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panzano in chianti


Gary Marshall
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well just back from a very pleasant week in panzano, compared to the many italian towns/cities i have stayed in it was an idiosyncratic little place, didn;t seem to have many locals and what people were wandering around appeared to be tourists, mainly american. it's the only italian place i have been to that didn't seem to have an enshrined passagiata/gelato run as a nightly ritual!

we arrived at our villa just slightly out of town but overlooking the conca d'oro overlooking i think fontodi's vines, but certainly their villa, which was a coincidence as it was an article written by theo randall about a stay on this estate that prompted our visit. His villa was a little more expensive than mine though!

Through our agent karin at chianti and more we had reservations at oltre il giardino on saturday night and sunday lunchtime at officina della bistecca. On arrival about 7-ish i quicly re-built my bike and had a ride around to get our bearings but it appeared that the drive through town to our villa had prettymuch exposed us to all there was to see in panzano! At that time i thought cecchini's solociccia and Oltre looked quite busy but by the time we arrived at 9pm there were only a couple of other tables taken, i was suprised at how quiet it was.

We ordered some antipasti, bruschetta/ meats, some ravioli with sage butter and for main peposo, with a beer each and bottle of 06 fontodi classico. i don't know if the kitchen were telepathic but it appeared to us that the friendly waitress walked back to the kitchen with our order and came straight back with the antipasti, sarah's bruschetta seemed a mean portion of two thin strips of bread with tomatos for 6e my meats were decent enough though. As soon as they were cleared the pasta course arrived, it was perfunctory and as soon as that was cleared the main course came! we were on course to be in and out in less than an hour! As we were in no -rush and other tables were in so we weren't holding the staff up we called a halt for a while and just ordered some house red just to have as we settled into our first night, i had a local dessert that was non descript and sarah some pecorino with a blindingly hot sauce, she rued not taking the honey option, staff were friendly , offering us a choice of liquerer (sp) on the house as we left but it felt a sloppy and expensive meal at c. e130 (fontodi was 22e i think).

sunday we optimisitically headed to the sunday market but it was packed and we couldn't be bothered to queue for veg etc as it had a numbered system and my italian numbers and veg descriptions aren't great, we found cecchinis and then returned to the villa for a relax before heading out for lunch.

The butchers shop was packed when we arrived, and it aint large so we squeezed in an enjoyed being force-fed samples of chianti butter (lardo) and a meat loaf with hot sauce plus obligitory red wine, eventually i told them we had a reservation and were lead through a cool sliding false wall through the back of the butchers shop (which was immaculate) and outside onto the terrace where the grill and two large communal tables were set. We were met by dante who spoke good english and settled us in with some bread and more of their own red, eventually we were joined by an american /french couple and a group of birthday celebrators from padua who had driven a good few hours to be there, it was a very pleasant mix and between us we seemed to get along fine , ie they could speak good english!

first up veg from the garden with a dressing made from oil, red wine vingear and their proprietory profuma di chianti (a salt herb mix), then chianti sushi -raw meat, very lemony , then an array of grilled meats of various cuts, followed by a baked onion, potato and some beans, again to be eaten in the vinaigrette, by this point the wine was well and truly flowing and soaked up a little by more meat and some excellent olive oil cake. then of course italian military liqueres and coffee. Then i had to go home. a few hours later things got a little clearer but certainly no more food or wine was required for the rest of the day!

on monday the cycling and cooking started with a trip to the coop for supplies and cecchinis for meat, unfortunately they were looking a little barren after the weekend so we just bought a couple of kebabs (about 1kg of meat though some finochier - whatist and a jar of profumo, about 40e though!

I also hit the wine shop and picked up a little treat of a fontodi vigna del sorbo 06, about 39e this after the classico was a bit of a disappointment , it was no-doubt infanticde, so it was still a bit tannic and unresolved wheras the CC was very smooth and enjoyable.

After a couple of days of cooking i got a bit stir crazy so we booked a table at Vescovino, not without trepidation given our very touristico experience on the first night. We shouldn't have worried, it was everything Oltre wasn't a perfectly paced service that saw us enjoy a lovely evening from 8pm - 11pm. Unfortunatley we had gone a little mad over lunch finishing off various bottles of red and some nice cold peroni that we awoke from an afternoon nap at 7.30 so a quick turnaround was required! A bottle of panizzi vernaccia started the evening with a pear salad and percorino souffle , followed by an exceptional fresh salsicce and penne dish, simply cooked with a soffitto and crumbled sausage , the oils from the sausage effectively making the sauce, delicious! we then moved onto the main event a kilo of cechinis rib eye , with a sassoalloro 05 from biondi sante at 29e. the steak was top quality, perfectly cooked black and blue, and needed no other side dishes, i did feel however it required another half bottle of red but unfortunately they didn't have the billed fontodi but offered another replacement which escapes me.

next day for lunch we tried the local pizzeria conca del oro which despite it's unappealing exterior turned out to be gem, the owner a big pizza fan, (he'd been to pizza university - that beats my alama mata!) and also had a wine list to shame a 2 * michelin. my pizza with ndjudu was excellently spicy, just the thing to awake after a couple of days of excess.

we visited the wine shop again to discover my sassoalloro choice was a bad one as it was the same price as most of the other chianti's at e15 -6 but more heavily marked up in the restaurant, i was pleasantly suprised at the resto mark ups which seemed to be about 7e more than the bottle price for the fontodi chianti classicos we were drinking.

on the last night we revisited vescovino for another good meal, tuscan meats to start with a bottle of le massa 07 - not as good as the fontodi imho , so a bottle of that followed! the same sausage dish again and then some grilled steak with rocket and parmesan, all good various ages of pecorino followed to finish.

saturday was our last day and we had originally planned to have one last pizza before heading to pisa for our 5 pm flight but instead decided on a short jaunt to san gimignano for a wander and ended up having a very pleasant lunch in our old favourite chirribirri which we have been to many times before but wasn't too good on our last visit, this time it looked a little spruced up internally and the antipasti and pasta we had were top notch.

a pleasant week all in all, with 140 miles on the bike using up some of the mega calories consumed!

you don't win friends with salad

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Cycling and eating, my sort of travelling. Nice descriptions, Gary (would have liked to know a little more about those 140 miles, can't quite figure out how you managed the mileage between those long lunches, dinners, afternoon snoozes with all that lovely wine . . .). I haven't been to the Chianti Classico for a few years and you've made me want to jump on a plane in Bristol tomorrow (with my Colnago in a bike bag). We're coming up, after all, to the best time of year to be in Tuscany (to be just about anywhere in Italy, come to think of it), as the grapes come in (we used to live outside of Florence in the Carmignano wine zone and have the fondest memories of this magical moment of the year). And there is no better way to explore Italy than on two wheels.

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found a nice route eventually, out from panzano on the sp222 then at the bottom of the descent right to sicelle up the climb to near san donato and then left to castellina in chianti, then over to radda and back to chianti via luccarelli, just over 30 miles, did 5 rides 2 - 2.5 hours each.

discovered on the last day i was on the route of the new classic 'l'eroica' but too late to explore.

plenty of cyclists out there too....

Edited by Gary Marshall (log)

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 6 months later...

Gary, thanks for your report. I just scheduled a two-week vacation in Chianti this June. Will stay in Fattoria Castelvecchi just north of Radda. Look forward to visiting the butcher shop in Panzano. Interestingly, I found the tripadvisor ranks 6 restaurant in panzano pretty much followed your report with visco at #1, the pizzeria at #2, dario at #3 and Solo at #4. What puzzles me is a very nasty review of solo, I wonder what do you think.

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