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Tuscan Coast 2014

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La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona, near Bolgheri.

Went for lunch today. This is one of our four favorite restaurants in Tuscany and Liguria. The four are all on the coast and all are fish restaurants. That is a coincidence.

We’ve been going to La Pineta for 10 years, at least once a year and sometimes more. Have written about it a number of times, two are (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739083) and here (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808713). Today, we had one of our best meals there, although not one of our meals has ever been anything less than very good.

It’s really a shack (next to a seasonal snack bar), overlooking the beach and perhaps 20 yards from the sea. No one on the beach at this time of year and a lone kayaker in the water, slowly plodding along, parallel to the beach, trailing his fishing rod behind him. From the beach, the restaurant can barely be seen behind the dunes.

What a shack. Simple. A very comfortable dining room inside (I’ve described it before) and adjoining, a small enclosed covered terrace with a bamboo roof. We sat on the terrace today; the sun streaming in through the windows. Roughly 35 covers; today it was full, all Italians except for us. An exceedingly pleasant place.

In the past few years, Luciano Zazzeri has been joined by his two sons, one running the kitchen and one taking care of the dining room. In the past, both the kitchen and dining room were run superbly. Today, both the food and service are at an even higher level. Luciano was a fisherman and it shows. A very high quality of fish and shellfish, cooked perfectly and served well.

There is an excellent wine list. The list of whites, from all over Italy, is extensive, one of the best we’ve seen. Because of where La Pineta is, the reds are equally represented even though this is a fish restaurant. Today we had a 2010 Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall, Muller-Thurgau. Can’t remember when we’ve last had a more enjoyable Muller-Thurgau.

Really can’t do justice to the fish and shellfish we had in the dishes. It is of the highest quality. Whether sparnocchi, ricci, gamberi, cozze, baby clams, calamari, scampi etc,, it is exquisite, To start, a zuppetina di Mare e funghi al cartoccio; spaghetti con ricci e capperi. The spaghetti was worthy of Emilia. How many eggs per kilo of flour? Perhaps 20, maybe 25 or more. Rich, rich, rich. Then a risotto ai fruiti di mare, made from scratch (unlike 90% of restaurants); and a bolito misto di pesce, crostacei e calamari. For dessert, a tortino di ciocolato e salsa di Arance, and creme brûlée alle castagne con cialda croccante. Desserts are out of another world.

Two or three years ago, La Pineta got a Michelin star. Some people on this site might think that is grounds for not going. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has remained the same place it was (including the bamboo roof on the terrace). The attitude hasn’t changed. That Michelin star has not gone to Luciano’s head. Fantastic food, polished but informal service, and a wonderful feeling inside the restaurant. Same as it has always been.

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