"Budget" Eating in Tuscany???
We are going to Tuscany in early June--trip is all planned, have secured a villa apt.in Chianti, a rental car and all. I have been to Florence, once many years ago, but I have not traveled through Tuscany. Given the dollar excahnge rate, we wanted to postpone the trip, but we are unable to do this without heavy penalties. So, we are going. We want to do our best to keep food costs down while we are there, but the problem is that we love to eat great food. This is a conundrum with the dollar so worthless right now, though I am sure there are lower cost small cafes/trattorias/family-run eateries in the area that we may not know of or find in any of the books we have on eating in Italy. Even if $$ were no object, we are not so much interested in elegant, high-end dining on this trip--we just want real tuscan food, well-prepared by people who know what they are doing. We are traveling with our school-aged son, who also appreciates the art of eating. Any ideas for good "budget" dining in Tuscany, esp in the Chianti region? Of course, we will be exploring many towns and villages in the area by car, so feel free to offer suggestions in other places throughout Tuscany. Also, we will have a fully equipped kitchen at the villa and I hope to explore some markets to buy produce, cheeses, salamis, proscuitto, pastas, bread, etc. to eat in from time to time, so if anyone knows of good markets in the area, I'd appreciate the leads. Thanks in advance for your help.
In Rada in Chianti, there is this alimentari, Porciatti Alimentari (Piazza IV Novembre 1-3), where you can buy excellent selection of proscuitto, sopresata, salami and a variety of good cheeses. We tried various alimentari in different towns, and we loved Porciatti Alimentari the most.
In Greve in Chianti, I recommend Enoteca Fuori Piazza (Via 1 Piazza Trento, across from the main SITA stop. Closed on Monday). We had lunch there last week, and the place was packed with locals. They serve a variety of antipasto and light meal at reasonable prices. We had one good bottle of red (one of their two house wines - Lamole di Lamole, 12 euros) and 2 antipasto, 1 secondo, 1 dessert with coffee and paid 55 euros including tip.
We tried Latte di Luna in Pienza (Via San Carlo 2/4, at the west end of the main street inside the gate), which deangold mentioned. It was a Saturday, and the place was packed with tourists like ourselves. However, the food was good and hearty. Half a liter of house wine, a big bottle of sparkling water, 1 antipasto, 1 pasta, 2 secondo, 1 controno and 2 espresso cost us 45 euros.
If you have a chance to go to Montalcino, try Il Moro (Via Mazzini 44, midway down Via Mazzini between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Cavour). Lots of people raved about Grappolo Blu, but we heard that it has become pretentious, so we tried Il Moro instead. It is a good and basic trattoria. When we were there, some policemen and a couple of people in uniform were eating. It looked like a lunch joint of locals. Their pici al ragu was really good. The lunch for two of us cost 41 euros (we ordered as we did at Latte di Luna).
Right next to the Monteriggioni offramp of the Siena Firenze strada is Bar Orso. Every day they offer a few cooked dishes for lunch along with amazing porchetta, great salumi and assorted cold foods. You can get panini made or take the meats to go by weight. They also have great mozzarella so if tomatoes are in season you can make a super caprese.
In Pienza there is latte di Luna and another restaurant in an old castle like building. We have heard great things about Latte di Luna and might have eaten there. We ate at the other spot, I cannot remember its name but the food was very traditional, high quality and tasty. In Montalcino you can eat well and cheaply at Osteria Porto al Cassero and in Sant'Angelo in Colle at Il Pozzo.
If you go down to southern Tuscany (Pienza, Montalcino, Motepulciano) go over to Lucignano which is right next to the A1 motorway just above Sinalunga.
You will find what you are looking for at the Albergo Da Toto in the middle of this very pretty town. (Typical Tuscan hill town.)
Set meals for 15, 25 or 35 euros with wine, water and grappa included. Real Tuscan country cooking. (http://www.trattoriatoto.it/)
My recollection of prices is that lunch is fairly reasonable in/around Chianti; you might try Gambe di Gatto in Montepulciano or Taverna Del Guerrino in Montefiorelle (very small town, sort of near Panzano/Greve). Perhaps eat out at lunch, and stay in for dinner. To save money, I would suggest avoiding cafes that are in the piazzas of towns like Siena, Panzano, etc. They tend to be the most frequented by tourists and are overpriced. Have fun! Tuscany is beautiful.