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Chianti/Siena/San Gimignano Advice

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My husband and I will be staying north of Siena this July. After reviewing the recommendations on the board and other sources, I've compiled a list of restaurants and now I need help cutting. Anything we can cut or must try? We're open to casual/fancy and cheap/expensive, as long as it's delicious. Romantic settings are a plus!

Siena (2-3 restaurants, lunch and dinner):
La Torre
Osteria Ill Carroccio
Trattoria Da Gano
Osteria Le Logge
Casato Enoristorante

Chianti (3-4 restaurants, lunch and dinner):
Osteria all Piazza (Castellina)
La Bottega (Volpaia)
Ristorante Vignale (Radda)
Le Vigne (Radda)
the Restaurant at Badia Coltibuono (Gaiole)

San Gimignano/Area (2 restaurants, lunch and dinner):
La Saletta (Certaldo)
Arnolfo (Colle Val D'Elsa)
Al Vecchia Mura (SG)
Ristorante Dorando (SG)

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Arnolfo
Via XX Settembre, 50, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany 53034, IT

La Bottega
loc. Volpaia,piazza della Torre,1, Radda in Chianti, Tuscany , IT

Dorando
vicolo dell'Oro,2, San Gimignano, Tuscany , IT

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  1. We've had extended stays in this broad area--several months in Florence, a week at Vignale in Radda, another week in an apartment in Volpaia (don't miss), and a week in Volterra (consider adding or substituting for San Gim). You've obviously done your research--we eaten at 2/3 of these places (all good choices) and they cover the range from casual/fancy and cheap/expensive.

    In Radda, we stayed and ate at Vignale--this could be one to cut, but don't missed Le Vigne just outside of town.
    In Siena, our first choice was Ill Carroccio followed by Osteria Castelvecchio.
    If you add Volterra, Da Bada is the place to go.

    As you probably been told, the degrees of difference between and among your selections are slight. Just chose, relax, and enjoy!

    1. Agree that Vignale can be cut. Note that some friends from NZ eat at "Le Vigne" (now has another new chef) a few nights ago and they were extremely disappointed. The former chef of "Le Vigne" now has her own small rest. in Radda called "Le 2 Forchette del Chianti" which is quite delicious for light lunches, dinners, aperitivo. You may enjoy "Osteria Le Panzanelle" rest. in Lucarelli which is located on the road from Radda to Panzano where our famous butcher Dario Cecchini has his shop. His restaurant "Solociccia" is quite an experience. Also highly recommended is "Il Ristoro di Lamole" in the small hamlet of Lamole. Delicious food and wonderful panorama with Filippo as a special host owner. As always experiences can vary but the ones positively mentioned are consistently good restaurants. Buon Viaggio!

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      Ristoro di Lamole
      via lamole, 6,, Greve in Chianti, Tuscany 50022, IT

      2 Replies
      1. re: chianti60

        Chianti 60,

        Thanks for the update on the changing chefs at Le Vigne--we started going there in 2004 and loved it; visited again in 2007 and it seemed as good as we remembered (always a tough call). When I saw some not-so-great-reviews starting a couple years ago, I started wondering. Will give "Le 2 Forchette del Chianti" a try next summer. Hope she still makes that to-die-for cheesecake!

        1. re: Longing for Italy

          Yes, Elena still does her wonderful cheese-cake as well as the chocolate one that is also delizioso. The new restaurant is very small and location is not the best as it is near the road but they are doing their best. We live near Malborghetto that is located in Lecchi about 8km from Radda and agree it is good and recommed it highly. The owner/chef Simone, as well as his wife are lovely people and make guests very welcome. Also on the Slow Travel Jane list mentioned which is quite thorough, the "Al Gallopappa" restaurant closed a few years ago.

      2. My recommendation is for San Gimignano and it is not on your list: Poggio Alloro

        This little agriturismo is not very fancy, but the food is good and they produce everything on site (olive oil, wine, honey, etc). The most attractive feature is the breathtaking view: all of San Gimignano in the distance surrounded by lush Tuscan hills. Truly amazing.

        Here's a tip: Poggio Alloro raises Chianina and slaughters their own to make Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Many of the restaurants in Tuscany claim that their steaks are from Chianina, but they are NOT (they are just regular "bovina" or bovine). So, if you want to eat the famous Florentine T-bone steak, that is a good place to get it...they will even allow you to visit the barn and see the cows for yourself! It doesn't get any fresher than that :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: florenceinsider

          Thanks for all of the suggestions/comments! Will be sure to report back on our travels when we return.

        2. La Torre is fabulous. Quaint little place, the family were hand making pasta on a table off to the side, the owner is a little gruff, but in a charming sort of way, and the food was fabulous!

          1. I don't know if you know Jane's list, http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/restaur.... If not, it's worth a look.

            We've stayed in Chianti for years. Usually for weeks at a time, just to eat.

            With the risk of being unfair to many excellent restaurants in Chianti, my favorites are Osteria alla Piazza and Ristorante Malborghetto. At the same risk, I would skip Radda altogether. We usually travel with a group of 6 to 8 knowledgeable eaters and these two are repeats every year.

            Many other restaurants on your list we've experienced and are superb. It's pretty tough to not eat very well at any of them.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ray2

              Finally got around to doing our trip report, and I just wanted to thank you for the Malborghetto recommendation! We loved this place and we hadn't seen/heard anything about it before your post (which we got the one time we logged onto email during our trip!). We were so sad to miss Osteria alla Piazza (direction/timing mixup), but we'll add it to our long list of reasons to return!

            2. If you go a little farther north there is a village called Orentano, which has two great places, Pizzeria Spaghetteria Ristorante Il Ragno D'Oro Di Nelli Iliano and Pizzareia Di Benito. Both offer full menus as well as pizza. This is a great little town and the two places have a friendly competition going between them. If you are driving around and head toward Pisa or Lucca, they are worth a stop. Just good rustic food in a fun country setting.

              1. For years and years, we've been going to Il Biondo in Siena. It's a modest restaurant with outdoor dining, always fresh fish, great pici with porcini, and wonderful fresh fruits for dessert. They have a very nice antipasto if that is what you like, and they have always been charming hosts.

                1. I don't really like Bottega very much. Very touristy, ok food. I think if you want an amazing steak with an amazing view, you might try Osteria Le Brace in San Donato which is nearby. It's got a limited menu, but great meat. And an amazing breathtaking view. I haven't been for at least a year, but I took some visitors there and they really enjoyed it.

                  1. AFG7 -- any reviews or highlights from your trip?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pjshapiro

                      Yes, and thanks for reminding me to do a very belated trip report. And thanks to all of the Chowhounders who helped with our research! In sum, we really only had good meals, but the standouts for us were Tratorria del'Orso (if you're going to be in/driving through Orvietto), Malborghetto and Osteria del Castello. We spent most of our evenings at our hotel, La Fonterelle (an amazing hotel but very expensive), which we enjoyed. It has a beautiful setting and generally very good food (particularly the spelt pasta!), but we preferred the more casual places. We were just too tired to drive anywhere at the end of the day! A more detailed report is below. You really can't go wrong!

                      July 3: On way from Rome to Tuscany, we stopped at Orvietto and had a delicious meal at Trattoria Dell’Orso. No menu, just daily specials. We split a fettucine with tomato sauce and fettucine with truffles. Yum!! Absolutely delicious. Highly recommend.

                      July 4- Lunch at Latte Di Luna (fettucine with truffles, gnocchi with meat sauce) in Pienza. This was good, but we were a bit disappointed after reading all the rave reviews. Maybe we misordered?

                      July 5- Due to a direction/timing mixup, we miss our reservation at Osteria Alla Piazza. My fault- I thought the restaurant was in Castellina and didn't realize it is outside of town. We ended up choosing a place by the tower called Antica Trattoria Le Torre. Although it wasn't a highlight of the trip overall, we have our first Riboletta, and it is true love. We also have some good fried polenta with mushrooms, but the Riboletta is the real highlight. Castellina is beautiful and, with Pienza, is my favorite town. We went to a tasting at Fonterutoli right outside of Castellina after lunch- Fonterutoli is a beautiful old tiny town that you wouldn't know existed from the highway. The Chianti DOCG is excellent.

                      We didn't eat at Badia e Caltibuono, but the setting is very attractive. We stopped there for a wine tasting. It might be worth stopping there for dinner, but I can't speak to the quality of the food.

                      We have dinner at Osteria del Castello at Brolio. We arrive about 10 mibnutes before it opens so we drive up to the castle-- lovely. Dinner is perfect-- so far, the best meal of the trip. We split an antipasta and eggplant pie, then the pici, then the beef. The eggplant pie and pici are both outstanding, especially the eggplant pie (and I don't even like eggplant!). The wine, all from the local Brolio winery, are all very good to excellent. For dessert, we share a green apple sorbetto, which is the best ice cream of the trip. We love this place. We went back another day to walk around the castle and go for a wine tasting. I'd recommend.

                      July 6- We go to La Bottega in the ancient town of Volpaia. Beautiful spot and my husband's pasta with truffles and riboletta are both delicious (we were not eating light on this trip). Not a highlight, but I would recommend it. We didn't do the formal tour but we wandered around and did taste some wine.

                      Siena for the evening. It turns out that our chosen restaurant (Il Carroccio) is closed as are several of our backup spots. After some aimless wandering, we find Enoteca I Terzi and get a glass of wine. We see a celebratory parade by the winning Contrade of Palio. After lots of walking around, we finally settle on La Taverna di San Giuseppe for dinner. We have a cocktail on the Piazza del Campo before heading to dinner. Beautiful setting as the sun sets. The restaurant is in a beautiful old location-- smething like the crypt of a church. The gnocchi in pecorino fondue with truffles is excellent. The pasta with beef ragu is good. The beef is just okay. We fiinish with a little tour of the underground room they use to store the wines and cheeses and have an excellent taste of cheese. All in all, Siena was the one place where things didn't go smoothly, but it worked out in the end.

                      July 7- Lunch is at Malborghetto in Lecchi. This, along with Osteria del Castello, is a highlight of the trip. My husband gets the tomato soup with bread and the gnocchi with truffles, which comes in a bowl of melted parmesan (insanely good). I get thir specialty pasta, which is a meat sauce with mushrooms, etc. This is also insanely good. We LOVE this place.

                      1. re: AFG7

                        Mille grazie for your informative trip report! So very glad that you liked "Malborghetto" which a few of us had recommended. Simone is truly a very good chef and delightful person. Also good to know that "Osteria del Castello" continues it's good tradition after Seamus. Next trip truly go to "Il Ristoro di Lamole" in the hills between Greve and Panzano, which could be another highlight of a future trip. Chianti is now quiet as we have had a lot of snow and ice and also everything has been closed for the winter pause. Looking forward to Spring!