Monday, October 5, 2009

Siena: Il Carrocio

I'm not sure where to start with this restaurant. There was just so much that was good about it. Abby and I both agree that this was easily our best meal in Italy. From the ambiance to the apertif, this place was just perfect. It is not, mind you, a fancy restaurant with white tablecloths and intricate plating, but there is more to restaurants than that. This is a different experience. It's like being invited into someone's home and having them cook a big Sunday dinner for you, except this person can cook really well and they happen to be cooking really well in Tuscany, where they have access to all sorts of amazing ingredients.

Il Carrocio occupies a small space on the Via Casata di Sotto, just off of the Piazza Il Campo. When the weather is nice, the tiny dining room spills out onto the sidewalk, offering a few more precious tables to potential patrons. Inside, the multi hued walls are adorned with old family portraits, shelves full of wine, including the ubiquitous straw covered wine bottles in which they serve their house chianti.
To one side of the restaurant, the open door to the kitchen affords guests a view of the kitchen, where the chef churns out classic, Tuscan dishes on colorful plates, all under the watchful eye of the owner's King Charles Spaniel.
When we looked at the menu, we had a difficult time deciding what to order -everything looked so good - so, we did what all indecisive dinners should do, and ordered a tasting menu.
The menu started with an "antipasti di Toscana" that included an assortment of salami, cheese, and crostini (one with chicken livers and one with mushrooms). Abby tells me the mushrooms were the best she had ever tasted.

Next, we had the ribollita, a hearty, white bean and bread soup garnished with minced onion and olive oil. This dish is a classic autumn dish in Tuscany, and I'm going to have to try making it myself this fall.

After the soup, we moved onto the pasta course: pici with a ragu sauce. It was simple, but perfectly executed. The pasta was the perfect consistency, and the sauce was applied with appropriate restraint.

The next plate we had included two dishes. One was a salad of sliced pork, lightly grilled with herbs and served with lettuce, sundried tomatoes, and shredded parmesan. The second dish was stewed veal with tomato, herbs, and white beans.

Finally, we ended the meal with biscotti and vin santo.
From start to finish, this meal offered everything we had hoped for out of a Tuscan restaurant. Every single dish was a regional classic that was prepared simply and beautifully, letting the quality of the ingredients shine through. It was certainly deserving of the "Slow Food" endorsement displayed in their window.

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