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Sep 18, 2011 07:01 PM

Chianti ... with a toddler

Hi, all -

We're being adventure/stupid and about to embark on a 2 week trip to Chianti with our 2.5 year old toddler. We're under no delusions that we'll be able to enjoy relaxing 3 hour meals, but would still like to make sure we enjoy some delicious restaurant meals. We'll be renting an apt, so many meals will be in, but I need a cooking vacation, too!

I've spent some time perusing the board and found lots of places that sound great, but I'm having a hard time deciphering what places are child-appropriate and which aren't. We're pretty conservative about being careful to go places where children wouldn't be disruptive, and this trip is no exception, so any suggestions would be very welcome.

We'll be staying in Certaldo, which is about 15-20 mins from San Gim (which I suspect we'll only be visiting once, and then done).

Thanks so much !!

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  1. Honestly, people bring their kids everywhere here. (here means Chianti, not Italy as a whole. ) I mean obviously, noone is taking their child to a fancy pants restaurant, but I've never blinked an eye taking my toddler anywhere. Again, I'm not going to fancy pants places. I think it matters more in the bigger cities.

    I recommended a a couple of places in another thread about the "best meals you've ever had" where I've take my kid and in Siena and the surrounding area you shouldn't have a problem.

    Do you have some places you want to ask about? Go to Trattorias, Osterias, Pizzerias, Bracerias, places with patios and you should be fine.

    I'm sure someone will disagree with me though!

    14 Replies
    1. re: ambra

      I don't think a "fancy pants restaurant" has anything to do with it. What is crucial is how the child behaves and what the parents do if the child doesn't. It can be an osteria, trattoria or "fancy pants" restaurant.

      If you're in a trattoria and there is a child who is screaming or screeching constantly, the parents should just take the child outside and not continue to sit there eating their meal or talking on the phone. That's just common courtesy, so that the other diners can continue to enjoy their meal.

      Unfortunately, too many times the parents are so self- indulgent of either the child or themselves or both, that they fail to show that common courtesy expected by an adult at a restaurant. We had it happen in a restaurant, not fancy, this past Saturday in Chiavari.

      Normally, we just ask the owner if he or she would ask the offender to take the child outside until the child quiets down. Most of the time there is no problem either with the owner asking or the parents complying. Sometimes the owner refuses to ask, in which case we ask. Most of the time that works. If that doesn't, we simply get up and leave, unless there is another room where we won't hear the screaming. You can't have a decent meal in a trattoria if you've got an uncontrollable screamer. By the way, it is the same with adults. An out of control, screaming drunk adult is not conducive to a decent meal. Worse than a child screaming.

      Fortunately, these incidents are few and far between because most Italians who go to restaurants that have an emphasis on food are generally sensitive to the people around them.

      1. re: allende

        I would never ever ever EVER sit in a restaurant with my screaming toddler. Nor have I ever really seen that happen. I guess I am lucky. Nor am I so "self-indulgent," that I would selfishly ruin the time of the people sitting next to me. And after having worked in restaurants for 20 years, I am EXTRA sensitive, not just to the other customers but to the staff. For example, my son has NEVER been allowed to get up from his chair and run around like a maniac. But this thread is not about me nor about behavior.

        What I meant was, I believe this area to be very welcoming and tolerant of children. That's my experience dining out with kids. I have always asked at the time I make the reservation, and have always been more than welcomed.

        Sorry about your experience the other night. hope the food was good at least!

        1. re: ambra


          I wasn't referring to you and your son. I was merely saying that even in trattorie and osterie this happens, because a few people don't care about others.

          I, too, live in Tuscany and don't think the area has anything to do with it. All the Italy we know are very tolerant of children. However, bad behavior happens all over Italy, not to a great extent, but it does happen.

          What does happen to a greater extent is people who supposedly come to a restaurant for good food, and are seated at the next table, and spend the entire evening on the phone, and if there is a couple, two phones, talking very loudly (as we're all want to do on cell phones) CONSTANTLY. There is nothing one can do except throw "fed up" looks, but that usually doesn't work and you're forced to go through your long meal listening to someone else's one sided banal conversation.

          Our experience the other day was at lunch, not dinner. In contrast to a wonderful meal at Conchiglia D'or the previous evening, this meal was mediocre, even though we've been reading about this place in Chiavari for years and years and can read between the lines of The Gambero Rosso as few can (because we've been doing it for 20 years). The restaurant we went to and what The Gambero Rosso said it was, were totally different.

          1. re: allende

            Yes, I understood from other posts of yours that you are a local.
            Yes, the adults are almost always worse than the kids. :) I remember sitting once in a restaurant when a man suddenly stood up and threw dishes across the room. Ok, extreme example, but I know what you mean. :)

            1. re: allende

              Allende, hope you are going to be more specific about the Chiavqri place that didnt meet expectations.

              Im with you on the cell phone problem Im not sure why its more irritating to sit next to two people talking to third parties on the cellphone than to one another - except that people do tend to feel the need to talk louder on cell phones. Also if they are both talking there is double the noice there would be from two hold ing a conversation.

              As far as the kids are concerned it depends on the kids and the parents, We made such a trip to Tuscany when our two younger ,kids were small (4.5 and almost 2). There were some difficult moments and we were happy that we had babysitting arrangements available so that we did not have to deal with the kids for lunch every day. .Since the OP has an apartment rental, they can go out to lunch rather than dinner, Lunch can be easier time with kids. Its also nice to find a place that is not too crowded so you can find a quiet corner. and get served quickly (I still recall a Sunday lunch where we were in the middle of the crowded room - I can remember managing the kids but not what we ate)

              Finding an outside place to sit is also helpful, but again, not in a crowded setting. I remember my younger child underfoot and wandering off when we at at a crowded mediocre restaurant in the Campo at Siena - but also the pleasure of eating outdoor dinners on the quiet terrace of the Castello di Gargonza where we were staying - there was even some simple play equipment, no traffic and no concerns. as well as good food including the products of the estate..

              Good luck!

              1. re: jen kalb

                Boccondivino in Chiavari is the place where we had a mediocre meal. Good write-ups in the Gambero Rosso over a period of years. Nice place, lovely staff, mediocre food. Mediocre wine list with no years. Sometimes we misread the Gambero Rosso. Not often, but sometimes.

                All fish. None of the food was bad, it was just mediocre and not worth describing.

                For 20 years, we've gone many times to Luchin, a wonderful trattoria in Chiavari. Next time we'll stick to Luchin or Da Vittorio, right next to it, which is also good, although not as good as Luchin.

                Chiavari, by the way, for as long as we've been going, has always had great food stores. Wonderful town.

                via Bighetti, 41, Chiavari, Liguria 16043, IT

                Via Entella,18, Chiavari, Liguria 16043, IT

                1. re: allende

                  I second the recommendation for Luchin in particular and Chiavari in general. I live not far from Chiavari, and whenever we have guests from abroad who are staying for more than a day, I like to take them to Chiavari. We always have a delightful meal and a delightful time, seated indoors or outside at Luchin. (I especially take my friends to Luchin if they insist on buying me a meal. The tab is always extremely modest, even for groups of six or more, and in Liguria it is usually quite a challenge to find both a wonderful meal and a price you are more than happy with.)

                  Chiavari is one of the best destinations in that half of the Ligurian coast.

                  via Bighetti, 41, Chiavari, Liguria 16043, IT

        2. re: ambra

          I'd like to just weigh in overall to say that I recently had a lunch in Aosta TOTALLY RUINED by parents who refused to take a child outside. The very small child was blaring intermittent shouts. The mother was issuing half-heared "shushes" at every shout, which of course (if you know anything about kids) will only urge the child to go on with the game with increasingly louder and more daring shouts.

          I am sorry we didn't request the owner to ask the parents to take the child outside. I think what partly deterred us was that the child and the mother were only inches away from me, seated right behind me. I couldn't have asked without being overheard -- but now I realize I should have gotten up from the table and made the request out of earshot.

          I add this to point out that advising lunch over dinner is not the solution, nor is informal over formal. Kids can be full of energy at lunch time, and lunch happens to be the meal I most look forward to eating and relaxing over in Italy., even when the setting is informal and/or al fresco. The real issue is that a noisy child doesn't belong at a restaurant of any type, giving other diners indigestion and headaches. If a child is too small to go off on its own outdoors, you have to be prepared to get up from the table and take them fully away from other people trying to enjoy their meal if you are the parent and the child isn't old enough to understand how to behave after being told once to behave.

          1. re: barberinibee

            Just to clarify Im only suggesting lunch because many restaurants will be less crowded and have fewer people looking for romance, and also kids will normally be less cranky in midday. Its a difficult project at any time of day to take a child out dining, and takes a lot of parental sensitivity in any case. both to the child and to others.

            1. re: jen kalb

              I will confess I wasn't looking for romance by picking the Slow Food recommended restaurant in the small city of Aosta, nor was the place expensive. But getting a headache not only made the meal inedible, it took awhile to get back my appetite for examining in close detail the historic and artistic treasures of Aosta that I had traveled quite a few miles to see that afternoon -- and I was only coming from the Mediterranean, not across the Atlantic.

              Yes, it's difficult for parents to dine out with children in a real restaurant. But that can't be made anybody's else's difficulty but the parents'. Other diners are absolutely entitled to an atmosphere wherein they can enjoy their meal, whether that meal be lunch or dinner or breakfast. Romance isn't the issue, and most tourists in Chianti won't have any idea how crowded any recommended restaurant will be at lunchtime.

              That's why I posted about how a mother's behavior ruined my lunch, and half my precious afternoon in Aosta. I think once a parent decides to take the risk of bringing a small child to a real restaurant, the FIRST obligation when it comes to sensitivity is to the other diners. Second obligation is to the child, but if a child is acting up, please bear in mind it is because the child wants to be doing something else than sitting at that table.

              But in my experience, some number of parents think they are entitled to rank their desires for quality restaurant meals somewhere other than dead last simply because they have traveled some distance to go on a vacation. So they don't get up and leave the table with their kid when their kid should be taken away from other people who are eating.

                1. re: allende


                  Can you post your email address or email me at liberalfoodie at gmail. I have specific travel questions for our upcoming trip (by car) to Milan, Bologna, Parma, Modena, Verona and Venice.


                2. re: barberinibee

                  katieparla just had to experience a 2 year old in La Pergola ! last night, so waiting to hear her detailed report! what bugged me most, from what I heard till now, was the fact that La Pergola has high-chairs. I find that incredible - but maybe that is just me.

          2. I had a truly superb lunch yesterday at Il Conte Matto in Trequanda. It's got every Slow Food symbol possible, and they have a lovely outside terrace. Add to this that the owner's grandchildren were there and running around. Including a 2 year old toddler. I would definitely try to make the effort to go there. The food was excellent by the way. Make sure you order their selection of three "Slow Food Presidi" prosciutti. One aged 24 months. It was heavenly.

            Il Conte Matto
            Via Taverne,40, Trequanda, Tuscany 53020, IT

            1. Thanks, everyone, for the responses with specific restaurant suggestions. I hope we get to try Minchili's suggestion and have prosciutto as old as our toddler. :)

              I'm sorry to have started the debate about children in restaurants, though. I didn't intend to bring the grouchiness out. I would think the fact that I ASKED about appropriate venues would suggest that, like Ambra, we're extra sensitive to making sure we don't disturb people around us. But kids have to learn somewhere. Which is why I asked about *appropriate* places. We're not going to crash anyone's romantic dinner or slow food experience ...

              Thank you!