My trip to Tuscany
I spent three weeks in Tuscany over Christmas (with a side trip to Venice) and was generally underimpressed by the food. (The ingredients were another story -- I got a jar of whole black truffles fo $6!) However, there were a couple of memorable meals that need to be shared.
The first was in Siena, at the Osteria Da Fiore. I usually try to avoid the most guidebook-lauded restaurants, on the theory that they will be overcrowded and not very good. This was an exception (though the only other people in the restaurant were Americans) Absolutely if you go there, you must try their starter of a pecorino dumpling with rosemary honey and arugula. It's a small phyllo package of pecorino served with honey and balsamic vinegar, and is absolutely TO DIE FOR. I also had an absolutely delicious lamb dish -- the kind of fatty European lamb that they cook with garlic until it falls off the bone -- lamb shanks I think. Not what we get in the US but really tasty.
The other memorable meal we had was in Pisa. It was at a restaurant called Cagliostro (I'm not sure of the address, but it's on a side street that runs between the main street with all the shops that isn't close to the tower and the beautifully decorated building, north of the river. Pisa is small. Our hotel recommended it) This was inventive, exciting and very well executed cuisine. The cheese souffle appetizer, Bisteca, and excellent wine list stand out in my memory. We had a three course dinner for three people, with premium liquors to begin and a very good bottle of wine for under $100. Good value, great meal.
We were in Italy in December too and were also disappointed in the restaurants. Eating has always been the highlight of our trips to Italy in the past. What has changed? I thought we had picked the wrong restaurants or maybe we were jaded because of all the delicious food where we live (San Francisco).
I have to ask where and what you both ate and were disappointed. Also what you were looking for...and how you chose your restaurants. We were in Florence and Venice a year ago and ate delicious food and mediocre food in both, so a good meal is still possible...
But you have to go with the flow where you are...in Venice, that means seafood, simply prepared at a place that takes care...there's not much culinary range if you want really good food. In tuscany, well, you were there in winter, and Italian cuisine is more wedded to seasonally available produce than ours. I love the tuscan cuisine, but it is a very simple cuisine when all is said and done, and based very much on local products. We'd like to hear more about what you liked and didnt like.