With only two days left in our mini-tour, Gareth and I were inspired by our lunch at Poggio Antico to find restaurants of a similar level. We left our less than luxurious accomodations in Pienza for a hotel outside Siena (IKEA on the hill, as it was affectionately called due to some interesting decorating choices). A search for Michelin starred restaurants in Siena led us to the Antica Trattoria Botteganova.
We were lucky to get a table on a Saturday night even though the restaurant is slightly off the beaten path. I knew we were veering out of my price range when I was given a little stool for my handbag so that it didn’t have to sit on the floor. But even with that level of service, I was suprised to see that the chef’s tasting menu was only 40 euros. When we asked about making a gluten-free version, they gladly accommodated our request.
Our first course was a sea bream salad with porcini mushrooms and a balsamic cream sauce. Even with our love of balsamic vinegar, exhibited during our dinner at La Locanda del Vino Nobile, we found this cream just a little too strong overpowering the rest of the dish.
The pasta course arrived next looking deceptively simple: shrimp scampi with smoked tomatoes and basil. Just a hint of olive oil topped my gluten-free spaghetti and Gareth’s fresh tagliani. The roasted tomatoes were exploding with flavor; the basil enhanced the essence of the dish without overwhelming it. Gareth tasted both the gluten-free and gluten versions and actually preferred the texture of my gluten-free pasta.
The second pasta course changed the tenor of the evening from good to great. Gluten-free penne pasta with a truffle cream sauce danced on my taste buds while Gareth savored a fresh tortellini in a pecorino cream sauce, highlighted with truffles.
We giddily relished each mouthful.
The last course of the tasting menu featured local wild boar. The gluten-free version was served with grilled veggies, rather than the roasted potatoes encrusted with breadcrumbs. This dish is now indelibly stamped in my book of remarkable food memories. I enjoyed every morsel of the boar medallions abandoning my habit of trimming away the fat.
The meringues with basil ice cream and mixed berry sauce continue to pleasantly haunt my memories. The lightness of the meringue with the perfectly melding flavors of sweet basil and berries combined to make a dessert I could happily eat daily.
Gareth’s first experience with a semifreddo was not a disappointment. Chef Michele combined pistachios and bitter hazelnut to create a tremendous end to our meal. (For those of you unfamiliar with semifreddo it is an italian confection that is a cross between gelato and mousse.)