I will forever be grateful for the series of events that led to my lunch at the Ristorante di Poggio Antico which is part of a winery in . A marvelous confluence of events created what is now a delicious piece of history for me. It began with asking Shauna for recommendations in Florence which resulted in a meal at Cantinetta del Verrazzano where I met Jonathan who recommended the winery at Poggio Antico. Gareth and I weren’t sure we would have time for Poggio Antico until our intended restaurant declared they were full for lunch. The weavers of fate always get their way.
At the winery we were greeted by the charming Alessandro Signorino who guided us to our table on the picture perfect patio. Our review of the menu did not give any hint of the delights we were about to experience. My ever-lightening purse steered my eyes to the a la carte and tasting menu items. Gareth, overtaken by a fit of generosity, offered to treat us to the full seven-course tasting menu AND a bottle of Brunello wine. Sometimes the weavers of fate just smile at you.
Before the meal we were served an aperitif – Chardonnay di Montalcino and an amuse bouche of tomato and mozzarella with a fresh basil sauce. This put our Chiostro insalta caprese to shame, and we hadn’t even started the actual tasting menu yet.
While they didn’t have any gluten-free bread (though I hadn’t given them any notice either) they did have rice crackers for me. They were a source of comedic relief throughout the lunch – compared to the rest of our food and Gareth’s selection of tomato basil, rosemary, truffle and pesto rolls, they seemed a little out of place.
We trusted Alessandro’s selection of the 1999 Brunello di Montalcino (of course from Poggio Antico).
The third course was on the menu as Sliced fish fillet served with Cannellini bean sauce. That day it was red mallet. As Alessandro explained to us when we asked how they managed to get such amazing strawberries, the chef picks each day the best produce and meat before deciding what to serve. Hence, the type of fish or fruit isn’t specified so that they can present guests with the best food available each and every day. The cannelloni bean sauce was light yet creamy yet not brothy. I am ill-equiped to fully describe it. The first bite was ok but the flavor developed and the finish was incredible.
Our fourth course was the first time that they had to substitute the original offering to give me a gluten-free alternative. I was given a risotto with saffron (a spice that is more expensive than gold) and zucchini. The parmiggiano reggiano garnish was a crescendo of flavor crescendo. Gareth was served a fresh-made ravioli filled with foie gras and prawns served in a lobster bisque. With the final bite he proclaimed, “that might as well been the single greatest bite that I will ever eat in my entire life.” Or ate least until the next course came.
The fifth course again brought a deviation for the gluten-free. While Gareth was presented a stuffed quail served with truffles and an Oyster sauce, I was served lamb with a Brunello wine reduction sauce, a vegetable caponata and finished with red sea salt. When I gave Gareth a taste he responded “You may have just supplanted my favorite bite.” The sweet wine sauce with the crunch of the salt, the perfectly cooked vegetables and lamb, once it was combined with a sip of the ’99 Brunello it was transcendental.
Before dessert, we had sorbetti to clear our palates. Uva fragollina (a type of grape with a strawberry hue) and Pineapple ginger. The Chef again did not disappoint.
Ah, I am transported back just by looking at the photos. Being gluten-free can be me more delicious than anyone can imagine when they are first diagnosed. In fact if it weren’t for my gluten-free substitutions, Gareth wouldn’t have ever known the joy that came in the form of our lamb dish. Thanks for letting me share this lunch with you. Thank you to Jonathan, Shauna, Gareth, Alessandro, and of course the chef at Poggio for being instrumental in making it .
And if you can believe it, we still made our dinner reservation later that night. Next stop on my gluten-free tour of Italy: La Locanda del Vino Nobile.