Posts Tagged With: Tuscany restaurants

Piccola Trattoria Guastini – Meal Of The Year

Guastini - Caprese

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.

Piccola Trattoria Guastini - Faraona

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 fowlwith 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.

GuastiniEmanuela 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.  Guastini - Crostini

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.Guastini - Ravioli Guastini - Tortelli

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.

Guastini - rabbit Guastini - Duck

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. Guastini - Chianina

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 ItalyGuastini - Pana Cotta

Guastini patio

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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