So this time we divided the week between the north, Colle di Val d'Elsa, and Villa Grazianella outside of Montepulciano where we stayed before. Colle was the perfect base with easy access to Chianti, San G, Siena. And there's plenty to see and eat in this picturesque, almost tourist free town. Goal this time was to mix some homey agriturismo, pizza, picnics, and a few old faves as we slowly transitioned from seafood in Liguria to meat. Here's the recap..
Pizzeria da Felice, Lucca
Second time around at one of my favorite pizzerias in Italy. Love the Cecina but love the regular pizza with that vibrant, tangy sauce even more
L'oste di Borgo, Colle di Val d'Elsa
One of the more memorable meals of the entire trip. Run by a young couple who took over the space not too long ago. A 0 km type, or 5 to be exact. And an incredible value. Highlights included an exceptional appetizer platter, an expertly prepared Piemonte style hand chopped beef tartare (not chianina but still excellent), best Pici cacio e pepe of the trip. Most interesting was a Paccheri with Scamerita, back of the pork neck ragu. Its more common with Pici in the area it seams but on this day they did Paccheri. Incredible amount of flavor from such little meat. All washed down with a nice dry house red.
Osteria La Sosta di Violante, Siena
Ok meal. Should have gone back to La Tellina. Interesting starters - Rabbit marinated tuna style (Tonno di Coniglio), fried pecorino with pear sauce was probably the best dish. Pappa al pomodoro, good but not chunk, bready enough. I wanted my friends to taste the more traditional version. Pastas were either on the sweet side or lacking spark.
Osteria Le Panzanelle, Radda in Chianti
Excellent meal overall. Very popular with locals and tourists. Great eggplant involtini and green bean flan. Fresh and very eggy papardelle with a wild boar ragu that carried some serious depth. Outstanding mix of fried chicken and rabbit. Pici all'aglione - something I've never heard of but saw on many menus this time. Its very garlicky and creamy, and while enjoyable here I never felt like ordering it again. And we also shared a very fine Bistecca.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro, San Gimignano
Another memorable one. Its an Agriturismo just outside San Gimignano and for €35 you join its guests for a family style, eat till you drop meal consisting of the day preparations. We tried about 10 different dishes and while nothing particularly stood out, we enjoyed this immensely. The views alone from the deck worth the price of admission. They also raise Chianina cows who hate Saturdays (Bistecca day - €42)
Guastini Piccola Trattoria, Torrita di Siena
Allora, so this is our favorite restaurant in the entire region. New location, new terrace with great views, same family. Husband and helpers serve, while the super versatile wife is like a magician in the kitchen. Eggplant Parm - delicate, fresh tangy sauce with buffalo mozzarella. The same great crostini with chicken liver, onion and apple we had last time. Pici with a Ragu of Chianina, no tomato was superb. Smaller, not quite as heavy and rounded pici this time which I preferred. The Tortelli as good as before. Fantastic most tender Faraona with pistachios and raisins. And a roasted Maialino - delightfully salty, fatty and just the proper crunch. A proper Tiramisu, and an even better Ricotta with honey. All enjoyed with a Pieropan 2015 Soave. This is, borrowing from our Piemonte expert, a Go to! Did I say it right?
Cugusi Silvana, picnic near the Montepiciano
This was brilliant even on a very hot day. You visit the store of this cheese farm where they prepare a basket for you to enjoy in their picnic facilities. We picked a combination of fanastic fresh, semi, and aged pecorino, Tuscan Salami, sausages. Great fun.
Piccolo Hotel San Valentino
Excellent homey comfort food right by Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Family also manages the restaurant in the monastery. Highlights were large corkcrew pastas with a local Crete Senesi ragu of black and white pigs. Exceptionally light albeit textureless spinach and cheese ravioli with walnut and cheese sauce. Pork Medallions, and a grilled veal with green peppercorns and rosemary.
Villa Nottola, Gracciano
Terrible! They are known for the duck which was good and by far the best part of the meal. Maybe thats why they are known for the duck. Huge menu was the first red flag
Bottega Mata, near Montepulciano
For a bit of a wine break I chose this uber local craft beer bar one evening. I feel that with Italy being such a wine powerhouse, the craft beer is extremely underrated. Very good beer here, as well as Pecorino and Porchetta. You can also get not particularity inspiring but cheap pasta
We visited two wineries. Capanna of Cencioni near Montalcino. Very informative tour and tasting. And in the north we just had to visit Castello di Verrazzano to learn about our boy Giovanni, and the history of our misspelled bridge. We found evidence that the spelling may not have been a mistake after-all. Did you know he was eaten by Cannibals in the Bahamas?
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