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Taste of Tuscany
The unforgettable Reg Holdsworth – Corrie’s own Don Juan – once, unforgettably, beseeched the ever fragrant Rita, to succumb to his entreaties, by enticing her to join him in The Precinct for a “Taste of Tuscany”.
This gambit was not an attempt to get Wethersfield’s own femme fatale to come to forthcoming farmers market but instead, a request for her to join him at Coronations Streets latest fictional eatery.
It just goes to show how foodie orientated we have all become, when the idea of enjoying not just Italian food but the individualistic flavours of its most famous region are now considered de rigour, even for inner city newsagents.
That said, Reg clearly had the right idea because few places in Europe can boast unique quality ingredients quite like Tuscany.
Knowing how popular said destination is, not only with a certain Mr T Blair and family but also half of Cheshire, then I have just returned from one of my ever valuable fact finding trips to this most beguiling of regions, to help furnish all readers with my most up to date tips.
Now, with regard to Tuscany’s capital – Florence – diners really can’t go wrong with literally thousands of family run restaurants, trattorias, pizzerias and cantinettas vying for your business.
Several are Michelin starred whilst others like Il Latini are justifiably world famous for their robust characterful and wonderfully earthy homemade fare.
One new addition to the cities dining scene well worthy of mention is the chic “Lounge” restaurant, which has recently opened its doors.
I say opened its doors but basically in the Summer it doesn’t have any, as it’s a coral of tables on the street in the Piazza Di Santa Maria Novella, outside the stunningly stylish boutique hotel JK Place.
Journey beyond the city, into the rolling hills of the countryside, awash as they are with fields of olive and mile after mile of vine – with each crest etched with the outline of Cypress trees and umbrella pines – and I always make for the same place.
Set in a small and otherwise inconsequential town of San Casciano, is my own particular taste of Tuscany, it being an undiscovered gem by the name of Cantinetta del Nonno.
Here, behind what is a functioning butchers shop by day, some of the areas best food is prepared in an otherwise innocuous back room by mercurial locals using their unique produce. Be it Florentine steaks or the incomparable Lardo (yes, its exactly what it sounds like) then you really can’t go far wrong.
If it is more upscale dining that pushes your particular buttons, then few establishments will compare to Relais La Suvera, in Southern Tuscany near Sienna. Owned and operated by a Contessa no less – actually she is also a Princess from the now dethroned House of Savoy – she operates from her 1000 year old mansion tower a wonderfully exclusive but yet relaxing establishment.
Their restaurant is immaculate and as with everywhere throughout the region, offers all their standard fare beautifully prepared. That said, if you visit take a tip from me. Eschew its more formal dining room and instead opt for a meal prepared in the garden by their staff from Bar Limone. From here you can enjoy everything from a steak tartare, prepared using their finest Chianina cattle, right through to a simply flame grilled seabass, caught that morning in the Ligurian Sea.
Truly a taste of Tuscany that would have had Rita eating out of Reg’s hand.
Now, there’s a thought to leave you with.