George Emerson: “My father says there is only one perfect view, and that’s the view of the sky over our heads.”
Cecil Vyse: “I expect your father has been reading Dante.”
– Lines from the movie A Room with a View
Our last full day in Piazza al Serchio was to be spent on a short trip to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, which is 16km away. We had a leisurely Sunday morning, and then we hopped in the car once again for the winding but gorgeous drive to another Tuscan hill town. All I knew about the trip was that La Bottega del Frattore (Via F. Azzi 1/A – 55032, 0583 62179) offered wine tasting. I was up for that.
When we got there, most of the shops in the sleepy town were closed and the restaurants hadn’t opened yet for business. We found a gelateria to fortify ourselves once we got a quick tour of the church, which was in the middle of mass, and the remains of a castle. We walked around the quaint town and headed back to La Bottega del Frattore, which had a room in the building for wine tasting and its restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t time our tour of the town because the wine tasting bar had closed at noon. The restaurant had just opened, and our wonderful server Barbara said we could do the tasting with our lunch. One bottle of white, a Sauvignon blanc, and three reds, two Sangioveses and a Chianti. I was also up for that!
Although Barbara said that her English wasn’t very good and that she learned from the British tourists who come to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, in fact, her English was quite good. She told us that she wasn’t much of a wine drinker when she was younger, but her father, a wine merchant, told her at 22 that she’d better start drinking wine. And so she did.
All of the dishes that were being served that day sounded wonderful. Four of us settled on the tortelli Bolognese while David ordered tortelli with truffles. We also ordered grilled mixed vegetables and a fried vegetable that reminded David and me of frittata, which his Aunt Shirley always makes at holidays. Barbara was very sweet and brought out the fried bread with cheese, which David’s truffle sauce (after he polished off his tortelli) made all the more heavenly.
The last bottle of wine was a stronger Sangiovese, which was a little overwhelming for us. Barbara told us that this wine works well with cheeses, and so she brought a platter of hard and soft cheeses for us to try with the wine. Wow, that made a difference.
After all that food, we managed to save room for dessert – flan for Raissa and panna cotta for the rest of us. Mine was served with wild berries, while David got the chocolate version. The panna cotta was grittier than what I’m used to, but I liked it better. It tasted somehow more autentico for the region. But wait, there’s more. Barbara came out with a bottle of a very strong dolci liquor, not unlike limoncello, to finish off our meal.
We all agreed that this was one of, if not the best – I can say for myself that it was the best – meal we have had in Italy. We sat outside and the weather was pleasant in the shade. No tourists. When we arrived, we were the first ones to be served. By the time we left, the place was bustling. We had nowhere else to go, and so we enjoyed a leisurely nearly three-hour meal. We toasted our last day together. We head to Venezia early in the morning, while Raissa and Mike and their kids spend one more day in Piazza al Serchio and then head to Ravenna for the night and then on to Venezia. It was only fitting that our last day together on our Italian holiday be spent in Tuscany savoring a wonderful meal. Salute!
P.S. We all thought that Barbara was a wonderful hostess. I wrote my name, email, and blog address on a napkin and gave it to her. I told her when she comes to San Francisco, she must stay with us. I do hope she takes us up on that offer. Mile grazie, Barbara, for a memorable meal in a beautiful Tuscan town.