Need Help: Foodies on Umbria / Tuscany Border
We'll be staying (w/ car) in Piegaro as a home base for day trips (26 miles southeast from Montepulciano and 22 miles southwest of Perugia). We'd like to plan our day trips around a restaurant destination - whether it be for lunch after an am tour or even dinner. Would prefer to dine (for dinner) not too far from home base - but lunches in (or on the way home from) neighboring hill towns would be delightful. We'll be coming from just having spent 4 days in Rome - and will be headed to Venice for another 4 days after this destination. (I'll post spearately for recommendations in those locales).
We had the pleasure of going to Dal Pescatore earlier this year - and thought it was fabulous, expensive, but worth every penny. However, this fall we'll have (older) children and family totaling 8 so we're thinking of limiting the most extravagant of options to 1 or 2 selections - and the remaining being less formal. We'll be there 8 days - any suggestions prioritizing or otherwise recommending an outstanding addition to the list below is welcome (these are largely from past chowhound searches, Plotkin and/or Michelin - but could be dated).
This initial list is for those that (appear) less than 1 hour from where we are staying.
I Salotti / Chiusi
Il Postale / Perugia
La Parolina / Trevinano
Il Falconiere / San Martino
La Frateria di Padre Eligio (in a monestary served by ex drug users?) / Cetona
Al Coccio / Magione
Hostaria la Bucaccia / Cortona
Hostaria il Buco / Chianciano Terme
La Taverna di San Giuseppe / Siena
Hotel Relais Borgo San Felice / Borgo San Felicia
Ristorante della Fattoira di Pukino / Montepulciano
Enoteca dell/Antico Frantoio / Montemerano
La Volpe e L'Uva / Orvieto
Ristorante Pallotta / Assisi
- I've found so much success using this board in the past, I'm looking forward to your help!
I agree - I have eaten there twice and had a brilliant experience both times. There is no prnted menu - it changes day to day based upon the best of what Roberto can find. If he has a cheese tray order it - he sources interesting cheeses that I guarantee you'll never find elsewhere. he will tell you the story of each one . . .
I had a very enjoyable experience in Zaira in Chiusi, in the centro storico, but I think it may have since changed hands since I ate there. I was rather fascinated by their wine cellar, which is an Etruscian passageway. I am wondering if sometimes you might enjoy eating dinner in Chiusi proper, which has many subtle attractions, and you can enjoy the evening atmosphere a bit if you are traveling in good weather months. I've never eaten at La Solita Zuppa in Chiusi -- which I think has turned up in Slow Food guides (I'm not sure).
Do you think your group of 8 would get restless if you ate in the same place for dinner more than once? Because that would be my strategy. Pick the place within driving distance of Piegaro that you most want to try, and go there first. If you all love it, keep going back. The owners will begin to adore you, and you'll get more flexibility with the menu and how much your order.
Will you have a kitchen in Piegaro? I think after a few days, some in your party may be asking to skip a restaurant dinner in favor of simple cold plates and wine at "home."
PS: I'm also wondering, if your sightseeing agenda includes Pitigliano, if you wouldn't rather eat there than Montemerano, just as a matter of practicality. By the time you get 8 people out the door in the morning and find parking, you won't have much time to see your destination if you all need to pile back into the van to drive to another location for lunch.
Thanks for the Zaira tip (and being within the centro). I've actually seen numerous 'suspect' reviews of La Solita Zuppa so would appreciate a chowhound voice on this. Anyone?
And, thanks for the Pitigliano suggestion, exactly the sort of recommendation I was seeking - hadn't seen a whole lot of review on it as a destination but agree might be more practical than Montemerano.
Finally, we will have a full kitchen in Piegaro and anticipate some/ or all of us may chose to stay in for dinner. Any fabulous butchers, sulamiaria, or other that you recommend? (will be December BTW)... thanks!
Can you get your hands a Slow Food Osterie guide? It might really help you with your planning. For instance, Lago Trasimeno is only 30 minutes from Piegaro, and the Slow Food Guide can probably identify for you someplace around the lake that is open in December. It may also be able to clue you into wonderful places in tiny towns right at your doorstep that most of us have never heard of.
The guides are in Italian, but they are easy enough to decipher, and the essential info about open/close days, price and what's best to order is perfectly clear. In December, around Christmas and New Year's, some places will close whimsically, and it is best to call ahead everywhere (and since you are 8 people, make a reservation).
There are pecorino cheese producers all around Pienza, a destination in itself, so you might want to research where to buy there. (Others here may be able to help you.)
You also might want to check out some of the local market days. In December, it might be fun to cook up a big pot of Tuscan soup to keep in the fridge. This link has a pretty good rundown of what's in your neighborhood:
I suggest you make Perugia a lunch destination, because you will need a full day to see the great city. For me, Gubbio would be too far from Piegaro. Again, by the time you get 8 people out the door in the morning, and given the long lunch hour when many things close, your effective hours of daylight in December for actual touring are brief, and you might not enjoy daytrips that require more than an hour of driving. (By the way, Montemerano is really just a speck of a borgo with a few restaurants. No town to speak of to tour as a destination.)
I've eaten at La Solita Zuppa, and had a very good meal and one of those unexpectedly good/quirky/surprising evenings. This was several years back now, so there is a health warning on this recommendation!
However, I read some dodgy reviews some time ago, and, as far as I remember, they were mostly people who objected to the owner being arrogant or pushy, rather than the food itself. We didn't find him in any way offensive, and we were willing to let him take charge - which I think is part of the attraction of the place - but maybe not for people who prefer to be in control ... ;o)
However, apparently the owners are on sabatical, and a younger couple are running it. I think it is still the same type of place and, while I never use Trip Advisor to choose a restaurant, I've just had a look, and the reviews on there are very good.
The way people have described it makes me think that the food will still be as good as it was when we went there. The owner encouraged us to try new things and to have a certain wine with our starter of pecorino, pear and honey - and it was great. We had fairly traditional main courses like boar stew.
My advice, if you go, is to go with the flow and enjoy it. You won't have the pleasure of the owner's eccentricity, but it sounds like wine matching is still something they can offer and reports are that it is reasonable prices.
Interesting - I had identified that place off-line but thought maybe it was a bit far. Actually, it appears to be about an hour and a half from where we are staying. Any suggestion on anything to see/do (after the lunch) between (1) Gubbio and Perugia (besides Perugia itself) and (2) Perugia and theA1/E35 route? Thanks!