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Enoteca Pinchiorri


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I have been irrevocably spoiled for life.

Two nights ago, I dined at the three star Michelin rated restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiori. This was not just a restaurant. This was a food temple.

Not only was the food absolutely incredibly unbelievable (much more on that in a minute), the service was as good as it could possibly get. It seemed at times like every single employee was your personal server. All the employees with either in tuxes, or impeccable suits. Since I didn't bring a jacket (which was "recommended," but really meant you had to sit on the patio, which was really hot) they provided me with one, which was a bit short, but hey, I ain't complainin.

Let me set up the scene for you:

There is not really a sign. You see these two huge green columns, with the maitre 'd hotel standing in the entrance. He gives you his card, and directs you to the free parking lot that has lots of incredibly beautiful (and fast) cars in it.

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As you enter, everyone greets you. You are escorted to a sitting room, where you await the person who will take you to your table. I had to wait an extra minute while they tried to find a coat that I could at least get into.

Once seated in a small dining room (of which there were many, so I didn't really get a chance to see how many people could actually eat there at once), you start to notice just how different things are here.

For women, there is a small side table behind your table for your purse. The lighting is soft, but bright enough to see clearly, and appreciate the beautiful food that is about to come.

First you are offered an apperitivo. I chose some Champagne. A double magnum of Krug champagne was brought, and poured into our waiting glasses. There was no silverware or plates on the table yet. They would come….oh God would they come.

While you enjoyed your aperitivo, you were presented with the menu. You can choose either a la carte, or tasting menu. I had already decided that no matter what, we were going to do the tasting menu. We informed one of our servers of this decision, and embarked on the best meal of both me and my fathers life. (At this point, it was around 7:40. This will make sense later.)

Almost immediately after ordering, we were given a “gift from the chef,” which was actually one of many gifts from the chef. Evidently the chef is a really nice guy.

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Now, I have a confession to make. I didn’t take a picture of the menu, and it isn’t online. Now, I have emailed them and asked for it, but I am incredibly sorry to report that it’s possible that I won’t be able to tell you what everything was. Please, however, feel free to enjoy the pictures and pretend you know what everything is.

Next, we got another gift from the chef. A sardine, perfectly preserved in vinegar, split in half, deboned, and rolled up on top of a geleed cube of strawberry and tomato. At this point, we both knew that this was a bit different than anything we had ever eaten.

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We then got the first course from the menu. I honestly can’t remember what kind of fish it was, but the fish really isn’t what made the dish amazing. Underneath the fish was sautéed sea cucumber. It was so good, that when I couldn’t get the last little piece on my fork, I made sure no one was looking, and picked it up with my fingers. In a 3 star restaurant. It was THAT good.

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During this next dish, something happened that has never happened before to me. I took a bite, and instead of just thinking “wow, that’s amazing,” I actually felt tears welling up. It was so good that I nearly cried. Right after that emotion, though, I started to laugh. It was really just absurd. This was food like I had never had before. It was so pure, so intense. It was a terrine of foie gras, with a gelee of somethingorother, but the foie gras was so incredibly perfect. It was all at once creamier, more flavorful, and more intense and amazing then any other foie gras I have ever had. When I dragged the bits through the salt and pepper, and they crunched in my mouth with the foie gras, it even elevated the salt and pepper to higher standards. I really, honestly, couldn’t believe it. It was served with bread with prunes in it, but I had eaten most of my liver before I got to it, and I thought it was good.

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Oh, I have neglected to mention that up until that course, we had gotten a different type of bread with every course. Around the 4th course or so, the rotation started again.

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Here’s an ok view of our dining room. I was playing with the camera trying to adjust light settings, and I snagged this picture without really disturbing anyone else.

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I really am feeling bad now, because I don’t have the item descriptions. This next course was very, very good, but did not illicit the same emotional response. It was a fried piece of fish, with a pureed vegetable which tasted like the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. I really need the menu. Argh.

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Next up – lobster two ways. On the left is fried lobster with a avocado puree and on the right is sautéed lobster with fresh mango. The reason I remember this course is because 1) it was very clean and amazingly good, and 2) because there weren’t many ingredients. Sometimes in fancy restaurants, they do too much to lobster, and really muddle the flavor, but here it was perfect. The avocado went very well with the crispiness of the meat, and the mango really brought out the freshness in the lobster.

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This course looks simple to the untrained eye. To put it simply, it is spaghetti with olives, tomatoes, and some tuna. If you were to put it in your mouth, however, you would not be able to speak for at least a few minutes. This course, I honestly have no idea how the accomplished. I thought I had eaten the best pasta to be found. I was absolutely wrong. This pasta was so far and away better than any pasta I have ever had before. It was absolutely tender, unbelievably flavorful, and just unreal. For the second time, I was nearly moved to tears. For someone who has never cried during a movie, play, opera, or listening to music, it was a new experience. At this level, it really is an art. For the most part, making food is a craft, a trade, something you can learn. I don’t know how anyone learned how to do the food that I was eating. It seemed like something sent down from heaven. Honestly, it felt like a religious experience. If I had to find a place to be Mecca for my to date food experiences, Enoteca Pinchiori would no doubt be it.

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Once I had recovered from the spaghetti, we moved on to a pasta stuffed with meat and topped with shavings of reggiano (I believe). It was great, but did not move me in the same way.

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Just when I was starting to believe that I was not going to have another experience like the spaghetti had given me, the lamb came. Now, it’s hard to tell since I took the picture so close, but these two pieces of lamb were less than the size of a quarter each, and about a mm thick. Even so, they were bar none the best pieces of lamb I had ever had. To say they were cooked perfectly would be an understatement. I now believe that there is no other way to correctly cook lamb. What really made this dish as good as the spaghetti, though, was the red blob that the lamb was leaning against. This “blob” (which some might call a quenelle) was tomato. Not just tomato, but the best tomato flavor I had ever even conceived of. You know the tomato that I wrote about? The perfect Umbrian tomato? Take the flavor of the best tomato you’ve ever had, and multiply it by about 50,000. Then make a sauce out of that flavor exactly. Just like the sea cucumbers with the fish in the second dish, the tomato really made the dish unforgettable.

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I really was thinking that at this point it couldn’t get any better. I had drank enough amazing wine (which actually warrants a separate post, which will come later), that I was just in a food induced haze. I remembered that the next course was supposed to be pigeon, and was expecting the same type of pigeon that I had eaten before. I was wondering how they were going to take this gamey, tough, dark bird, and turn it into something worthy of the name Pinchiorri. I’ll tell you now, I have utterly not a clue how they did what they did with this dish. I thought I had gotten a piece of beef. This was not bird. It was tender, meaty, rich, and ungodly good. Again, the sides really enhanced the whole experience. The gravy was, oddly, made with a mix of crack and codeine, since it was utterly impossible to resist the temptation to lick every inch of the bowl clean. The toast was covered with a sweet molasses-type coating, and seemed to vanish all too quickly. I’m sure it was quite a sight to see me gnawing on the bone like an animal, to make sure that every single atom of flavor was sucked from the pores in the bone.

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This concluded our savory portion of the meal, and I was getting full. A cheese cart, the size of which I have never seen outside of a specialty cheese store was rolled over, and we were instructed to choose whatever we wanted. I absolutely love goat cheese, and chose 5 different types. (There were about 10 goat cheeses in all, in fact, they took up the whole non-pictured tray that stuck off the close side of the cart.) All of these cheeses were at the same time different and similar. They were all clearly goat cheeses, but the method of production was so incredibly varied that I thought I was eating cheese from completely different planets.

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We were then presented with about 15 different desserts. There was a main plate with one side that was all chocolate and the opposite all vanilla, there were cones of sorbetto, a watermelon shot, a citrus sorbet, and various other little nibbles. I was about to die, I was so full.

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To give you an idea, and a preview of the wine post to come, these were all of the wines we had tasted. Note: these bottles were not just ours, we probably had 3-4 glasses from each.

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After this, we drank grappa that was made just for the restaurant. Grappa = kerosene + amazing flavor.

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I pondered slashing my wrists with the grappa glass and dying happy. Then I drank more grappa.

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Now is a good time to note that there was a table next to us with a couple that was simply phenomenal. John was from DC, and Grace was from California. We had actually talked for a moment in the sitting room, when they went to get me a coat. When I started taking pictures, we struck up some more conversation. It turns out that Grace had gone to BU (for a year, I think), and was seemingly impressed with my food taste. I really enjoyed talking with them, and would like to see them again. Hopefully they’ll find this site since I gave them the address, but they, like us, had drank many bottles of wine. If you’re reading this, Grace and John, email me!

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Ah, that break was refreshing. We head on!

I asked for a tour of the kitchen, and was promptly given one. At this point, it was about 11:45, and they were cleaning up. The kitchen was spotless, and the guy I talked to seemed like a nice guy, even if he did want me to get out of his kitchen.

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I posed for a group photo of our sommelier on the left and one of the servers on the right. Notice the coat length.

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We then drove back, slowly, to our hotel in Monteriggioni. This is not recommended. Get a driver. I’m serious.

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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Absolutely superb representation of your experience. Thank you for taking the time to record and report this. Frankly, as a result of your comments my wife and I will go there for the first time this winter. We've been to Firenze eight or nine times over the past ten years and passed on Enoteca every time thinking it was overblown and would lead to an expensive disappointment.

Simply, your photos and description speak of everything but this. In fact this year we'll visit both Enoteca and Le Calandre (my favorite restaurant in Italy) a few days apart.

Thank you again for your efforts.

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We've been to Firenze eight or nine times over the past ten years and passed on Enoteca every time thinking it was overblown and would lead to an expensive disappointment.

Simply, your photos and description speak of everything but this.

The grand tasting menu was €190 per person, and wine was about €250 per person, and the total came to about €950 for two. While this is obviously much, much higher than almost every other restaurant in the world, neither of us thought it was unfair for the experience provided. Their wine list also had the most expensive bottle I had ever seen. I can't remeber what it was, but it was certainly €250,000. Yeowza.

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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My wife and I dined at Enoteca about 10 years ago. We had a tasting menu that was based on fish and was not quite as elaborate as the one detailed here. The details of the meal are a little hazy, but our recollections are that the food was excellent. We found the service quite pretentious. We were seated in a room with other English speakers, several tables of Japanese diners and one Italian couple who were young and underdressed. The staff was all quite young in our room, and very formal. We tried to engage them in some discussion about the menu. While they answered our specific questions, it was a little like pulling teeth to get descriptions of the various dishes. We were presented with a summary of several wine flights that were available, but they didn't bring me the actual wine list until I specifically asked for it. When they served the food, it was all very well coreographed. I recall one course was presented on a large white plate with a huge siver dome over it. The two servers set the two plates down at precisely the same moment and then removed the two domes to reveal a small piece of white fish with sauce sitting alone on the vast expanse of the plate. We chuckled, but enjoyed the fish. I recall I had an espresso served in a very tiny cup which added about $15 to the tab.

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Almost immediately after ordering, we were given a “gift from the chef,” which was actually one of many gifts from the chef.  Evidently the chef is a really nice guy.

Fantastic report agbaber and for the nice pictures. I wanted to make just a little addition to your comment above. The chef of Enoteca Pinchiorri is Annie Feolde, the wife of Mr Pinchiorri. I don't know how much cooking she actually does nowaday but she is the one that overlooks the kitchen.

so the chef is a really nice gal :biggrin::biggrin:

I thought the most expensive bottle they had was a 1985 matuzalem (6 litres) of Romanee Conti for €195.000, but I see they've topped that!

Edited by albiston (log)
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Ciao,

very very nice post. I wish you would have called me...I would have made the trip down to have dinner in Firenze with you, even though you are a total stranger and I don't have a coat!

I actually first heard about this restaurant last night (saturday) when I was dining at Gigetto in Veneto. One of the Italian Master Sommeliers I was with mentioned that it has a nicer cellar than Gigetto (which I though was truly amazing).

So...next time call!

Thanks for the post!

Ciao,

Ore

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How very glad I am that you did not slit your wrists, which would have been a waste of stemware that, additionally, would have prevented you from sharing your trip to Mount Olympus with us.

Ah, I had some 45-year-old grappa last night, next to a bonfire fueled entirely by oak barrel staves at Frog's Leap Winery in Napa. I calle d it "raisin moonshine," but even the smallest sip coated your mouth with such intense flavor that speech was difficult.

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....an example of a new internationalism that is infecting the upper-economic echelons of dining. It's not eating in Italy as I know it.

Annie Feolde, the chef co-owner of Enoteca Pinchiorri is French, but at least once upon a time they did try to serve real Italian food, and even had a menu of historic Florentine dishes. I've eaten there quite a number of times over the years, my last meal was unsatisfactory, and I haven't been back in about 3 years. The wine list, one of the best in the world, used to also be inexpensive, but the prices had risen about 350% between my last 2 meals, although the wine prices remain substantially below NY restaurant prices. At least, I don't remember that they served small plates, a deplorable international trend. No matter how good the cooking, the restaurant appears to have sacrficed its soul in order to regain its third star.

To reiterate Robert Brown, "It's not eating in Italy as I know it", or as I love it either.

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you Andrew for a hearthfelt report.

I personally would have loved to savor the pasta dish with tuna and the pigeon. Others looked too chi chi to my eye. The white fish looked too generic(can it be farmed orata?) and many ideas (avocado puree with shellfish or mango)looks like they are drawn upon other trends(such as L'Astrance crab). But you talked about purity and intensity so I rest my suspicion.

It would have been interesting to compare prices of wine on the list with the great tasting you pictured. I would have chosen the one bottle of Coche Dury+one bottle of 85 Ponsot for the whole meal for 2. If they do not amount to more than 500 Euro(which you paid)I would say that I would like to give a chance to EP for the wine.

I have a hunch that, everything else equal+ exceptions notwitstanding, people under 35 are prefering tasting menus with small portions even if they do not quite know which kind of fish they ate and, people over 40 do have a contemptous attitude towards 10+course menu degustations or a procession of tapas(except when El Bulli is at stake for Roberts) in favor of savoring good quality ingredients. This is still a hunch but not a theory because I do not know what mechanisms are responsible for this choice but personally I would have been more appreciative of EP's international style 10 years ago than I am today.

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I have a hunch that, everything else equal+ exceptions notwitstanding, people under 35 are prefering tasting menus with small portions even if they do not quite know which kind of fish they ate and, people over 40 do have a contemptous attitude towards 10+course menu degustations or a procession of tapas(except when El Bulli is at stake for Roberts) in favor of savoring good quality ingredients. This is still a hunch but not a theory because I do not know what mechanisms are responsible for this choice but personally I would have been more appreciative of EP's international style 10 years ago than I am today.

I'm in the over 40 set and I like tasting menus and I do prefer to know what fish I'm eating as well as how it is prepared. I like variety so long as it is all quality. So much for that theory :raz::laugh:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I have a hunch that, everything else equal+ exceptions notwitstanding, people under 35 are prefering tasting menus with small portions even if they do not quite know which kind of fish they ate and, people over 40 do have a contemptous attitude towards 10+course menu degustations or a procession of tapas(except when El Bulli is at stake for Roberts) in favor of savoring good quality ingredients. This is still a hunch but not a theory because I do not know what mechanisms are responsible for this choice but personally I would have been more appreciative of EP's international style 10 years ago than I am today.

I'm in the over 40 set and I like tasting menus and I do prefer to know what fish I'm eating as well as how it is prepared. I like variety so long as it is all quality. So much for that theory :raz::laugh:

It is obvious from your nice photos that you are above 40. But your smile and overall expression reveals a youthful spirit :biggrin:

Let me refine the theory. I think younger people than us today grew up expecting that refined dining is(or should be)composed of several tiny courses. I do not know why this happened but it happened. So they have a harder time appreciating a meal at, say ADPA or l'Ambroisie, with 3 courses +dessert. But it is not the other way round. That is, some older people also prefer multi course menu degustations.

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Thanks :laugh:

I do in fact like both approaches. I tend to favor tasting menus at "destination" restaurants that I am not likely to get to with any frequency so I can get a broader sense of what the kitchen has to offer and how the chef thinks. I find many wonderful items this way that I may not have ordered if left to my own devices. With a restaurant that I am more likely to frequent, that is less of an issue and I can explore the menu at my leisure.

Enoteca Pinchiorri would fit into the former category for me. :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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My wife and I dined at Enoteca about 10 years ago.  We had a tasting menu that was based on fish and was not quite as elaborate as the one detailed here.  The details of the meal are a little hazy, but our recollections are that the food was excellent.  We found the service quite pretentious.  We were seated in a room with other English speakers, several tables of Japanese diners and one Italian couple who were young and underdressed.  The staff was all quite young in our room, and very formal.  We tried to engage them in some discussion about the menu.  While they answered our specific questions, it was a little like pulling teeth to get descriptions of the various dishes.  We were presented with a summary of several wine flights that were available, but they didn't bring me the actual wine list until I specifically asked for it.  When they served the food, it was all very well coreographed.  I recall one course was presented on a large white plate with a huge siver dome over it.  The two servers set the two plates down at precisely the same moment and then removed the two domes to reveal a small piece of white fish with sauce sitting alone on the vast expanse of the plate.  We chuckled, but enjoyed the fish.  I recall I had an espresso served in a very tiny cup which added about $15 to the tab.

I concur on the set-up of Enoteca Pinchiorri being (extremely, in my opinion) contrived and artificial. Both of these are particularly un-Tuscan characteristics.

The last time my husband and I dined there (about 10 yers ago), we vowed never to go back. The food was good, but hopelessly contrived as well, like only the French will tolerate - not the Tuscans. The wines (too many at a single dinner) did not compliment the food, and the service was efficient but cold and impersonal.

The place is of course a magnificent Florentine Palazzo - but again the injection of French kitsch just about kills it for me. ( I notice from agbaber's photographs that all that shiny and cheap looking plated silver is still in use!).

Also, the time between courses was absolutely interminable - again another French Michelin-starred specialty - dinner took several hours.

All in all, it was a dreary evening.

I am a Florentine, though I now live overseas, and the one thing I believe Florence (and Tuscany) are really good at is the incomparable touch of understated elegance and uncompromising cuisine.

Better food can be had in many places in Tuscany. Usually Italians expect respectful but corteous and knowledgeable service - that too can be had at many other places.

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The last time my husband and I dined there (about 10 yers ago), we vowed never to go back. The food was good, but hopelessly contrived as well, like only the French will tolerate - not the Tuscans. The wines (too many at a single dinner) did not compliment the food, and the service was efficient but cold and impersonal.

maremosso,

don't you think that judging a place on a 10 years old experience could not reflect what Enoteca Pinchiorri is today? In such a period of time other restaurants have changed ownerships, style and target customer more than once.

I'm not saying this to defend their approach to food, let me be clear on this, and I think many of your criticisms have a good reason to be. Nonetheless the Enoteca seems to have undergone a certain shift, away from more marked French influences, and its reputation is certainly improving among Italian foodies.

Maybe a few things have changed from that dreary evening.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Albiston,

I am sure you are right - I was simply picking up, and daring to agree, with Carlsbad personal experience of Enoteca pinchiorri.

In the larger scheme of things, and distances being what they are, who on earth wants to submit to further unhappy dining exxperiences when there is so much choice out there?

But, perhaps more seriously, mine was simply a cry from the heart - for what has happened to my beloved Florence, and Tuscany, and its food.

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I have been irrevocably spoiled for life.

Two nights ago, I dined at the three star Michelin rated restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiori.  This was not just a restaurant.  This was a food temple.

I can't thank you enough for posting this! I've enjoyed it immensely.

It also brought back fond memories of an article by Craig Claiborne, in "Craig Claiborne's Favorites from the New York Times, Series II" in which he describes winning a public television auction--the prize was dinner for two, at any price, anywhere in the world. He chose Chez Denis in Paris. His description of dinner at this restaurant is the first piece of food writing that changed my life. I'd never heard of anyone dining in this fashion. After looking it up again, I've rediscovered the book, and I cannot wait to read it a second time. It's a collection of his columns from 1975.

The crowing glory of the piece, though, was the follow-up by humororist Russell Baker, about a similar :wink: dinner he whipped up for himself in his very own kitchen. Absolutely hysterical.

Thank you, thank you for your post, and for bringing back this fond memory for me. I wish there were a way to post the entire article here. If you don't have the book, try a local library. The original article appeared on November 14, 1975, and was entitled, "Dinner for Two in Paris." If your local library has NYT archives going back that far, the archives, also, might be a source. Russell Baker's subsequent article is entitled "Francs and Beans."

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Albiston,

I am sure you are right - I was simply picking up, and daring to agree, with Carlsbad personal experience of Enoteca pinchiorri.

In the larger scheme of things, and distances being what they are, who on earth wants to submit to further unhappy dining exxperiences when there is so much choice out there?

But, perhaps more seriously, mine was simply a cry from the heart - for what has happened to my beloved Florence, and Tuscany, and its food.

maremosso,

believe me, I understand very well your cry from the heart :smile: and, as I've said before, I think much of your criticism is understendable to say the least, though I can only say so from friend's descriptions, since I never ate at Pinchiorri's myself. Like you, I would not repeat an experience if I found it to be so expensive and so dreadful.

My comment was more intended as a general note of caution when judging a restaurant after so much time and I hope you'll take it as only that, and not an attack to your or Carlsbad's opinions.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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