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Dining along the Tuscan Coast


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Having been obliged by the internationalization, democratization, and economic forces that have altered the face of great dining during the past 20 years, I've had to change my destinations away from provincial France to Italy, where I now seek out rigor, tradition, discipline and impeccable material, nowhere more so than along the Ligurian and, especially, Tuscan coasts. In so doing, I have belatedly concluded that fish/seafood represent the brass ring of eating, and nowhere do I find it better than in that part of the Western world. As I am about to spend a week going from Nice down to Maremma and back, I have started playng around with Microsoft Autostreets mapping restaurants. There's no shortage just from my putting down pushpins based on 'Osterie d'Italia" and "Gambero Rosso". While this isn't my first trip down there, I've barely scratched the surface. Therefore anyone from Fortedei to whomever who wants to make suggestions for me and the readership will have my great appreciation.

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Just came from there two days ago. Ate twice at Il Canto outside Siena, twice at Romano, twice at Lorenzo. My vote goes to Lorenzo for impeccable product, impeccably cooked. Only one dish out of a dozen was slightly ill judged, and that was a wonderful turbot in a wonderful but unnecessary caramelized onion sauce (masked the wonderful turbot). We had some lovely tiny fried softshell crabs (moleca) and transparent gamberetti. The spaghetti with baby cozze and clams redeems all the horrible spaghetti alla vongole crimes committed in other parts around the world--I think the heavens opened. (There is another version with calamari, but the cozze/clam combo is better.) Also ask for scampi with homemade mayonnaise. The whole thing was so good we drove back there with a five-month-old baby for another 3-hour lunch.

Romano is also excellent, but they tend to overcook to my taste. The seafood dishes more often than not come with elaborate sauces--giant gamberoni in chestnut honey sauce, for example, or scampi in champagne sauce. They are interesting flavor marriages to try once, but in general I prefer pristine seafood simply and lightly prepared. The exception was the stuffed calamaretti, a house signature and very accomplished. Also exceptional was the pesce nero. The family who runs it are lovely and have a wonderful story. They started the restaurant as teenagers, even before they were married.

Both restaurants buy their seafood twice a day, but it is possible that Romano may have suffered in comparison because we ate there both times for dinner, on the late side. We ate both meals at Lorenzo for lunch. However, we went to Romano the second time with a well-known Italian journalist, and I still felt that Lorenzo outperformed them. Interestingly, several of the dishes we tried were identical preparations--Tuscan farro soup with seafood, or red mullet with baby favas and fresh tomatoes. Lorenzo came out ahead.

If you are driving down from Nice, be sure to stop at Mirazur in Menton.

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I should add that we were known at Il Canto but anonymous at Lorenzo and Romano. We paid for everything except the last meal at Romano, where our journalist friends treated us (as an exchange for us treating them at the first meal at Il Canto). The first Romano meal was totally anonymous.

Mauro Colagreco, the chef at Mirazur has been a friend even before he opened the restaurant, but you should still go there even if only to see what everyone is talking about. He has become the hot young thing now.

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Ate twice at Il Canto outside Siena, twice at Romano, twice at Lorenzo.

Maybe this isn't the right thread, but I am anxious to hear what you thought of Il Canto.

A friend of mine also went last week for three meals in a row, exhausted the entire menu. He is a huge fan of Lopriore's. He also saw Matteo Baronetto, the young but hugely talented sous chef at Cracco in Milano, there so apparently he's not the only one.

Don't know if you had the spaghetti mare e monti (the "fossil" dish), but that sounded interesting to me.

Would love to hear your perspectives on the place in general, since I've only been once and I absolutely HATED my meal there. I've been enjoying some debates about Il Canto over on the Gambero Rosso forums lately as well. Good times.

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On the way down from Nice, for fish, would definitely have lunch at Muraglia Conchiglia d'Oro in Varigotti (near Finale Ligure).

Here in Forte (and nearby in Viareggio), in spite of the fact that Romano is a close friend of more than 30 years and Roberto is a great sommelier, I'd definitely choose Lorenzo, not only for the food, but for the incredible wine list.

Of course, I'd choose La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona over both of them, not because the food is necessarily better (it's different), but because of the total experience (there is no one nicer than Luciano) and the setting (a "shack" on the beach).

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  • 3 weeks later...
I will be in Forte dei Marmi in a few weeks.  How expensive is Lorenzo, and could I take my non fish eating 12 year old there?

Any other suggestions in Forte would be appreciated.

Lorenzo is very expensive. Your non fish eating 12 year old will be very unhappy unless he wants a steak.

For fish go to Bagno Bruno, a bagno on the Lungomare. Only lunch except Friday and Saturday for dinner as well. The best fish, scampi, mussels and pasta with clams etc. in Forte. Trust me.

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I will be traveling to the southern Tuscan coast next month for a bicycle trip. We have several nights where meals are not pre-arranged. Currently I have no recommendations for our nights in Casciana Terme or Magliano. I had a recommendation when we were in Venturina, but Gambero Rosso is currently closed. Since we only have bicycles, distance to a restaurant is limited. Any recommendations would be most appreciated

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I will be traveling to the southern Tuscan coast next month for a bicycle trip. We have several nights where meals are not pre-arranged. Currently I have no recommendations for our nights in Casciana Terme or Magliano. I had a recommendation when we were in Venturina, but Gambero Rosso is currently closed. Since we only have bicycles, distance to a restaurant is limited. Any recommendations would be most appreciated

If you were thinking of going to Gambero Rosso, go to La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona

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  • 2 weeks later...
For all the fish lovers on eMullet, here's what the gurnard, sea bream, turbot and pandora ("pageot") look like just off La Pineta's own boats.

I hope to elaborate soon.

http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/12409508..._6664_20965.jpg

gallery_428_6664_20965.jpg

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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