Thursday, November 3, 2011

Renaissance Remembered: Trattoria La Buca delle Fate in Pienza

The beautifully designed Trattoria La Buca delle Fate wins my vote for one of the most charming trattorie in northern Italy. Located in the quintessential Renaissance hamlet of Pienza, nestled in the rolling hillsides halfway between Montalcino and Montepulciano in southeast Tuscany, La Buca makes you feel as though you're dining in a royal castle. In fact, it's housed in the restored 16th-century Palazzo Gonzaga, the former summer residence to the famous Renaissance family and art patrons that ruled Mantua for nearly 400 years. Although renovated to accommodate a modern kitchen, the dining room retains a palatial mood. Large, crumbling stone columns shoulder exposed brick archways. The cross-ribbed ceiling is as high as a cathedral's, and old-world details abound from primitive lanterns to wrought-iron, padlocked gates. Purely magical.

To start this banquet in proper style, we order Nobile Pantano, the local red wine with a pungent, dry flavor. It's just one of many from an impressive wine list. For our first course, our waitress, Rosana, suggests we try a few house specialties--pici della casa and zuppa di pane. Both are traditional peasant dishes of the region and don't disappoint. I sample the former, freshly hand-rolled pasta paired with a hearty cinghiale (wild boar) sauce but the di funghi porcini looks tempting as well. Kevin is content with the latter, a tasty combination of crusty bread soaked in a market-fresh tomato soup. Other primo piatto include tagliatelle al ragu and gnocchi di patate.


Follow the map to Trattoria La Buca
"Try the turkey," whispers Rosana when she magically appears after we've wiped our plates clean. "It's very fresh." The petto di tacchino, thick slices of turkey breast in its own savory juice, is indeed wonderful and a tribute to Tuscany's talent for roasting fowl. Kevin opts for the coniglio in umido, a delicate rabbit stew in a rich brown gravy. If only we can return another evening so we can try the mouth-watering bistecca ai ferri, Tuscany's famous grilled steak, and pollo arrosto, spit-roasted chicken. Both dishes, sizzling and fragrant, pass our table in route to other diners.

Although we're full, we're shown the dessert cart and my favorite after-dinner treat--tiramis├╣. Translated it means, "pick me up," and with its espresso-soaked sponge cake and fluffy mascarpone-cream filling, it does just that. Then, from beneath the cart, Rosana pulls out an unmarked bottle and motions for our glasses. She fills them halfway with a strong-smelling, orange liquid.

"Vin santo?" I ask.

She smiles and proudly nods. "It's our own, made here in town." The sweet, Italian desert wine is a perfect addition to the afternoon. Kevin and I linger at La Buca's for another hour, content as well-fed royals of long ago. When the bill arrives, it's a mere pittance, well within the commoner's budget.

Trattoria La Buca delle Fate
Corso Il Rossellino, 38
Pienza
Telephone: +39-0578-748-272
Closed Monday
Approximate cost of our meal €36

1 comment:

  1. That's a really good deal for a complete meal. Personally, I love pici and have learnt to make them at home :) Also it's perfect with cinghiale sauce.

    Is the zuppa di pane similar to pappa al pomodoro? I already had dinner but the hunger is coming back after reading this post!

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