After our three hour lunch at Poggio Antico, Gareth and I still managed to rally for dinner. When the primary purpose of your vacation is to relax and enjoy the food and wine, it seemed silly to skip a meal.
When planning my wine tour of Tuscany with Gareth, I started by looking at organized tour itineraries. It inspired me with places to visit and a general outline for how to plan our four days. I took the most appealing aspects of each tour to lay out a general plan for us – at a much lower cost than the organized tour.
La Locanda del Vino Nobile was a restaurant recommended as a lunch stop on a tour of the vineyards of Montepulciano. It also happens to be part of the Italian Celiac Association (AiC). When it was booked for lunch but open for dinner, we adjusted our plans - just one of the many happy coincidences leading to our magical lunch at Poggio Antico.
When we arrived for dinner, we were greeted by our over-worked but gracious host. When I informed him that I needed to eat gluten-free, he looked truly crestfallen. I wondered what about MY dietary restrictions could have dampened his mood so dramatically. He then explained to me that if he had known in advance he could have made me any fresh pasta of my choice (ravioli, pici, tagliatelle). Oh, now it was my turn to look crestfallen.
I was disappointed with my missed opportunity but we forged on and ordered our dinner. I was served a mixture of gluten-free crackers and crisps.
As a "light" main, I encouraged Gareth to try the glutenous pici pasta - a regional specialty.
I selected the tagliata all’aceto balsamico (sliced grilled steak served with balsamic vinegar). The 20 year aged balsamic vinegar was rich with a depth of flavor difficult to explain without sampling the luscious treat.
When he brought the bottle of vinegar, there was plenty for my steak. Gareth and I enjoyed the sweet and savory flavor so much we decided to use it to dress our grilled vegetables. By the time our meal was over, we had practically finished the bottle – oops.
We were far too full to consider dessert. Though seeing my disappointment regarding the missed opportunity for fresh gluten-free pasta, Gareth asked if they had any open tables for lunch the next day. When our host responded affirmatively, I had only to choose which pasta I wanted. Unable to choose, Gareth offered to split the dishes with me so that I could try more than one. It was still a tough decision, but I settled on gluten-free pici and gluten-free ravioli.
Gareth, now an expert on pici pasta (twice in 24 hours), declared he couldn’t tell the difference between our gluten-free plate and the dish he ate the previous night. This fresh pasta was just as delicious as I remembered from my pre-Celiac days. The spiciness of the red sauce was highlighted nicely by our Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine.
The gluten-free ravioli I’ve had before was good, but the fresh-made pasta we were served at La Locanda was outstanding. Filled with spinach and ricotta and topped with a sage butter sauce and parmiggiano reggiano cheese, Gareth said the actual pasta tasted better than the pasta from Poggio Antico.
For our next course we split La Fiorintina (or Florentine Steak). My biggest regret during this perfect trip is not getting a photo of our host bringing out our uncooked steak for our approval. The vision of him holding this 1.4 kilo (3.1 pounds) steak at our table will forever be seared in my mind, but I wish I could share it with you. The cooked version will have to suffice.
As a novelty, this steak was fantastic. Though some may scream blasphemy, I prefer a smaller, filet mignon from Ruths Chris or the Hangar Steak at Craft Restaurant in NY. The price per 100g made this one of the most expensive individual dishes from the entire trip. (For more info on the tradition of Florentine Steaks check out this episode of Mark Bittman’s Best Recipes in The World or this summary of the episode from The Amateur Gourmet)
We again ordered the grilled vegetables, though this time they kept the expensive aged balsamic vinegar away from our table....
In addition to the fresh-made gluten-free pasta, I was also served four types of gluten-free rolls: natural, onion, oregano, and rosemary. The soft onions in the chewy, moist, perfect roll brought back taste memories from years ago. To have four different gluten-free rolls just seemed an embarrassment of riches!
I would highly recommend anyone seeking a gluten-free panoply of choices to make reservations at La Locanda del Vino Nobile. Part of a tuscan farm house, they also offer 5 rooms in the Inn if you are seeking gluten-free accomodations. Just make sure you give them notice to take full advantage!
Next stop: We move on to Siena and Antica Trattoria Botteganova
La Locanda del Vino Nobile
Via dei Lillà 1/3