After four days of spectacular gluten-free dining experiences in Italy, Gareth and I didn’t have grandiose expectations for our last big meal of the trip. When we arrived at La Chiusa in the small town of Montefollonico we were stunned by the beauty of the surroundings and the graciousness of our hosts. Dania and Umberto opened La Chiusa the restaurant 33 years ago and for the last 12 years have also run a small hotel. Tucked away between Pienza and Montepulciano, La Chiusa offers breathtaking views and deceptively simple cuisine. Dania and Umberto show an incredible love for cooking and food; their warmth envelops you the moment they greet you.
When we were seated for lunch, I was again presented with a stool for my handbag. After our dinner at Antica Trattoria Botteganova, I at least understood what the miniature furniture was for, though the price of our lunch was not quite as affordable as dinner had been.
As incredible as it sounds, our meal at La Chiusa satisfied us more than those of our other culinary escapades.
The amuse bouche consisted of Finocchiona on a gluten-free cracker for me and pizzette for Gareth.
The first course of our tasting menu was a Fiori di Zucca alla Ricotta. The fried zucchini flowers I enjoyed when living in Rome seemed exiled to my memory. Dania prepares the flowers with fresh ricotta and a red sauce without using any breading. Her naturally gluten-free version surpassed, in all respects, the ones I enjoyed pre-Celiac.
The second course was a crepe stuffed with porcini mushrooms in a béchamel sauce. While the crepe is only made with eggs, the béchamel sauce included flour. As a gluten-free alternative I was served a porcini mushroom sautéed with garlic and mint. I love sautéed mushrooms, but this porcini preparation served as an introduction to flavors and textures I didn’t know were possible.
To expand our tastings, Gareth elected to get the chickpea soup. Again they left out a typical ingredient, this time pasta, to keep it gluten-free.
The chickpea was my favorite, a little bit sharper than the fagioli. Since Gareth preferred the fagioli, we gladly swapped. The absence of gluten did not betoken an absence of flavor. Quite the opposite!
With a choice of sorbets for our palate cleanser, we selected the pear and white grape.
The main course was, again, naturally gluten-free: grilled veal with salad and fresh herbs. Theoretically it wasn’t anything special, but it rivaled or even exceeded any single dish we ate on our trip. The sage, rosemary and roasted tomatoes were picked that day from Dania’s garden.
The geniality of our hosts and the beauty of our surroundings truly lifted our spirits.
My future sees me dining again at La Chiusa and next time staying at the hotel. Rest assured, I will be putting the cookbook to good use and will share my results here.
Tel. 0577 669 668