To start our Italy travel leg, we landed in Pisa. After a super quick gawk at the leaning tower of Pisa (while eating gelato of course), we made our way to Chianti to have dinner.
We ate at one of my brother’s favourite places, Ristorante La Bottega. The restaurant is nestled in the hills of Chianti, however we couldn’t see any views as it was dark. The stone buildings in the area were charming however.
We entered the restaurant and was warmly greeted by the waiters. As we had made a booking, they were waiting for us. Our waiter recommended a few dishes and also suggested which wine to try, and we happily followed his suggestions. We chose a lovely bottle of local Chianti wine to share for about €25. This is where my fondness for Italian wine began, and when I was introduced to Tuscan food.
We were lucky to visit during truffle season, so we ordered two types of pastas for entrées (pasta is eaten as an entrée in Italy). I had large ravioli with veal which was simple and reminiscent of home style cooking. The freshness of the pasta was delicious, and the texture quite firm. The veal was mixed with herbs, and I really enjoyed this combined with the sharpness of the parmesan cheese.
The truffle pasta was a simple dish in itself, a light creamy truffle sauce mixed through fresh fettucine. Fresh slices of truffle were sliced on top of the pasta, and the first thing you notice is the earthy aroma. I’ve had truffles before, cooked in food, preserved in oil. But never fresh. The truffle slices melted as it was mixed through the warm pasta. The flavour was very strong and earthy, and reminded me of fresh air and dirt (yes, dirt). The flavour reminded me of mushroom of course, but it was a million times stronger and the smell influenced me more than the taste – after all, doesn’t smell equate to 80% of taste? I really, really loved this dish.
My main was pork in a buttery sauce with parmesan. While it was subtle and tasty, it was overshadowed by the truffle flavour that I just experienced. So it didn’t make a big impression on me. Thankfully it was a small main, as I was very full!
Mr Ana had stewed wild boar. It was a very flavoursome meat and he loved it. Stewed in wine, it carried a sweet, sticky flavour that went well with the boar. As it had stewed for hours, it was soft and flakey.
For dessert I had homemade chocolate mousse. The mousse was fluffy and not too sweet, and thankfully light as I couldn’t fit in any more food! Mr Ana had a tiramasu which was rich in coffee flavour (nicely soaked!) and mascapone cheese. mmmmmm……………
By this stage, most of the guests had cleared out and the staff were starting to tidy up. One of them burst into song while he was cleaning the espresso machine! The staff were incredibly friendly and let us have a quick peek into their wine cellar, which was literally a hole in the wall of the restaurant.
La Bottega was a happy and memorable introduction into Tuscan food. I felt at home in this small restaurant. You really do not have to eat in fancy restaurants to enjoy fabulous food, and it reminded me that often the simple dishes are the best.
As we drove our way down the hill from the restaurant, we saw wild rabbits hopping around the flowers and long grass at the side of the road. Then we saw a deer. Then we saw rustling in the grass and several small brown things close to the ground. We stopped the car and looked back and saw a family of wild boar running up the hill!
If I ever have the opportunity to visit Tuscany again, this will be the first restaurant I visit. It was the start of my love for Tuscany. I felt at home.