You say Montalcino and you immediately think of Brunello, one of the most famous Italian wines in the world. A DOCG red that allows combinations with very structured and composite dishes such as red meats or game possibly accompanied by mushrooms and truffles. But even with cheeses it is exceptional. The harvest of Sangiovese grapes – with which Brunello is produced – remains a valid excuse to discover the beautiful medieval town – the most populous in the province after the capital Siena – which is located north-west of Monte Amiata, at the end of the Val d’Orcia.
The territory is rich in beauty, so much so that the Natural and Cultural Artistic Park of the Val d’Orcia, consisting of five Sienese municipalities: Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani, San Quirico d’Orcia.
It makes you smile that in the area where one of the most refined and expensive Italian wines is born, the kitchen has bread among the fundamental ingredients. That “stale” is the basis of some typical dishes such as pappa al pomodoro (which includes peeled tomatoes, garlic, basil and oil), ribollita (which combines savoy cabbage, black cabbage, beans and other seasonal vegetables to the bread, the name means “boiled twice”) and panzanella (crumbled, it is combined with red onion, tomato, cucumber and basil, then seasoned with oil, vinegar and salt). But traditional bread – prepared in large loaves and strictly unsalted – becomes the basis for the crostini, starting with the black ones with the chicken liver ragout or the best way to savor theTuscan extra virgin olive oil: the closest is Terre di Siena PDO: color from intense green to green with golden hues, fruity aroma of medium intensity, decidedly spicy flavor, with a bitter aftertaste of artichoke and thistle.
You can go further with the fettunta: slice of stale bread, toasted and flavored with the aforementioned extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. And, again, the bread gives emotions with the series of local cured meats, starting with those of Cinta Senese – noble pig breed – which are famous among gourmets: ham, salami, lard, finocchiona, capocollo… Among the cheeses dominates the pecorino which finds a Pienza one of the greatest expressions in Italy: the unique flavor is due to clayey soils of pastures, whose fragrant herbs give the milk a peculiar flavor of chestnut, bay leaf and herbaceous. There are two types: semi-seasoned red, colored with tomato juice as a protective coating, and aged pecorino, which has a black colored rind. To produce it, veal rennet is used instead of kid, which is why it is not spicy like other types of pecorino. Furthermore, the wheels are aged for at least 90 days in oak barriques, which give the cheese hints of marc.
The food experience a Montalcino must also include a tasty first course (i pinci with ragù of various meats, the pappardelle e i ravioloni) and for carnivores his majesty la Steak, as the Fiorentina in these lands. Absolutely cooked on the grill, perhaps served with two beans all’uccelletto. Soon it is time for game, another local specialty: pheasant, woodcock, hare, wild boar, thrush … The choice of restaurant remains: the area has only one Michelin star, from 2020, and it’s the excellent Sala dei Grappoli, led by Domenico Francone. It is located in Poggio alle Mura, inside the spectacular Castello Banfi wine relais.
But we, this time, we bet on the taverns in search of emotions and typical dishes. Uncommon places, valid menus with many ideas. However, our selection is based on those places where dinner is finished with a homemade dessert and two cantucci that make you happy, after a few glasses of Brunello of course.
In the galleries above 10 taverns where you can stop for dinner in Montalcino and its surroundings