This was really a Friday day trip, not a Sunday day trip, but let’s not stand on ceremony.  
Although, there were quite a few ceremonies that day.  There was J2P2’s funeral, John
Wesley Hayes’ 60th birthday, and almost Charles and Camilla’s wedding day.  Be all of
that as it may, we were at a nursery called Vivai Margheriti near Chiusi on Friday, buying
plants for our rear garden.  We finished up at 1 p.m. and thought we’d continue over to
Chiusi for lunch.  I remembered that there was a Slow Food restaurant there noted in L’
Osterie d’Italia called, “La Solita Zuppa,” and this seemed as good a time as any to try
it.  Besides, it was supposed to rain this weekend and maybe a Sunday day trip wouldn’t
materialize.  I also thought this restaurant might be the same one we’d eaten at with our
friends, Jim, Laurie, Kate, and Sue a couple of years ago, after we’d visited the amazing
Etruscan museum in Chiusi, and I was curious to see if my intuition was right.  In the
spirit of “Carpe diem,” we headed for the restaurant.  Check it out at

Well, it was the same restaurant.  (And it did rain this Sunday, so no Sunday day trip.)  
Just as it started to sprinkle, we entered the restaurant, a dimly lit room with a quatrefoil
vaulted brick ceiling.  I hadn’t remembered that it was so very pretty inside.  Chalk that
up, I guess, to being more interested in conversation than décor the last time we were

This time there were quite a few English speakers in the restaurant, including the
husband and wife Italian owners.  The husband asked if we preferred to speak in Italian
or English, and we chose Italian, being in need of as much practice as possible.  He
brought over wine list, and asked us if we’d like some complimentary appetizers and
glasses of wine.  We readily accepted both.  He served us baccala’ with a glass of
chardonnay and salumi (cured meats) from the cinta senesi, a local breed of pig from
the Siena province, with a glass of Colli Senesi chianti.  The baccala’ was possibly the
best I’ve ever had, and the cured meats—salami with fennel, sopprasata, and prosciutto,
served with pickled garlic flowers--were divinely rustic.

The wine list was extensive and included many local producers.  However, we wanted to
continue our sampling of non-pure-sangioveses, so we chose a red wine from Bolgheri,
on the Tuscan coast.  Bolgheri is where Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Tignanello are made
(all super-Tuscans and all very expensive), but we chose something much more
modest:  the 2003 Bolgheri Rosso from Podere Casa al Piano, Patrimonio Tringali-
Casanuova, a blend of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.  The owner explained to us
that the Bolgheri area of Tuscany was settled by the French and that the winemaking
style is similar to that in Bordeaux, hence the merlot and cabernet.  The wine was very
soft and round, which the owner said is characteristic of reds from Bolgheri.

The menu, unlike the wine list, is spoken at La Solita Zuppa.  That day there were a lot
of soups and pastas to chose among for a first course.  I opted for the artichoke and
faro soup flavored with wild mint.  Steve had the pici with anatra (duck).  My soup was
exceptional and I could really taste the wild mint.  Steve’s pici were also excellent.  The
Bolgheri rosso was a terrific complement to both.

For his second course, Steve had the room-temperature chianina roasted beef sliced
very thin and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Tender, tender, and more
tender.  I had the rabbit braised with apple, an “ancient” recipe the owner said.  It was a
wonderful yin-yang of sweet and savory.  The owner selected an assortment of side
dishes for us:  ceci and cannellini beans boiled with rosemary and sage; cabbage
sautéed in olive oil; and pan roasted potatoes.  They were all fragrant accompaniments
to our meats and very well done.

We finished with espresso—which is more like a Japanese tea service at La Solita
Zuppa.  There was the coffee, of course, but there were also little pots of whipped
cream, sugar, and---chocolates!  In my humble opinion, every meal,  with the possible
exception of breakfast, should end with chocolate.  And so I will end here with “Buon
viaggio and buon appetito!”

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April 8, 2005: