Easter Sunday and guests (former neighbors from Fair Oaks) were arriving from
Switzerland this afternoon, any time after 5 p.m. So, it seemed that morning as if we had
plenty of time for our Sunday day trip. Except for one thing: daylight savings time, which
arrived the night before, a fact of which we were totally unaware. Taking our time, and
thinking it was only quarter to Noon, we had no idea we were in fact already an hour
behind the eight ball. Thanks to our neighbors, Bob and Denny, who were here from
England for a few weeks, we learned it was actually quarter to 1 p.m. Fortunately, we
had selected a restaurant, La Rocca, in Lucignano, less than an hour away. Kicking it
up a notch, we revved up the Polo wagon and sped off.
Voted by various Italian magazines as the most beautiful medieval hill town in Tuscany,
Lucignano sits about 45 minutes east of Siena and about 45 minutes west of Castiglion
Fiorentino. It’s a lovely walled town overlooking the Val di Chiana that attracts lots of
tourists, most of them (this time of year, anyway) Italians. Due to its notoriety and our
late start, we found it difficult to find parking. After finding ourselves on an extremely
narrow street and scraping the side of the car on the corner of someone’s house, we
finally found a parking lot just outside the walls. We got the last space and aced out a
car with French tourist plates (the dreaded bright red ones) that seemed to be carrying
Americans. We walked quickly to the restaurant, hoping we wouldn’t get skunked, as we
had no reservation. La Rocca, was full of people chatting and eating away when we
arrived just before 2 p.m. The waitress sadly told us the restaurant was full. With
mouths turned down in sad frowns, we started to turn toward the door when the owner
spoke to the waitress. It seemed we were in luck: the last table had been reserved by a
couple who were 45 minutes late and therefore to be supplanted by us. Feeling like we
were living large, we sat down. The Americans with the French plates come in behind us
but were foiled again by the Johnstons.
We asked to see the menu, relaxed, and settled in for a feast. Our waitress told us that
there was a menu del giorno—prix fix lunch for Easter Sunday--that included the house
wine. We decided to take our cue from L’Osterie d’Italia, which highly recommended the
house wine. The waitress brought over a bottle of vino rosso from the Valdichiana area.
It was 90% sangiovese and 10% cannaiolo. Not bad at all and a good choice for the
wide range of dishes to be served.
For our antipasti, we were served a hard boiled egg and rough country bread, a bed of
raw chianina beef and raw artichoke in oil, celery salad, carpaccio of beef with fresh
ricotta, a crostone with cannellini beans, a crostino with stewed lamb, and a carrot flan.
Off to a great start!
Our pasta course consisted of pappardelle with lamb and tortellacci (a filled pasta) with a
tomato sauce. Roast lamb with rosemary and pork fillet with wild fennel were our main
course, accompanied by pan-roasted potatoes and spinach sautéed with garlic. Nothing
exotic here--which wasn’t surprising, given that the chef had to please all diners with the
same offerings--but everything was perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned.
For desert we were served an apple torte with cream and caramelized sugar, as well as a
crème catalana, something we’d never tasted before. The crème was made with double
cream, sugar, and egg white, yet I would have sworn it had egg yolk in it, it was
soooooooooo rich. I would describe it as a crème caramel that tasted like zabaglione.
Fantastic! Amaro (a bitter digestivo) was included with the meal and we elected to stick
to the program.
We left the restaurant fully sated and sped home, hoping to get there before our guests
arrived. Again, we were in luck. Nicole, Gregoire and their two children, Samuel, 2, and
Noemie, 3½, pulled up the road just 20 minutes after we did. The kids seemed less
frazzled than their parents after the 8-hour drive, but we were well fortified and ready to
Buon viaggio and buon appetito!