Villa di Piazzano

When I asked Lori what she wanted for her birthday this year she said she’d like to go to Tuscany and visit our friends at the Villa di Piazzano. We’ve been to the Villa many times and always return because to leave the Villa is like leaving relatives behind in Tuscany. Many places can offer a nice room but few can make you feel like family. The Villa itself is a virtual landmark with a long and rich history. The Wimpole family has managed to upgrade and modernize the Villa in tasteful manner adding all the modern amenities you would expect but still maintaining the “Old World” charm. They have recently added a new Sommelier and do wine tastings in the afternoon. We always are sure to dine at least one evening at the Villa with our friend the bubbly Chef Gabriella. Well I can go on forever with our pauses for the Villa but as they say “TRY IT YOU”LL LIKE IT”.

 

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Ristorante Walter Redaelli, Bettolle, Tuscany, Italy

Back home on the ranch in the Cortona area of Tuscany, we decided to try some new places.  We had a conversation with Alessandra the owner of Villa di Piazzano inquiring about any new and exciting restaurants in the area.  She recommended Walter Redaelli.  Coincidentally, we ran into her and her family two days later having dinner at Walter Redaelli.  We had dinner and lunch at Walter the same day.  We liked it so much at lunch we had to try a dinner. Walter uses only the finest locally sourced in season products.  Once the bread basket arrived we knew we were in for something special.  The wine list was excellent with many of my favorite local wines including a reasonably priced Brunello by the glass.  They had the largest Brunello glass we have ever seen.  The pasta course consisted of the most wonderful fluffy mushroom and truffle gnocchi topped with a Gorgonzola sauce.  We also had the Pici which is a hand rolled pasta served in southern Tuscany. The Pici was prepared with artichokes and a tiny bits of Cinta Sense bacon (local bacon).  It was delicately flavored to perfection with parsley from the garden and pecorino cheese.  The Primi was the most amazing Beef Carpaccio with a bit of arugula and cheese dressed with a balsamic reduction.  We also had a wonderful Salmon Carpiccio with artichokes. In the evening we had a special stewed neck of beef that cut with a fork and melted in your mouth.  Deserts were amazing !!  Prior to desert we had a tasting of several local chocolates.  Of course we finished with a bit of local desert wine… This is truly a fine dining experience in Tuscany!!  You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.  We can’t wait to return in the Spring and try the seasonal specials.

 

Walter Redaelli

53040 Bettolle –
Sinalunga (Siena)
Via XXI Aprile, 10
Tel. / Fax 0577 623447
cell: 335 397648

 

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Ristorante Babette, Tuscany, Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

Prior to our visit to Tuscany we had discussed some new restaurants in the area with our local friends Bianca and Enzo. They had mentioned a place had opened but they have not tried it yet.  So prior to leaving Lori decided we are all going to Babette.  Locate in the Casale di Brolio outside the small town of Castiglion Fiorentino. This is remotely located but the roads are good and it’s easy to find.

We arrived at Babette and it was a very quite evening because of the rain and the time of year, Tuscany really starts to slowdown in October.  It’s an attractive place with clean Tuscan appearance.  We started the meal with an amazing amusebouche of foie gras.  It was nice to have four of us dining so we had a chance try many dishes.  Our appetizer was scallops that were perfectly seared and presented with several sauces. I’m not sure how I felt about the Foie and scallop combination.  The Pasta course was Pici a local hand rolled thick spaghetti with Wild Boar ragu its was excellent and on my list of must have again dishes.   I had a really interesting suckling pig in a Chocolate sauce, Lori had a perfectly prepared Sea Bream, Bianca an amazing Monk Fish and Enzo his standard Beef Fillet which was so tender no knife was required.

We did of course save room for desert, this is a good plan!!  The deserts were on par with any Michelin 3 star restaurant.  The presentations were amazing and they tasted even better than they looked.  The Tiramisu was absolutely the best!!  Perhaps my favorite all time desert!

When in Tuscany or even within a 12 hour flight don’t miss a dinner at Babette. The service was excellent and they do speak English well for those that are concerned.. This is truly fine dining in Tuscany.

Ristorante Babette

Presso Casale di Brolio
Località Brolio, 74
52043 Castiglion Fiorentino (Arezzo)

Tel.: 0575 652054
Fax: 0575 652254

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RISTORANTE IL LATINI

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While staying in the lovely countryside of Tuscany, Lori decided to have me, drive us to Florence to visit a restaurant recommend by her doctor that is known to love his food.  I was reluctant to drive in Florence because this usually involves driving down one way streets the wrong direction , driving in traffic restricted areas and a host of other moving violations.  This time was no exception so after the “drive” we arrived in Florence, parked the car and found IL Latini.

IL Latini is known for their Florentine Steaks which can be some of the best beef found in the world.  Two of the best steaks we have eaten have been Florentine however sadly to say this was not going to be one of those heavenly days. The restaurant is very casual, crowded with many tourists and the servers really did a great job of working the crowd.  We ordered the Steak , Tuscan beans and salad.   The kindest comments I have was that the food was OK or perhaps they had an off day.

RISTORANTE IL LATINI

Address: via dei Palchetti 6/r (Palazzo Rucellai) – 50123 – Firenze
Telephone: (+39) 055 210916
Email: info@illatini.com

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Osteria dell’Olmo, Perugia, Italy

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We received a recommendation from a friend of a friend that has sent a lot of time in Perugia. We called our Italian friends and asked them to join us for dinner. I set the GPS in the rental car and off we went. After the usual amount of animated conversation and circling we arrived. We were pleasantly surprised by a charming exterior and really impressed by the romantic setting inside. It was love at first sight for me and first bite for Lori. All of the dishes were expertly prepared and presented in a modern yet approachable manner, very fitting for the location. All of the pasta dishes were homemade and superb. The eggplant starter was amazing!! The local fish was pristine and melted like butter in your mouth. The Tuscan white pork was almost as good as sex.

All around an excellent dinner at a very reasonable cost. We all agreed that is was definitely a fine recommendation.

Osteria dell’Olmo, Perugia, Italy

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Canta Napoli, Camucia, Tuscany (near Cortona) Italy

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Several years ago we asked our friends that live in Camucia to take us to a local place where people go to eat for everyday food.  They took us to Canta Napoli and we LOVE it….I have been reluctant to place anything about this place on the internet fearing it may ruin such a wonderful place unspoiled by tourists.

It’s a Neapolitan style pizzeria as the name implies.  They feature a large variety of pizzas.  We always have one however we never miss some of the freshest seafood available anywhere.  I recommend the calamari salad and mixed grilled seafood.  Both of these dishes are featured in the pictures above.  Let’s not forget the fresh Neapolitan pastries driven up from Naples almost daily.  The Baba Rum or Baba au Rhum is my personal favorite and I rejoice when they have them……..

I wholeheartedly recommend Canta Napoli and we will certainly return hoping that not too many of my followers are taking all the tables.

 

Canta Napoli – Ristorante – Pizzeria

Loc. Le Piagge, 33 – Camucia Cortona (AR)

http://www.cantanapoli.net/chisiamo.htm

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Osteria La Porta, Tuscany, Italy

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Remotely located in the small village of Monticchello is this jewel of a restaurant,  Osteria La Porta. Traveling to this town requires a 30 minute drive off the beaten path.  If you follow your GPS you may end up on some unpaved roads.  Don’t worry about the unpaved road just drive slowly and enjoy the scenery.  Plan your route in advance and you can stay on pavement.

Once arriving at Monticchello,  Osteria La Porta is to your left as you walk into the town. I would plan on arriving during the daylight and strolling around the quaint town.  Try to get seated on the outdoor patio in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset.

Once you’re seated you will be presented with a menu that includes fresh local seasonal ingredients.  For starters, the Burratta is amazing…. don’t pass it up.  The PICI is a favorite of ours.  It’s a thick rolled pasta that they make in-house.  I’d recommend any of the meat or tomato sauces on it(Cheese is a bit heavy).  The white Tuscan pork is also very interesting with a truffle cream sauce.   It’s hard to make a wrong choice at La Porta so be adventurous and try some of the local specialties .

 

We have been to Osteria La Porta several times and highly recommend it…

 

Osteria La Porta
Wine Bar – Enoteca – Caffetteria
Via del Piano 1 53026
Telefono e Fax +39 0578 755163
Ristorante La Cantina
Via San Luigi 3 53026
Telefono +39 0578 755280
Monticchiello di Pienza (SI)
email: osterialaporta@valdorcia.it

http://www.osterialaporta.it/monticchiello.en.php

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Trattoria al Vecchio Forno, Tuscany, San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy

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Trattoria al Vecchio Forno, Tuscany, San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy

Owned by same owners of the Palazzo del Capitano in San Quirico d’Orcia, This charming ristorante feaures truly authentic Tuscan food. Wonderfully simple dishes of tuscan beans teased and pleased our palettes.  Fresh tri-color pasta was tossed with cheese and  candy like tomatoes. The wine list include some of my local favorites like Biondi-Santi. All this is just a short walk around the corner from the hotel so have a second bottle of wine.

http://www.palazzodelcapitano.com/ristorante.php

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Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici; Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY

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Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici “Italy’s Authentic Flavors in a Magnificent Tuscan Villa Setting”

I have been to Italy about 150 times visiting Tuscany many of those, basically I know a good  authentic Tuscan meal when I have one. Unfortunately the most authentic part was it’s name,  Caterina did not live up to it’s claim.  The ambience was wonderful however the food was lacking.  The Hudson River Valley is know for it’s outstanding food. Spotted with excellent restaurants, Caterina has not been worth a second visit.  We did enjoy the enthusiastic service of the students and the meal although not what it claimed to be was still enjoyable. It’s been a while since our visit, so one can only hope that it has improved.   If anybody has been there recently, I’d appreciate their input.

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La Bucaccia, Cortona, Tuscany, Italy

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In the Famous hilltop village of Cortona, La Bucaccia is conveniently located near the center of town. The owner and manager, Romano personally greets all of his guest with his unique style of humor. The menu is traditional Tuscan with some excellent specialities of the day. La Bucaccia’s wine cellar is Ramano’s pride and joy. He will gladly give you a guided tour and help you select a fine choice to accompany your dinner.  Romano loves to play with the guest cameras and has perfected this technique of photographing them through a wine glass.  We have dined there several times and have always enjoyed our meal. This evening we were accompanied by our dearest friends Bianca and  Enzo.

I would certainly recommend that you visit La Bucaccia for an enjoyable meal and entertaining evening.

BTW: The bottle of 1995 Avignonesi Vin Santo was not in the cellar, We acquired it elsewhere and shared some with Romano… This bottle is hard to find and is a heavenly experience.

Link to La Bucaccia

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Biondi Santi, MONTALCINO, ITALY

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We were honored to have a private tour and tasting at Biondi-Santi the birthplace of Brunello di Montalcino. Private tours are the only type available at Biondi-Santi.  I recommend booking well in advance because they are very limited. Our tasting included a 2000 Brunello. This is the epitome of wine tasting in Montalcino.

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Osteria Il Tinaio,San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy

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It was truffle season and how could we resist this small Osteria right down the block from Palazzo del Capitano. I think Lori was fascinated by the whole truffle weighing and slicing procedure. The owner personally came out to slice and weigh this delicacy, all I could do is imagine how much these cost. LOL, We really enjoyed the pasta with white truffles and a bottle of local wine.

Osteria Il Tinaio
Via Dante Alighieri 35/A
San Quirico d’Orcia (SI)
Tel./Fax 0577 898347

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Ristorante di Poggio Antico, Tuscany, Italy

The Ristorante di Poggio Antico is located on the vineyard Poggio Antico and is run independently by Roberto Minnetti is another true fine dining experience in Tuscany. We enjoyed Lori’s birthday lunch out on the patio so much we returned with Josh and Kelly the next year for dinner inside. The firsts included traditional Tuscan bread salad and a foie gras accompanied by rock candy. Pasta was made in the house and had that marvelous texture you find only in homemade pasta. Wine choices are easy being as the house wine is Poggio Antico for lunch we had the light Rosso(very nice) and for dinner my favorite Brunello(Heavenly). The pork, lamb and fish mains all received universal accolades. The Minnetti’s made us feel very welcome and we will surely return as soon as possible.

Ristorante di Poggio Antico directly (phone/fax +39 0577 849200, email ristorantedipoggioantico@gmail.com).

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Palazzo del Capitano

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Located in the center of the small Tuscan town of San Quirico d’Orcia is this charming boutique hotel Palazzo dell Capitano. San Quirico is conveniently located near MONTALCINO, PIENZA, MONTEPULCIANO making it a nice hub for wine tasting. The room we stayed  in was rather large and decorated in a Tuscan fashion. In town, there are two wonderful restaurants (that I will review in a future post) one independently owned and one that is owned by the hotel.  Each morning at the hotel they put out a wonderful breakfast buffet including these awesome baked goods. I recommend after dropping your bags, parking outside of town and walking up the stairs. The Hotel did offer garage parking however it’s only large enough for a SMART car,LOL, I dented the side of our BMW trying to get it in. We both enjoyed our stay at Palazzo del Capitano and would highly recommend it to others.

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Locanda dell’ Amorosa, Sinalunga, Italy

Le Coccole dell’Amorosa

Nestled in the small village (this means hard to find) of Sinalunga in our favorite region of Italy; Tuscany is Le Coccole dell’Amorosa located in the hotel Locanda dell’ Amorosa. This restaurant is one of the fine dining highlights of the region. We tried to book our reservation well in advance however we were politely declined due to the fact that they give their hotel guests first priority for seating. This is when it’s nice to have some friends in the area. Lori called our Italian friends who know everyone and they made a call or two and we were in. We arrived in the evening and really did not have a chance to enjoy the beautiful grounds of the Inn. Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed and seated at a table tucked away in a quiet corner of the brick arched dining room.

We settled in and selected the wine. I was on a Brunello di Montalcino kick this trip and therefore I ordered one. I don’t recall the producer however I do recall them having a good selection of reasonably priced choices. They graciously presented me with their special house wine Borgo Amorosa as a gift to take home. We really enjoyed it.

The first course choices all sounded so good it’s a good thing we brought Josh my stepson and his guest along so we could order them all and not look like the Tuscan pigs we were about to eat. All the pork and poultry came right out of their own backyard.

All other ingredients are sourced locally so that you are being served only the freshest Tuscan food available. For the first course we had fresh smoked pork that was thinly sliced and served with a fig jelly, a fresh pork pate and fried mozzarella. They all tasted as good as they looked.

I must mention just prior to the first course arriving Lori went to sit in the lobby due to the fact she was not feeling very well but the food was coming so we carried on and ate her meal for her !

The mains were awesome: Sliced Grilled Tuscan Beef, Grilled Tuscan Pork, Roasted Whole Leg of Lamb and a Braised Lamb Shank. With four mains and only three of us eating it’s hard to imagine we had room for dessert but it was a birthday celebration so we pressed on with homemade ice cream and a special birthday cake.

We had a truly fine dining experience in Tuscany. The service was magnificent. While we were enjoying our meal the friendly staff was serving hot tea and tending to Lori.

We will surly return to Le Coccole dell’Amorosa so Lori can order two meals to make up for the one she missed !

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Trattoria Latte Di Luna, Pienza, Tuscany, Italy

This is one of my favorite places in the world to dine. It’s not Michelin # star dinning but good down to earth Tuscan food featuring the town’s special Mailino (young roasted suckling pig). We have been there several times and in fact have introduced our Italian friends form Cortona; Enzo and Bianca to it. In February when we visited Tuscany last we asked Enzo and Bianca where they would like to lunch and they said Latte di Luna. I don’t think there is much more I can say about their endorsement other than they both have worked in the Hospitality industry in Tuscany and this is one of their favorites as well. Let’s get down to the food.

First let’s discuss the local Pasta it’s called Pici its fresh hand rolled thick spaghetti like form with a texture that is beyond discription. Well we know the Pici is a must the next choice is the sauce. I always choose the Wild Boar sauce, Enzo being a man also went for the meat. Lori and Bianca choose the Pomodoro which was excellent candy like fresh tomato sauce exploding in every bite. As wonderful as it was Lori still liked my Wild Boar sauce better. As we say Daddy’s is always better. So what did she do? Order a side of Wild Boar Sauce. The secondi of course was Maialino which is heaven on earth, buttery inside of the cripsy skin. In regard to wine the best local wine is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano the producer of choice today was Polizano although I also like the Avignonesi as well. The combination of great friends, Maialino and the vino made the 18 hour journey worth every second.

Of course there are wonderful deserts, plenty of Limoncello and Grappa.

I highly recommend Latte di Luna for great food and friendly service.

I can’t wait to go back !!!

Ivan Klugman : The Photo Gourmet

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