill from the Castello di Brolio and set in the woods, most of the tables are outdoors
under the trees. Go for lunch after you have toured the Castello and sampled some of their wines (the
tasting room is just before you enter the grounds of the castle). The food is very good and somewhat
more innovative than you might imagine. The wine list features Brolio's best offerings (I have to add
that the wines here have improved immensely in the recent years). Absolutely delightful!

       Osteria di Fonterutoli 
       Località Fonterutoli, Castellina in Chianti
       Phone: 0577-740212

     This has been closed for awhile while it was moved into a new location on the estate. What used to
be a rater bland interior 30-seat trattoria is now housed in a more upscale and larger restored country
home overlooking the vineyards. All of their wines are excellent, among the most famous in Tuscany,
and the food matches. Here is another situation where you get the opportunity to taste wines by the
glass that you could not normally find. Locals love this place. Extremely simple but wonderful food
(may be a bit more elaborate now that it is in new digs). Reservations are strongly advised. Very good
tasting and tour of the winery is available.

       La Bottega di Carla
       Piazza della Torre 2, Volpaia
       Phone: 0577-738001

     In the central piazza of Volpaia, (10 km by country road north of Radda), this place looks like a
small sandwich shop or deli, but there are a few tables inside (more outside when weather permits both
on the piazza and in the lovely small garden in the rear) and some real surprises being prepared in the
typical Tuscan kitchen, including homemade pastas and salami. You’ll often find upscale private guided
tours stopping here to dine and taste. Very well liked by those in the know in Tuscany. Make sure to
walk the whole town (it might take all of five minutes). It is a famous winery hidden away in the ancient
buildings of this hamlet. The wines are excellent and tasting is available. This is the “picture post
card” experience you often dream about. (Don’t let the dirt road put you off). The winery also offers
good half day cooking classes followed by lunch. Lower key than the classes at the famous venues.

                                                              RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
       23 via XX Settembre - Radda in Chianti
       Phone 0577-738094

        Maybe the most famous restaurant in Radda. Not to be confused with the hotel nearby.
Generally regarded as the top restaurant in the area. We have dined here twice and, while the food is
really quite good, the overall experience just doesn’t cut it. The rooms are dark and a bit too formal.
There is no option to dine al fresco. Overall, it is just too serious for me.


       We would suggest caution as both of these towns are very touristy with generally mediocre
dining. I would avoid the outdoor cafes in the piazza. Plenty of good places are available nearby but
not within the walls proper. If you come up with better options, please let me know.

       Il Piccolo Castello                          Il Pozzo
       Via 1 Maggio, 1, Monteriggioni               Piazza Roma,20, Monteriggioni
       Tel/fax: 0577 304370                         Tel: 0577 304127

       Inside the walls of the old city of Monteriggioni, both of these restaurants serve traditional
Tuscan food in an especially nice atmosphere. Both have gardens for summer dining. Reservations
recommended. These are simple places but are your only choices within the walls of the town. If I were
to choose one, it would be Il Pozzo for food but Il Castello for the garden.

       La Collegiata 
       Località Strada n° 27, San Gimignano
       Tel. 0577 943201

        Located 1km outside of San Gimignano (to
the north), this Relais Châteaux property is just
gorgeous. An old monastery beautifully restored
with superb amenities added. The gardens and pool
are beautiful. It is worth the short detour just to go
stroll through it. The restaurant is expensive but
really good. Ask to eat on the terrace. We had one
of our most memorable meals here. A bit too far to
walk into town. This also might make a perfect spot
to use as a base to explore this region. It is by far
the nicest lodging in these surrounding hills.
                                                                A Beautiful Brunello At La Collegiata
                                                                           Life Is Good !!

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       Bel Soggiorno
       Via San Giovanni 91, San Gimignano
       Phone: 0577 940375

         One entire wall of this spacious restaurant is made of glass, and beyond it is a sweeping view of
rolling hills. With its wooden tables and chairs, it's a simple and rustic interior. The food, however, is
not. The wine list is probably the best in town. The restaurant, and the hotel attached to it, have been in
the same family for more than 100 years. If we were to eat in the town proper, this would be our choice
(wine list driven decision). Located in the center of town.

       Vicolo dell’Oro, 2, San Gimignano
       Phone 0577 941862

        You feel like you are in a cozy wine cellar. Great food. Located just off the main piazza at the
top of the town. Gets lots of press in the guide books so reserve ahead.

       Ristorante Arnolfo 
       Piazza XX Settembre 52, Colle di Val d'Elsa
       Phone 0577 920549

     Food lovers should not miss Arnolfo, possibly one of Italy's finest restaurants (two Michelin stars).
In a tranquil location in the center of town, the restaurant sets high standards of creativity and
intelligent use of ingredients. The menu changes frequently and features two fixed-price options, but you
are always sure to find fish in the summer and lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. This is also the place
to splurge on wine (we did big time!!). The wine list is exhaustive yet fairly priced. There is a beautiful
terrace with vast views of the valley. Be forewarned, this is a serious establishment with serious prices
requiring a serious amount of available credit on your charge card, plenty of time to dine and a very
large appetite. Don’t go unprepared. The owners are charming and will spend all evening chatting
with you at your table if encouraged to do so. Park in one of the lots around the edge of town and walk
in. They also have a lovely small inn.

       SOUTHEASTERN TUSCANY (Cortona and Arezzo)

       Il Falconiere 
       Località San Martino 370, Cortona
       Phone: 0575-612679

    This restaurant, in an 18th-century villa now run as a lovely hotel by the young husband-wife team
of Riccardo and Silvia Baracchi (and their huge dog), is in the countryside just minutes outside of
Cortona. The inventive menu is complemented by the wine list, the product of Silvia's extensive
sommelier training. There are also cooking classes. Expensive. Also a member of the Relais Châteaux
group. Very nice facilities including pool, tennis, gardens and outdoor dining make this spot a good
headquarters from which to explore eastern Tuscany and northern Umbria. Our only hesitation is that

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most of their patrons were tourists more agog at the surroundings than interested in their very good
food and wine.

       La Loggetta
       Piazza Pescheria 3, Cortona
       Phone: 0575-630575

      Above Cortona's main medieval square, this attractive restaurant is housed in a 16th-century wine
cellar. In good weather you can eat outdoors, overlooking the 13th-century town hall and dine on
regional dishes and specialties. The owners pride themselves on their selection of Tuscan wines.

       SIENA & Southern Tuscany

         A word of caution --- Siena is a culinary wasteland. Stay away from everything on the Campo.
It is all overpriced and lousy quality. For such a lovely city, it is amazing how few decent places there
are to eat. A few are noted below. You’d be far better off at one of the restaurants just outside the city
also noted below. We do get feedback from friends that new places are opening and are worthwhile.
We’ll see what we can find on our next trip. In the meantime:

       Al Marsili
       Via del Castoro 3, between Piazza del Campo and the cathedral, Siena
       Phone: 0577-47154

    This 900-year-old wine cellar is a marvelous place to dine, under broad, brick-vaulted ceilings.
Tuscan and Italian specialties, among them homemade pastas and various meat dishes, are winners.
The wine list is the big draw and features the finest Tuscan and Italian labels, including stars from the
nearby Chianti country.

       Borgo San Felice 
       San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga
       Phone: 0577-3964

     For a sophisticated but rustic experience in
the hills outside Siena, look no further. This is a
Relais Chateaux property. An elegant and
extremely charming hotel is spread across five
buildings which used to comprise an entire small
medieval hamlet. Upon entering the reception
area you’ll be charmed by the white walls, high
vaulted ceilings, and furniture covered in
exquisite country chintz mingle with tasteful etchings                The Beauties Of San Felice
and watercolors. Rooms have tile floors, spacious
bathrooms, and windows that open out onto peace and tranquility. We have stayed here several times
and love it. The restaurant, Poggio Rosso, serves sophisticated versions of Tuscan classics (Yvonne and

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her buddies have cooked in this kitchen, too). Their mixed grill and Bistecca Florentina are the best that
we have experienced. Stunningly good. Carnivores, you’ve gone to heaven. Eat on the beautiful patio
overlooking the pool for lunch. The wines from San Felice are among the most famous in all of
Tuscany. Make sure to stroll around and visit their small enoteca. Absolutely charming! Expensive but
worth it.

       Antica Trattoria Botteganova 
       Strada per Montevarchi SS408, 2 km (1 mi) north of Siena
       Phone: 0577-284230

      Just outside the Siena city walls, along the Chiantigiana road that leads north to Chianti, the
Botteganova is arguably the best restaurant in and around Siena. It now holds one Michelin star.
Contemporary Italian food is rarely this successful. The interior, with high vaulting, is relaxed yet
classy, and the service is first rate. There is a small room for nonsmokers (unheard of in Italy). This is
too far outside the city walls to be considered a place to park and walk from. Spend an afternoon in
Siena and then have an early dinner here.

       Da Antonio 
       Via Fiorita, 38, Castelnuovo Berardenga
       Tel: 0577-335-321

       Located practically in the middle of the country more than 100 kilometers from the sea, yet one of
the most famous places to eat fish in all of Italy! No menu, just sit down and hang on. Nothing but
seafood comes from this kitchen. Very creative touches. Dish after dish that will amaze you. Truly a
dining adventure. We have not experienced anything like this in all of Italy (or anywhere else, for that
matter). The walls are covered with thousands of bottles of wines. Don’t bother with the wine list, just
browse around. Reservations are essential. You’ll never forget your meal here.

       Enoteca I Terzi 
       Via dei Termini 7, Siena
       Phone: 0577-44329

     Very conveniently located near the Campo and the main shopping streets, this wine bar, on the
ground floor of a 12th-century tower, is hard to beat for a good glass of wine from a lengthy and well-
thought-out list. The food is actually quite satisfactory (especially when compared to the competition)
and the menu offers several options for food and wine pairing. Nice touch. This is definitely our first
choice fore a casual lunch in central Siena.

       Le Logge
       Via del Porrione 33, Siena
       Phone: 0577-48013

       Near Piazza del Campo, this classic Sienese trattoria has rustic dining rooms on two levels and
tables outdoors from June to October. Tuscan dishes are the draw. This is the “be seen” place so
reservations are advised. While this is the most famous of Siena’s dining spots, it is still not up to our

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                                                               RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
standards. The food is fine but the service is gruff and the management generally arrogant.
Nevertheless, very popular with the locals and tourists alike.

       Grand Hotel Continental 
       Via Bianchi di Sopra, 85
       Phone 0577 56011

      This is the best hotel within the walls of old city. The bar serves lovely food in a refined
atmosphere. It is a very nice spot to get away from the crowds and relax over a good meal.

       Il Certosa di Maggiano 
       Strada di Certosa 82, Siena
       Phone 0577-218880

        Undoubtedly, the most impressive hotel property around Siena. An ancient monastery
beautifully restored to the typical Relais Chateaux standards. A culinary Mecca. Ask to eat on the
charming outdoor loggia. Expensive but worth it. We have heard that there is a new chef and it is even
better than before. As short walk from the Porta di Roma entrance to the walled city. Park here, have
lunch and explore Siena. The return for a refresher and drive home. Very civilized!


       Enoteca Osteria Osticcio
       Via Matteotti 23, Montalcino
       Phone: 0577-848271

      If you want to sample the outstanding local Brunello, this is one of the prettiest places in
Montalcino in which to do so. Upon entering, you descend a curving staircase into a tasting room
complete with rustic wood tables; adjacent is a small dining area with a splendid view of the hills far
below, and just outside is a lovely little terrace perfect for sampling Brunello di Montalcino when the
weather is warm. The modest menu pairs nicely with the wines, which are really the main draw. No

       Locanda dell'Amorosa 
       Località Amorosa, Sinalunga
       Phone: 0577-679497

     This "inn" occupies the 14th-century stone-and-brick hamlet of Amorosa, in the hills crowning the
Valdichiana, just south of Sinalunga. The stunning setting is matched by the gorgeous, perfectly restored
buildings. A lane lined with cypress trees brings you to the gateway of Amorosa, which still has its tiny
little church and a group of farmers' houses for the staff. The bedrooms are handsomely decorated with
antiques, and the bathrooms are large. The restaurant, housed in the old stables, serves both traditional

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                                                                  RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
and contemporary dishes (stick to the former). Beautiful room. Dining outdoors possible in the summer.
10 km from the Valdichiana exit off A1. The nicest property in this region.

       La Chiusa 
       Via della Madonnina 88, Montefollonico
       Phone: 0577-669668

     This is just the kind of country inn you have been dreaming about: a beautifully restored farmhouse
in the picturesque hill town of Montefollonico not far from Montepulciano, lovingly run by an Italian
couple and their charming daughter, with first-rate service and one of the best restaurants in the area.
A quaint medieval village is on hand should you feel the urge to explore, but the joy here is to eat. This
place is on everybody’s “best” list. Our only reservation is that the whole experience is “over-
marketed” with a bit too much theater and show, if you know what I mean (Brits and Americans love it,
Italians think it is silly). Very nice accommodations and a good location to use for a base to explore
southern Tuscany.

       La Grotta 
       Località San Biagio, Montepulciano
       Phone: 0578-757479

         At the base of the town and just across the street from the Tempio di San Biagio (itself quite a
sight), this restaurant has an innocuous entrance that might lead you to pass right by. Don't. Very nice
food and an impressive collection of local wines. All this can be enjoyed in one of several large rooms
with pink table linens and high vaulted ceilings. A lovely small garden is available in good weather.
Ask for it when reserving. Service is impeccable.

       Poggio Antico 
       Località I Poggi, 4 km (2½ mi) outside Montalcino
       Phone: 0577-849200

       One of Italy's renowned chefs, Roberto Minnetti,
abandoned his highly successful restaurant in Rome and
moved to this famous winery in the country just outside
Montalcino. He and his wife serve Tuscan cuisine in a
relaxed but regal dining room with arches and beamed
ceilings. Excellent food. The wines of the estate are among
the very best of the region. We would always
order the estate Brunello Riserva. If that is not
enough, the list features most of the best from their           View From The Loggia At Poggio Antico
neighbors’ wineries. Always ask to sit outside          (With A Freshly Enjoyed Bottle Of 1995 Brunello Riserva)
under the loggia with the wonderful views of the
surrounding small hill towns. Just a great dining experience. Because of the depth of the wine list, your
bill can be as high as you care to go. Don’t miss this! It is about a five minute drive out of Montalcino
so ask for directions in town.

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                                                                RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
       Avignonesi 
       Just Outside of Montepulciano
       Phone 0578 724304

        Avignonesi is perhaps Montepulicano’s most important winery. Their Vino Nobile di
Montepulciano “Grandi Annate” consistently receives the highest scores in the region and their Vin
Santo di Toscana is the only wine to have been awarded a 100 point score more than once by the Wine
Spectator (also the highest rating of the 2005 Wine Spectator Top 100). Their wines are distributed
throughout the world. As such, they do a lot of entertaining and also run cooking classes and
demonstrations. There is a full, professional grade restaurant facility and staff at the winery. But when
they have nothing scheduled, they welcome private groups in for lunch. You get a tour of one of Italy's
most interesting wineries (the method used to make the Vin Santo is absolutely amazing), get to sample
their wines, and have a fabulous meal on the loggia overlooking the hillsides covered with vines. Simply
outstanding. Get yourself organized; you must book way ahead on their website Do not miss this. You’re often joined by the owners and their family. The
Vin Santo is a must experience. You will not find it for sale except in a couple of wine shops in
Montepulciano (around $125 for a half bottle, expensive but you have to experience it).

       Le Logge del Vignola 
       Via Delle Erbe 6, Montepulciano
       Phone 0578 717290

        This little place just down from the main part of town is a real find. Very sophisticated food and
service. Charming decor. The gentleman who runs the two tiny dining rooms is just delightful. This is
the kind of family run gem that you dream of discovering. Every course was a pleasant surprise. As is
the case everywhere in town, parking is impossible so, if you are not adventurous, figure on parking
outside the city and walking in (not really that far).

       Addendum – October 2006 & June 2007
       Solo Ciccia (Owned by Dario Cecchini)
       Panzano - Across the Street from Dario’s Butcher Shop
       Phone 055 852727

        Loosely translated, this means “only meat”. The classic correct translation would be “only fat”.
As the menu says, this is the home of a butcher. Nothing but meat is served here. It is a fixed menu that
changes every evening. Dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday and lunch on Sunday. The
price is fixed at €30 which includes a half carafe of wine for each customer (you are invited to bring
your own wine with no corkage fee charged). All of the service is at large communal tables family-
style. The restaurant is housed in the three level building right across the street from Dario's butcher
shop. You enter on the top-level. Much of the flooring is clear acrylic plastic so that you can look down
and see the diners one and two levels below you and vice versa. The decor is quite eclectic and modern.
         Don't even think about going here unless you are a serious carnivore. Seatings are at 7 p.m.
and 9 p.m. sharp. After you are seated with your dining mates you will be served several appetizers.
On our visit they were beef tartare, baked sausage meatballs, fried beef meatballs, and one other meat-

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                                                                 RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
based appetizer that I don't recall. After this came four successive courses, each a meat dish. There is a
token service of side dishes such as Tuscan beans and boiled potatoes. But that's it. Interestingly, all of
the meat main courses are based upon Dario’s grandmother’s recipes. They feature the use of what
might be called scrap meet. There are no steaks or roasts or prime cuts included. Each dish is derived
from meat that would normally be either thrown out or reduced to trimmings or ground into hamburger.
When we were there, we dined on veal knee, beef shin, pork knuckle and a fourth dish which came from
some such obscure part of the animal that I don't even remember it. All were fabulous; each cooked
using the slow cooking method. It was quite an experience. You'll be wonderfully amazed at the flavors.
I would say that reservations are absolutely essential. Perhaps it is most fun to go to the second seating
as those who have the nine o'clock reservations start to congregate in the street in front of the restaurant
about eight o’clock and of course Dario is out there circulating with glasses of wine and lots of
conversation. Don't miss this. It is right now one of the hottest restaurants in Italy, and certainly one of
the most unique.

       Il Latini
       Just South of Certaldo on the Road to San Gimignano
       Phone 0577 945019

        This is the country cousin to the Osteria di Giovanni in Florence (one of our favorites). It is
truly a working man's trattoria. We stopped here for lunch on our way to San Gimignano. Giovanni
himself happened to be there that day so the service was a lot of fun. The food is quite good, the wines
excellent and the price extremely reasonable. At the conclusion of the meal we heard this squeaking and
rumbling noise and looked up to see Giovanni pushing a large cart across the room fully laden with
digestives, grappa and other after dinner drinks. All were on the house and we were sent merrily on our
way at the conclusion of the two hour lunch. If you're in the neighborhood, you definitely should stop
by, but it's probably not worth a special trip.

       La Locanda di Pietracupa 
       (See above)

        We stopped by here for lunch on our recent visit to Chianti. It is about a ten minute drive further
west from La Piazza (or a total of about fifteen minutes from Panzano). We dined on the terrace along
the roadside which overlooks the town of San Donato (the back of the town which is not really that
attractive). I must say that the food was a pleasant surprise. Among the best we have had in the area.
Wines were excellent and the service very accommodating. Very nice people. The interior is rather
attractive. All of this at extremely reasonable prices. We often pass through here traveling from
Chianti to the Siena-Florence expressway. It will make a nice place to stop along the way.

       Ristoro di Lamole 
       (See above)

       Many more wonderful meals at Lamole. The wine list continues to grow and the reasonable
pricing never ceases to amaze me. Even the food is getting a bit more sophisticated with interesting
presentations using plates in various shapes sizes and colors. And Filippo continues to charm the
patrons. I only wish that we had more time to spend here.

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                                                                 RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY

       Osteria di Passignano 
       (See above)

         A recent meal here had to be the highlight of the entire trip to Italy. It began by the group of us
sitting down to a magnificent table laden with dozens of glasses in preparation for the wine tasting of a
lifetime. Prior to the meal we tasted eight of the Antinori family’s top Tuscan wines, from Tignanello
and Solaia on down. During the meal we managed to work in another six of their wines from other
regions and even a vintage Vin Santo from Aviognonesi (I have mentioned this wine before – it is the
only wine that I know of to receive 100 points from the Wine Spectator more than once). The food was
fantastic, the presentation majestic and the service wonderful. And of course to top it all off Matia and
Marcello spent a great deal of time at our table entertaining us. Very expensive but absolutely worth it
especially considering the wines.

       Vescovino  and Oltre il Giardino
       Both in Panzano
       (See above)

        Friends have confirmed all of the good things that we have been hearing about both of these
places. We just need more time in order to be able to visit them and they are at the top of our list. We
were particularly pleased to hear that the new owners of Vescovino have maintained its traditional high
quality of food and greatly improved its service and wine list. And the view is as spectacular as ever.

       Osteria di Fonterutoli 
       (See above)

       This has been relocated to a new building on the estate. It is much more elaborate than its
simple predecessor. The food is just as good and the overall experience even better than before.

       Cane e Gatto (Dog and Cat) 
       Via Pagliarese, 6, Siena (just off the Via di Pantaneto) (Phone 0577 333879)

        This tiny gem seats only 24. About 500 meters from the Piazza Il Campo. Wonderful food from
a husband, wife and daughter team. Fixed menu. Be prepared for a feast. Must reserve. It will be a
leisurely but luscious experience. Many enthusiastic recommendations from friends.

       Enoteca Baldi, Enoteca Il Vinaio, Enoteca del Chianti Classico
       All in Panzano

        Three classic small Enoteca that are each different. Baldi is right on the main square and serves
good food with about 20 wines by the glass. Vinaio I have referred to above. Chianti Classico is the
wine shop that I mention in the Touring Tuscany Notes. It now has tables on the sidewalk in front and
serves wines by the glass. Traipsing between these three would be a marvelous way to fill an afternoon.
Interestingly, they all three charge the exact same prices for all the local wines (by the bottle or glass).

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                                                                   RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY

       Le Panzanelle
       Lucarelli (on the road between Panzano and Radda)
       Phone 0577 733511

        I have now had this small but charming spot recommended to me by several sources; both
American and Italian. The strength and creditability of these sources has moved me to put it on the top
of our “next to try” list.

        A couple of places recently visited did not live up to our standards (really, we are not that tough,
we just want decent food and good wines with respectful service – it doesn’t have to be gourmet).
        First, we made the trek (15 miles of very twisty mountain roads) to the small hamlet of La Panca
to dine at Le Cernacchie. This had been recommended by a shopkeeper in Greve. Things did not go
well. I won’t elaborate other than to relate my own personal experience. I am a sucker for wild boar.
I’ll order it every time no matter how it is prepared. I saw it on the menu and was anxiously looking
forward to my meal. It arrived in a sauce over nice looking pappardelle. The problem was that I was so
excited to see it on the menu that I didn’t read the entire description. If I had read on, I would have seen
that the sauce was a “sweet and sour chocolate” sauce. I was in bed or otherwise indisposed for the
next twenty four hours. Ugggh!
        The second disappointment was at our hotel in Panzano, Villa le Barone. We love this place and
stay there frequently. As I mentioned in my Touring Tuscany Notes, we never dine there. But on this
trip one evening we got lazy and decided to not drive but just to take dinner in the hotel’s dining room.
We had eaten there once before years ago and found it to be OK. This time it was a disappointment.
The service is barely better than Denny’s and the food was below par. The only saving grace was the
fairly good and really reasonably priced wine list. In all fairness, it is a real bargain at about $30 per
person for the five course dinner.
        I must add an observation about dining at Le Barone. The vast majority of the guests are either
British or German. In either case they lap up the whole on-site dining experience. This means that
when the dining room opens at 7:30 there is a mad rush to get in, get seated and immediately storm the
antipasto buffet table. It is wiped out in matter of minutes. But not all of it is on the diners’ plates. If
you watch closely, you’ll see that much of the antipasto is discreetly secreted away in purses and back
packs (tomorrow’s lunch). Breads and desserts similarly disappeared. We even saw one British lady
sneak a half empty bottle of water and a partial bottle of wine into her purse. Comical.

       Addendum – June and September 2008, September 2009

        Fattoria dei Barbi – This is a 200 year old premium producer of Brunello di Montalcino. It is
located about 5 miles to the south of the town of Montalcino. The restaurant has been open for over
thirty years and just last year was given a major remodel and upgrading. Ask to sit on the terrace.
Wonderful, simple food paired with great wines. Very professional service. A simple and humble spot
but a real gem. Really good Polenta con Chingiale. Highly recommended.

        La Andana – just outside of Grosseto about 5 miles inland from the Maremma coast. This is
the Italian venture of super-star chef Alain Ducasse. It is an absolutely stunning property. Spa, pools,
splendid countryside, gourmet food in several venues and lovely rooms. Really special. Just one
problem --- it is in the middle of nowhere. There is very little of interest to travelers in the vicinity. Sure

                                                    - 18 -
                                                                 RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
the Maremma and neighboring Bolgheri are hot new wine regions but all of the wineries are closed to
the public. I just can’t get excited about sending people there. If you just want to veg out and stay on
the property, very good, go for it.

        Trattoria Delfina (phone 055 8718074) – located about a half-hour west of Florence in the
small hilltop town of Artimino (very hard to find). This is one of Italy’s oldest and most historic and
beloved trattoria. It is now in the hands of the third and fourth generations. We arrived and the owner
came to the table for a very brief conversation that went something like this; OWNER (in Italian),” I
suggest Bistecca Florentina” – JRN, “Great” – OWNER, “And a nice Chianti Classico Riserva” – JRN,
“Great” – end of conversation. No other words were spoken. Over the next three hours we just hung
on for quite a culinary ride. I can’t even recount how many different dishes came out before, during and
after the steak. What a marathon. Everything was perfect. Very reasonable prices. We were so full
that we skipped dinner (OK, not really skipped but limited to antipasti and wine only).

        Borgo Antico (phone 055 851024) – a fifteen minute drive into the hills just east of Greve. In
the charming little hamlet of Dimezzano. This place is rather famous and justifiably so. Simple but
good food in a rustic setting. Wonderful young husband and wife team. Very authentic cooking. A bit of
a drive but makes a great afternoon’s outing.

       Villa le Barone – I want to retract what I have said above about the food here. While it may
never hit my most favorite list, it has improved and now is a viable alternate if you are staying at the
hotel. The addition of a very attractive outdoor venue for evening dining also helps. Wine prices are a
bargain. The additional cost of a dinner for two over and above the standard B&B rates is only 40
euro. Hard to beat.

        I Terzi – This visit confirmed the quality of the simple menu and the vast extensiveness of the
wine list at great prices. Nothing fancy.

        Badia a Coltibuono – Recently I have started to get a bit uncomfortable with this place. Too
much attitude. This was confirmed by friends on their visit last month. Too bad but I’ll go back and
check it out.

       Addendum – June 2010
        What more can I possibly say about Ristoro di Lamole that has not already been said. It still
remains the very top of our list for the overall experience. I think it is best at lunchtime so that you can
enjoy the views and drive. Make sure to book a day or two ahead of time.

        We dined twice on this trip at Antinori’s Osteria di Passignano. It has clearly risen to the top of
the Chianti restaurant hierarchy. There is nothing to match the quality of the food and service. Yes, a
bit expensive but well worth it.
        It is absolutely essential to visit either the Cantinetta Antinori (in Florence) or the Osteria at
least once in order to have the opportunity to taste all of the Antinori flagship wines. They are all
available by the glass which is indeed a unique opportunity to experience some of the most famous
wines of Tuscany without having to shell out for full bottles.
        Here is what I would suggest. As soon as you arrive get the wine list and pick out what you wish
to taste and order one glass of each of them (to be shared by all at the table). Set them aside to let them
breathe and open up. In the meantime enjoy an aperitif or glass the Prosecco or white wine. Every few

                                                   - 19 -
                                                               RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
minutes give each of the glasses quick swirl. After about a half-hour they should be ready to roll. At a
minimum you should try the Solaia and Tignanello. I would also urge you to add the Pian delle Vigne
and the Guado al Tasso. All four of these wines have been featured numerous times in the Wine
Spectator's top 100, each of them has on occasion reached the top 10 and two have been named #1. If
you can go beyond these four there are a number Chianti Classico and Riserva that should be added to
the list. This experience comes with a price tag. These wines run around €15 per class with the Solaia
€30 per glass. Still a bargain by any measurement considering the quality and fame of the wines. There
is no other producer in Italy with such an extensive array of great wines and none that provides the
opportunity to taste all by the glass – don’t miss it!

        For years people have been telling us about the La Porta del Chianti restaurant located in San
Gusme (0577 358010). This is a small family-run establishment located in the middle of a tiny medieval
village. It specializes in grilled meats. We had a wonderful meal here and really enjoyed the food and
wines. It is also an exceptional value. It is a bit isolated about 10 miles outside of Siena. Definitely

        I have spoken above about Dario Cecchini the famous butcher from Chianti and now Dario has
opened a second restaurant called Officina della Bistecca (055 852 020). This is the home of the
beefsteak. The menu is fixed and is the same every evening and features four different courses each one
of beefsteak. On our visit we had a ribeye, a T-bone, a porterhouse, and a strip steak done as tartare.
Each of these is a separate and individual course. The meat was absolutely superb! Very little else is
served so if you're not up for a major meat-a-thon, you'd better stay home. Remarkably the entire meal
including modest wines is €50 per head. The whole evening is quite a production with a lot of theater
involved and speeches by Dario. Very entertaining. An experience that everyone should have at least
once in their lifetime. At the end of the meal large jugs of various Italian after dinner liqueurs are
placed on the tables. CAUTION: hazardous to your health, can be fatal. Do not touch! Check out the

        The Cantinetta di Rignana is an extremely rustic restaurant reached at the end of a couple of
miles of dirt road populated by hundreds of
potholes. It is one of those places that you
have to really want to go to in order to
endure the process of getting there. Believe
me it is well worth the effort. Most of the
restaurant is located outdoors with relatively
modest facilities. But the food is amazing
especially considering the value pricing. We
had the most spectacular antipasti tray that
we have ever seen in all of Italy. Followed by
top notch pastas. We had to quit at that point
and beg for mercy. I wish that we could have
gone on to the grilled meats – they looked
great. The owners are terrific and will do
anything to please. Go for lunch on a nice
day. Very good local wine list at bargain
prices. Absolutely delightful. (055 852 601)                            All of This Just for Me !!

                                                 - 20 -
                                                              RESTAURANTS OF TUSCANY
        Osteria di Fonterutoli is a small restaurant on this famous wine property. The commitment is to
the freshest local ingredients possible. The food is simple but excellent. Most of the tables are set
outside. On Thursday nights is a big BBQ with all sorts of grilled meats ($35 per head for all that you
can eat – must book in advance). Obviously the wines are excellent and offered at very reasonable
prices. Located between Castellina and Siena on the S222. (0577 741125)

       Da Antonio – unfortunately has closed.

        Poggio Rosso – at Borgo San Felice. Expensive and boring. Gone downhill. A major
disappointment. If there is a simple test of a restaurant’s commitment to good food in Italy it is the
tomatoes. Those served here were actually unripe and green. There is no greater sin in Italy than
unripe tomatoes. Bad sign.

                                                - 21 -

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