In May 2008 we invited some 16 long-time, primarily European friends to join us at our villa on the southern Tuscan-Umbrian border for a week. Each night we selected a different restaurant in the region where our guests would assemble for dinner - doing as they liked during the day. The group was made up of persons used to dining well so the evaluation I share here reflects a unanimous consensus of fairly discerning folks. Two restaurants deserve special recognition and patronage. We feel La Porta may be one of the best kept secrets in southern Tuscany. Well worth the beautiful trip to get there as is Boccon di Vino
1. LA PORTA at Monticchiello by Pienza (SI), Via del Piano 3, Tel/fax 0578.755163 Email firstname.lastname@example.org See www.osterialaporta.it. Closed Thursdays. Proprietress: Dania
This charming, comfortably rustic, intimate Tuscan restaurant in the walls of Monticchiello - a walled village about 10 kilometers from Pienza - has both in-door dining and a terrace balcony which overlooks the deep broad valley separating Monticchiello from Pienza, which one sees perched on the other side of the valley.
The local wines, including some produced by Dania's brother, are of the highest standard. The food is truly innovative and exceptional with only the freshest of ingredients. I set out below a menu we had (at one meal!) to give the reader a sense. I might add that the tariff was extremely reasonable by any measure. If the menu and quality of food were offered in New York, you would have to book a month in advance to get a table and be on an expense account. If you try it, please mention my name: Mr.Orban
Antipasti: Asparagus Soufflé with cream of Pienza sheep cheese (Pecorino)
Carpaccio of Chianino beef with fresh black truffles
Prima Piatti: Risotto with very special white asparagus
Pici with guinea fowl sauce and vegetables
Secondi Piatti: Cinta Senese – Pork filets on a crust of pine nuts and herbs
Aged Pecorino cheese served with Brunello wine
Selection of Desserts including an exceptional Siena Pan Forte
Above accompanied by Prosecco, local white and red wines, French Sauterne desert wine and Italian Vinsanto
2. BOCCON DI VINO, Via Traversa dei Monti 201, Montalcino (in a house a few hundred yards before one enters the wall of Montalcino from the east), Tel 0577-848233/Fx 0577-846570 email@example.com www.bsur.it/boccondivino You may also mention my name here.
Even if the food and wine were not exceptional, you should go there for the most stunning view over the undulating Tuscan countryside out of a Renaissance painting - not rivaled by any restaurant I know. It has a terrace and an indoor dining area. Owners : Mario e Vanna Fiorani. Alessandra (younger daughter) does the pastry part and most of the recipes. The cuisine includes old (1500-1600) Tuscan recipes (Mario’s passion), hardly found elsewhere The restaurant has not more than 20 tables. Alessandra (younger daughter) does the pastry part, while Marina manages the room. Her husband is Roberto Cipresso, winemaker who has been named “Italian winemaker of the year “ in 2005 and 2006. An example of a menu is:
Crostone with spread of cured pork fat (lardo di colonnata) and tomatoes
Crostini al caprino e male
Gnocchi di Mario – Gnocchi with mixed cheeses and fresh truffles
Carabaccia (Renaissance era onion soup)
Pork tenderloin with Vinosanto
Carrots with and Potatoes with Cheese
Special cream dessert
Fine Cipresso red wine, Brunellos, etc.
3. Though not in the same class as the above, you may want to consider these quite good and colorful restaurants: Borgo Buio (Montepulchiano) that has been around some time with an eclectic interesting decor; La Cantina at Castiglione del Lago on the shore of Lake Trasimeno - well-know for its fish, it offers a diverse menu and is also a pizzeria and has a nice outdoor terrace overlooking the lake; the rustic style Zaira in the center of Chiusi - a fixture in that town for about 100 years, the current owner has had it for 50. Fine local "home-cooked" Tuscan food. An incredible 3,000 bottle wine celler you can visit below the restaurant in the ancient Etruscan caves.