August 21st, 2019 Update
Allora, so which is my favorite restaurant in Tuscany? A question I get asked often. Its actually easier for me to answer this than naming my favorite NY restaurant these days. The answer is Piccola Trattoria Guastini in the little hamlet I call Torrita di Siena, because thats what its called. The post I’m bumping is also to announce a location change. Emanuela and Davide Guastini moved the restaurant from close to home in Valiano to the other side of the Autostrada, 12 km north of Montepulciano.
The title refers to the meal we had here in 2013. But this one was not too shabby either. New location, same family, new atmospheric terrace with some of the best views in town. Although Davide seemed to age a little so I dont know if I can wait another 6 years to visit this gem. His wife Emanueala however, hasnt missed a beat. A super versatile chef who is like Houdini in that kitchen.
One can spend hours on that terrace. And we did. But before you knew it, we were munching on delicate eggplant parm featuring fresh, tangy tomato with buffalo mozzarella. Then came the same great crostini with creamy chicken liver, onion and apple we had last time. Superb Pici topped with tomatoless Ragu of Chianina, the local cattle so prized its announced on the menu. It always amazes me how the Tuscan extract so much flavor from such little meat. And of course there was Tortelli again, packed with that addictive fresh ricotta.
That versatility is especially showing with meats, particularly game birds. This time we enjoyed a fantastic, most tender Faraona (guinea fowl) with pistachios and raisins. And a roasted Maialino – delightfully salty, crunchy, and fatty in all the right places. Like slow dancing with your mother-in-law. A proper Tiramisu, and an even better Ricotta with honey. All enjoyed with a Pieropan 2015 Soave. GO!
September 10, 2013 Post (Old Location)
The “Saving the best for last” cliché doesn’t quite make sense to me in this context. How do you know its the best if you haven’t done it yet. Surely it can turn out merely “pretty good”, or perhaps one of the earlier meals rises to the occasion. With that said, I cant help but anticipate and suspect whether I’m leaving the best for last sometimes. Piccola Trattoria Guastini, our last meal in Tuscany was not only the best meal in Tuscany, it was the best meal of the entire 12 day trip which included about 20 pretty good ones.
Emanuela and Davide Guastini run this popular spot in the tiny village of Valiano not too far from Montepulciano. Sunflower galore on the way there from the Cortona direction. Gorgeous terrace overlooking the area I can only describe as “the other side of A1” which doesn’t sound as sexy as the real name I keep forgetting (Val di Chiana). Everything was working that night – the sublime food, the wine, the mood, the comfort, the gracious hosts, and the one ingredient missing from just about every other place we visited, locals.
Started with, what else, more amazing crostini this time with chicken liver and caramelized onions – sweet and savory. Followed that with an ultra fresh Caprese salad. Cant get much better than this. Tortelli with ricotta were topped with fresh tomatoes and basil, almost resulted in a family feud (I won simply by staring). One particular stunner was the ravioli stuffed with pigeon with 2 succulent pieces to boot. Our first pigeon of the trip resulted in a messy moment of silence.
More deliciousness followed in the form of fried rabbit which we couldnt get enough of. Glorious duck encrusted with fennel, one of those dishes you know will be good as soon as it arrives. My nose and sense of smell were working overtime that night.
I had a long talk with Davide about food and after voicing my slight disappointment with the Bisteccas in Florence and the region, he comes back minutes later with a full plate of Tagliata, sliced Chianina beef perfectly cooked with olive oil. This was absolutely delicious. Who knew that the best steak of the trip would be the free one. Great desserts here as well. Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce, ricotta mousse with honey and hazelnuts (seems like a specialty here in the region) and a fine tiramisu.
It was packed with locals which was not surprising considering the restaurant was suggested by a restaurant owner in Montepulciano. Reservations are a must. If you want a quick meal, this is certainty not the place. Like Da Roberto and many of the other places we visited, Guastini oozes Slow Food freshness. A meal you need to experience at least once on vacation. Guastini is why I come to Italy