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Pienza..Latte di Luna/Avignonesi tour/Montepulciano

erica | Jan 23, 200609:33 AM

Just back from a week spent between Montepulicano, Florence, and Bologna. I will get around to the second two places later but wanted to begin my reporting with a quick note on this place, which was provided us with one of the best meals of our trip. We spent the first morning visiting Avignonesi at Le Cappezzine, with a wonderful tour highlighted by a visit to the room where the vin santo grapes are aged on bamboo mats, stacked to the ceiling. Avignonsi is celebrated for its vin santo; they produce only several thousand half-bottles a year. After the tour, we had a tasting of their vino nobile, rosso di Montepulicano, and several other wines, accompanied by a plate of three pecorinos in diferent stages of ageing, and Tuscan salumi.

Then drove a half hour to Pienza for lunch at Latte di Luna (closed Tuesdays). This is a casual SlowFood place with very friendly service; there are other reports here but I just wanted to chime in with how much we enjoyed our meal. We had already snacked on the crostini at the vinyard, so did not have a full meal here, unfortunately. I began with tagliatelle which was almost covered with black truffle shavings. I am still dreaming about this plate and the aroma of the truffles. Price was E.9.50, less than half what restaurants in Florence were charging last week for similar dishes. My secondi was half of a tender roast duck, with browned and crispy skin. My friend had the justly famous suckling pig (there was only one portion of this left when we arrived close to 2pm closing time). It was among the best renditions of this I have ever had..skin was so crispy and chewy and delicious and the meat was tender and just plain terrific. With a half liter of house rosso and water the bill came to E.35.50 for both of us, which represents an amazing value. On the wall is an article from the NY Times in which the writer raved about the tagliatelle and the pig, for good reason. Apparently this place was popular with the cast of The English Patient film, for there are photos of them up on the walls; the film was shot in this startlingly beautiful town. There is parking outside the town walls and the restaurant is easy to find at the end of the main street, Via San Carlo, 2/4. Phone: 0578-748-606. Definitely reserve in advance here..we had the last lunch table on a Monday in January.

We had two nights in Montepulciano but unfortunately, there was only ONE place in town we found open on a Sunday and Monday night in January. (Aside from Cafe Poliziano which does not have full meals) Had hoped to try the Slow Food Borgo Buio (Roberto, the owner of our hotel, La Terrassa di Montepulciano, says this is by far the best place in town to eat) and some of the hounds' favorites but no such luck. Had two dinners at the apparently always open La Briciole at the base of town, across from the closed Diva e Maceo (have to check my notes for spellings); this is a pretty good, friendly and low-key place for wood-oven pizza and various primi made from the local pici (they also have the usual meats) but I might venture elsewhere when more places are open later in the season. Had we not been so jet lagged, we would have driven back to Pienza for all of our meals at Latte di Luna!! Sorry if this report is a bit rambling, still jet lagged from yesterday's flights back home to NYC.

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