Eating Poggibonsi – Osteria da Camillo

Restaurant: Osteria da Camillo

Location: Poggibonsi, Italy

Date: June 18, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Very mediocre

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We were in Poggibonsi to drop my brother off at the bus/train station and we spent a few minutes wandering around and then picked a likely random lunch restaurant. This turned out to be our worst pick of the trip compared to expectations. It looked like all the other likely places — and it was even very touristy — but the food just wasn’t very good.


The menu.


This inexpensive Chianti Classico (probably 10-15 euros) was perfectly nice though.


Classic bruschetta with liver. These weren’t bad, one of the places better items. They weren’t however even close to the best bruschetta we’ve seen.


Mixed bruchetta, also fine. Starting from upper left and going clockwise. Fava beans, lard, mushrooms, and tomato.


Spicy pici with walnuts. This pasta tasted like glue. Paste. It was pretty gross. I think they added flour to the sauce, making it like elmers.


Tagliatelle al pesto. Edible, but very mediocre pesto.


Green tortelli with fossa cheese and yellow pumpkin cream. I didn’t try these.


Linguine with cheese and pepper. This was really bad too. Not even close to the amazing pepper and cheese pasta at Trattoria Pepei. I could barely eat a few bites. The pasta was pasty. Those thin slices of pecorino has an unpleasant melted cheese taste, and the sauce — there barely was one — tasted of paste.


Penne pomodoro.


Tagliatelle with tomatoes, olives, capers and hot peppers. Didn’t try this either.


Chicken, green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms. This was fine, not horrible. Not really a dish that does it for me though.

This place was completely unique for this trip in that it actually had bad dishes, several of them. That pretty much makes it the worst meal, even though it wasn’t horrible or anything. But it goes to show, eat out 50 times in Italy and you can find a dud!

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Eating Tuscany – Villa Dinner

Location: Staggia, Italy

Date: June 15 & 18, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

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Twice in the villa we arranged a “simple” dinner of local bounty. All the stuff below was purchased at either the local market in Staggia or at various local gourmet shops. Almost everything below was prepared by “D” who volunteered her excellent cooking and preparatory skills, along with her skill at attractive plating given few resources. My mom served as sous chef.


On the right is a cheap but pleasant prosecco.

In the middle the incredibly available and decent Nipozzano rufina (10 euros locally!) which parker gives a 91+, “The 2007 Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigneto Montesodi is a decidedly brooding red for this part of Tuscany. Smoke, grilled herbs and dark cherries meld into a palate of intense, richly concentrated fruit as this dense, powerful wine opens up in the glass. This is one of the few 2007 Tuscan reds that definitely needs bottle age. Today the tannins are rather imposing, particularly within the context of the vintage, but they should soften over the next few years. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2022.”

On the left is the 2007 Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva which we bought at the vineyard, also earning 91 points. “Juicy red cherries, flowers, spices, leather and new oak are some of the notes that emerge from Capannelle’s flashy 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva. Soft and luxurious on the palate, the Riserva impresses for its superb balance and long, harmonious finish. The open, seductive personality of the vintage is on full display. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2019. “


Sauteed mushrooms with coriander.


Big red chunked tuna bruchetta with arugala.


Marinated anchovies.


Local eggs. Notice the bright yellow yolks, different than our eggs.


Local melon and prosciutto di Toscana.

Tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic.


And it’s soul mate, fresh mozzerella di buffalo.


Large Tuscan green olives — in no short supply here!


Homemade ratatouille, courtesy of “D.”


Bread.


The remnants of some of our cheeses.


And some slightly fresher ones. Most of the local cheeses are peccorinos (sheep cheeses) of various ages.


Boar and brunello salami.


Simple pasta for the kids.


Salad.

Asparagus.


Local fruit.

Cherries are in season.


And watermelon.


Here is the spread on June 15.


And again on June 18.

It’s a rare spot in the US where the local bounty makes for such an excellent meal! In typical fashion high quality ingredients and products are available nearly everywhere. Even the Autogrill rest stops on the Autostrada (super highways) have 50 types of cheeses and cured meats for sale!

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Eating Gaiole – Lo Sfizio di Bianchi

Restaurant: Lo Sfizio di Bianchi

Location: Gaiole in Chianti, Italy

Date: June 14, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Surprisingly good for a random pick

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My father and I went on a Chianti Classico wine tasting quest, and this brought us to Gaiole, which is deep in the heart of Chianti’s best wine growing area. This is one of those “one road” towns where the road is just striped by buildings. We wandered into a store for something and the clerk sent us to this restaurant located in the town square.


The name seems to mean “the whimsy of white”.

The usual longish menu.


This was a very nice caprese in a country of really nice capreses. Note the really red tomatoes, the arugala, the dusted basil, and the generous blobs of mozzarella. Even I, consumate raw tomato hater, ate some of the beasts.


A cheese and spinach ravioli much like the one we had on day 2, just with an even cheesier richer sauce.


This is meat tortellini baked with cheese and béchamel sauce. It was REALLY good.


Someone else’s giant beef steak!


And expresso to finish.

This was a quick little lunch, bunch the dishes were very good for what they were. No complaints whatsoever.

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Eating Castellina – Albergaccio di Castellina

Restaurant: Ristorante Albergaccio di Castellina

Location: Castellina in Chianti, Italy

Date: June 13 & 20, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Great food, great service

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Albergaccio di Castellina is the first “fancy” place we went to in Tuscany, and it was so good we went back twice, but like any of the repeat restaurants in the Eating Italy set I have compiled both into a single post. The place earns a single Michelin star and is located in the beautiful hills of Chianti Classico, in a town called Castellina in Chianti. The first time we arrived we had a typical “finding mishap” due to a clash between the GPS and a recent road closure. This led us to circle the area for about 45 minutes until we discovered the mysterious new (and roundabout) way to approach the restaurant.


The have lovely plates! And, as our gluten free companion observed, she’s “alergic to the plate!” (but obviously this doesn’t matter through the plastic).


They had both a lovely patio.

And a classic looking Tuscan interior.


I’m going to take to calling this course the “pre-bread” as many places in Italy have two, or even three, different rounds of bread! Those long things were like salty donuts! Yum!


The extensive menu. AC (as I’ll call it) has two very reasonable tasting menus and an unusual but easy method of pricing merely by the number of courses.


We started with a little prosecco.

Then this lighter Chianti Classico, very local.

This amuse was a tiny version of the best minestrone I ever had. It tasted like bacon! (and it had bacon).


On another night we got the Tuscan bread and tomato soup.


The second bread course.


And they even had gluten free bread — without pre-warning — earning them big points.


Mixed local cured meats, always great in Italy.


This was the best Beef Tartar I’ve had, except possibly for at Totoraku. It was Chianino, the tough but delicious Tuscan cow. It also had ginger and parmesan. Wow!


Flowers of tuscany. Some tartar, an onion stuffed with pecorino, a meat pate, and a fried squash blossom.


Moving slightly up the Chianti beefiness ladder.


Hand made ravioli filled with blue cheese of Chianti, with thyme leaf and celery soup.


Gnocchi with saffron and beef muzzle sauce, parmesan.


And even gluten free pasta!


A fantastic baked lasagne.

Swiss shard “meat” balls, with tomato, basil, and cheese. Really interesting (and good).


More homemade pasta, with a tripe and parmesan sauce, with porcini mushrooms. This was delicious, and I don’t even like tripe!


This local super Tuscan gets a 96 from Parker!  “The 2007 Cepparello (Sangiovese) makes a case for itself as one of the finest wines ever made at Isole e Olena.  It is an open, sublime Cepparello endowed with tons of clarity and definition. The ripe red fruit floats on a core of refined, silky tannins that caress the palate with exceptional elegance and finesse. As the wine sits in the glass its inner perfume gradually emerges, leading to an eternal, beautifully crafted finish. The ripeness of the vintage is beautifully balanced by the acidity that is the trademark of Sangiovese grown in these hillside plots. Simply put, this is an utterly thrilling wine that will be a joy to follow over the coming years. In many ways, the restraint, elegance and polish all suggest Cepparello is the Haut-Brion of Tuscany’s high-end, pure Sangioveses. The 2007 Cepparello was fermented in wood uprights and saw three weeks of contact on the skins. Malolactic fermentation took place in equal parts steel and French oak. The final blend was assembled and the wine was subsequently aged in French oak barrels (1/3 new) for 18 months. Proprietor Paolo De Marchi describes the 2007 season as one where periods of heat alternated with well-timed spells of rain. Overall temperatures remained warm (but never extreme) throughout the year, which allowed the fruit to ripen evenly. Still, it was a challenging vintage, and De Marchi was forced to carry out a stringent selection in his vineyards. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.”


Grilled Tuscan vegetables and burrata.

Lamb medallions in an anchovy sauce with herbs. Stewed giblets. Tomato and vegetable millefeuile. The meat was a little tougher than we are usually used to in the states, but full of flavor.


Giblets!

This dish was the single failure. Chick pea crepes with salt cod. This is a traditional salt-packed Italian fish that needs a lot of soaking — and it had 48 hours — but it still wasn’t really to our taste. They very generously pulled it from the bill.


Bisteca Toscana! The giant slab of nearly raw grilled Chianino beef.


Local cheeses!


The dessert menu.

A pre-dessert of cherry gelato and cherries. Yum!


Another pre-dessert, ricotta and fig.

Local cheesecake with fresh berries.

Two slightly different takes on ricotta cheese semifreddo in a sponge cake, flavored with vin santo.


Summer “caprese” of cream and strawberries.


Housemade gelato.

This place is really awesome. They take local ingredients, and local dishes, and do a wonderful job modernizing them.

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