Everyone knows that Italian food is splendid and all that and that it’s quite impossible to have a bad meal. But sometimes you happen to go to that one little restaurant or cafe quite in the middle of nowhere expecting to have a passable meal and come away realizing that you’ve probably had the best meal of your trip.
One such place was Casavacanze i Chiari. A little Bed and Breakfast near Lago Monetpulciano, I happened to come by it while out on a cycling trip.
This splendid cycling trip that was arranged by The Active Holiday Company made me feel more alive than I have in years and thanks to cycling through such fabulous locales, past streams and through little villages, breathing in all that untainted rural air, I used to work up a very healthy appetite.
I Chiari was a typical Tuscan homestead complete with a bustling mistress who at once sat us out in the garden under the warm Tuscan sun.
And then it started. We didn’t even need to order because there was a sort of set menu. First came a selection of ewe cheeses that had been aged and matured under straw covered with black and red pepper to impart a spicy flavour. The slices were served with a sauce of tomatoes and spicy pepper, orange marmalade and honey.
Then came the crostini.
After that Jada the super efficient waitress brought out the gnocchi ripieni ai funghi porcini e scaglie di tartufo. This consisted of dumpling made with flour, eggs and boiled potatoes stuffed with porcini mushrooms and drenched in a rich white sauce. It was garnished with freshly dug up truffle shavings.
Next up was tagliata di carne chianina, all’olio aromatizzato al rosmarino e pepe verde or sliced regional beef with aromatic rosemary and pepper. The beef is cooked rare in the grill and then is thinly sliced coated with heated oil and then garnished with fresh pepper and rosemary.
For the desert there was Tiramisu which was again superb.
That evening at dinner at Il Buco one of best loved local restaurants in Chianciano Terme I sample another regional speciality. Since all the cycling and walking post lunch has made us little peckish we order a Bistecca alla Fiorentina which is a T-bone cut of steak from the region’s popular Chianina breed of cattle.
Each cow is huge and weighs about a ton, so the T-bone cut itself is about 1.4kgs. It is cooked medium rare and is a delicious endeavour to finish it because it is known for its taste and tenderness and pairs superbly with Chianti.