We’ve recently come back from tearing up the countryside in Tuscany and Chianti. Now after putting on a couple of extra pounds we have the inside word on where you should head to dine with the locals and get off that well trodden tourist trail.
Enoteca Con Cucina
We’ve just come back from a glorious weekend in Tuscany, where we had lunch at the restaurant attached to the vineyard Castello di Ama. The Ristoro di Ama is set within the old hamlet of Ama, where you can also try the wines and see their art installations. It’s a great spot for lunch if you want to sit outside on the sunny terrace draped with white sheets, drinking their amazing wines. We ate freshly made ravioli stuffed with ricotta and a black cabbage and tomato sauce, followed by homemade polpetti and a vegetable cake.
It’s always worth remembering that under the restaurant you’ll find their tasting room where you can pick up a couple of choice wines that you were poured while dining upstairs. Seriously – a great drop!
The drive from Castellina also takes you through some wonderful, winding roads with classic Tuscan scenery. Come back via Vaglaigli and you can take the turning to Castellina in Chianti, which takes you up to a viewing point. From this high point you can see right out over Siena. Well worth stopping on a clear day. www.castellodiama.com – il ristoro – +39 0577 746191
Another recent find for us is this local restaurant near Monteriggioni at the Abbadia Isola. They make freshly prepared dishes with a daily changing specials board using locally produced ingredients. Home made breads in a paper bag were delicious.
We then had what was described as a cauliflower and ricotta pudding to start, which was like a baked soufflé and a pasta with a beef heart ragu, both excellent. This was followed by roast lamb shoulder covered in fennel seeds perfectly cooked and a wonderful tagliata of venison,which is hard to find on tuscan menus. A fantastic creme caramel rounded off the meal.
They have some great local craft beers on offer too should you need to take a breather from having so much choice in Chianti Classicos. It is a simple setting and inside has no view so more of an evening choice, but really good cooking. http://futuraosteria.it/en/– +39 0577 301240
Inventive Tuscan Cooking
The owners of Colombaia vineyard recommended Officina della cucina popolare to us. It’s in the amazing upper part of the Colle Val d’Elsa (Colle Alta), which is well worth a look around. The restaurant makes seasonal food based on what they buy in the market each day. Although very Tuscan, there is an emphasis on good ingredients and sourcing from organic suppliers where possible. We had dishes such as Finocchiona (from Dario Cecchini, see separate post) with oven-baked radicchio, Tuscan meatloaf and English Triffle (zuppa inglese). They also do a great tagliata of beef with rocket and parmesan. http://www.cucina-popolare.com/homeeng.html
Dinner Out While Staying In…
Something we had been told about being one of the perks of renting La Bagnaie was the opportunity to have an old Italian mama come and cook for you at the barn while you relax and watch the sun set or just swim to your heart’s content. Unfortunately we only had limited time and didn’t get a chance to try it on our visit – which just means we’ll have to come back to this stunning house!
The gardener’s (Cosimo’s) mamma is called Serena and she’s a great cook. So good that she came and cooked us a 5-course authentic Tuscan home style meal. We had crostini, tempura of courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta, pasta with a tomato sauce, roast pork and potatoes and her own delicious homemade tiramisu. She brings all the ingredients and cooks everything in the kitchen while you relax and drink Aperol spritz watching the sunset. Then she serves you dinner on the terrace, with a few bottles of chianti that you’ve picked up in advance. Best of all she does all the washing up.
The Local Fattorias’ Wines We Like To Drink
Being surrounded by vineyards there is an endless choice of different chianti classico to try. The local ones that we think are worth having a few bottles of are: Lilliano – their Chianti Classico is always good and great value. Bibbiano – located a couple of kilometres beyond Lilliano, their wine is harder to find if you don’t go direct. Although they also do a Chianti Classico worth trying, we’re often tempted by their Montornello. This is a single estate, 100% Sangiovese wine that’s been kept in french oak barrels for over a year giving it a distinctive flavour. Fonterutoli is a much better known estate with a classic 90% Sangiovese Chianti. It’s the most expensive of the 3 but always exceptional.
Wines Worth Tracking Down
This is a non-exhaustive list of wines we’ve come to enjoy. They are all relatively local. Most of them can be visited directly and will give you free tastings if you ask. And you can of course buy as much or as little as you want. The Enoteca in Castellina is also very good and stocks many of them. Castello di Ama – http://www.castellodiama.com/en/. Monsanto – http://www.castellodimonsanto.it. Terrabianca – http://www.terrabianca.com. Querciabella – http://www.querciabella.com . Aiola – http://www.aiola.net/en/. Dievole – http://www.dievole.it. Isole e Olena.
If you have any other tips please get in touch in the comments section!