Da Roberto in Montisi – Slow Food Nation

Da Roberto - Insalata lagumi“We are far from Da Roberto” is a phrase I’ve used more than once already.  The first time was in Rome’s Le Mani in Pasta where we got treated like second class citizens. The last time was in my house where Mrs Ziggy flat out refused to disclose where she got the couscous. I suspect now that it wasnt organic couscous.

Da Roberto, in the remote Tuscan village of Montisi, represents everything I love about eating in Italy.  Fantastic setting, great food, local ingredients, and a man whose passion for food is contagious.  I said “Man” instead of “Chef” for a reason.  “I’m not a chef, I’m not a cook, I’m simply here to present the finest local ingredients in the simplest form”.  And what ingredients they were.  Every grain, every bean, every tomato, cow or pig that you will consume at Roberto’s house, its origin will be explained to you in full detail.  Roberto’s freezer is turned off and his has no microwave.  You get fresh or you get nothing.  The only salt in the house is for the pasta water in the kitchen and out on your table. The fact that our American salt demanding palates only reached for the salt once throughout the meal apeaks volumes.Da Roberto in Montisi
As you come in through Roberto’s herb garden and security guards (pictured above) you immediately get the sense that you are not in Kansas anymore.  The 10 or so items you see on the board are carefully selected dishes that showcase what I was trying to describe above.  Meaning, you don’t ask “what’s good here” or “what do you recommend”, or what’s the house specialty.  The board is the specialty.
Some of the things we ate…
Insalata lagumi (top) – 5 different beans with pecorino, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, carrots, stem of garlic, olive oil.  All work together like a beautiful symphony.  A fantastic starter

Pici, the Tuscan specialty we couldn’t get enough of, was well represented here, in a healthier more organic way.  Pici with Chianina ragu – most excellent.  Pici with pork sausage, pecorino and sweet onions was even more satisfying.  The fact that we had Pici for lunch that day and the previous day did not affect our enjoyment.

Da Roberto - pici with sausage Da Roberto - Pici with Chianina ragu

Our short streak of overcooked, dry secondis was stopped here with a lovely, tender roast of chianina.  And “The last sausage of the season from a {vendor name} 15 kilometers away”.  Sorry Roberto’s guests who came in the following days and months. You missed a darn good sausage.

Da Roberto - Sausage Da Roberto - Roast of Chianina

You will be hard pressed finding a better Slow Food ambassador.  “Slow Food”, the fight against fast food and globalization in Italy means fighting a bug that is in its infancy, or hasn’t fully developed yet. While in the USA, its like fighting a late stage cancer.  In Lucca, they recently banned any non-Italian restaurants from opening within the ancient walls, leaving 4 kebab houses as the only ethnic options in the historic center.  While I, ethnic food lover Ziggy, cant even begin to imagine life without ethnic food, I understand what Lucca, and other Tuscan towns like Siena (who banned fast food in its beautiful historic center) are trying to do.  They are trying to prevent the floodgates from opening.  Can you really blame them?  Its a sensitive subject in Italy that deserves its own post.  But as much as I like living in ethnic food capital of the world, New York City, I’m not sure I would mind trading all that for a few Robertos and its farms in my area. Well, at least for a short while.   Gotta have that non-organic couscous eventually.  Da Roberto - Dessert Da Roberto -  Montisi

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Da Roberto in Montisi – Slow Food Nation

  1. la straniera

    “As you come in through Roberto’s herb garden and security guards (pictured above) you immediately get the sense that you are not in Kansas anymore.” Oh Ziggy – I love you!!! Reading this over breakfast just now I laughed so much I almost choked on my porridge. And sausages? Oh my, if it were up to my husband, we’d eat nothing else. I suspect Roberto and I share the same supplier, the guy makes two types – one regular packed with pure, lean pork, one slightly spicier. Pici with sausage is one of my favourite things in the entire universe (home made pici, of course), though sausage, walnut and pear risotto is another favourite fall dish that I do and is fab. Does he have a microwave? Shame on him (we don’t). And the only thing you keep in your freezer around here is gelato and a bottle of home made limoncello!

  2. Your comment put a smile on my face la straniera. A rarity in the mornings.
    I had to change the post to clarify that Roberto does not have a microwave before Roberto himself reads this.

    Pici, something we couldnt get enough of in those 4 days, is now a distant memory. I have never seen it on menus here or in stores

  3. margaretintoscana

    But pici is so easy to make! Some 00 flour, a pinch of salt, an egg if you insist, drizzle of oil and some tepid water (the tepid part is really important), bring it all together, knead it a little, wrap it in plastic wrap, leave it for a bit and then roll it out. With kids in the house, get them to help with all the twirling, using a long wooden kebab type stick if necessary to roll it around and tell them to “think worms” and keep twiddling. It’s my favourite way of relaxing and the end result is truly delicious. A quickly thrown together aglione sauce (garlic, onion, chilli, oil, tomato) and suddenly you’re back in la bella Toscana. Enjoy!

    • 😉 Yep just like we did in Le Logge del Vignola. Making pasta from scratch is a foreign concept at home here. We do need to do it again just for the reminiscing part

  4. Richard Wild

    Visited your wonderful town and incredible restaurant in 2008.
    Longing for both.
    Your hospitality was amazing as was your food. Were there for more than a week ate there five times.
    Thank you for the amazing memory. Desperately want to to return. Hope your you and your humor are well

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