[shot of the Baptistery in Florence and tourist-filled street scene]
Ok so… florence and pisa set it out this weekend to prove to me that Italy had much much more to offer in terms of food, culture and err.. tourist infestation (sigh). but wow.. I haven’t had that much enjoyment in a while man.. it brought back the wanderlust-spirit in me that was ever present in me during my university days — the feeling that I could jetset to anywhere, go conquer and do many things and really just experience life.. lol
anyways, you know I had been ragging on Italian food for the past few blog posts with good reason, so I intended to use Florence as the final litmus test, and boy Florence did not disappoint.. so now i attribute my poor experiences to my own lack of research and poor choice.
I found this wine bar at Piazza Pitti (across Palazzo Pitti) that was ranked #1 of out 777 restaurants on TripAdvisor and was heavily recommended for wine lovers.. hehe.. so this place is called Pitti Gola E Cantina and it has a real chill environment (though it’s small) reminiscent of some quaint cool bar/cafe that you would stumble upon in a small town and find fellow wine afficionados having a atas tasting session.
So I sat down and well.. basically just asked for recommendations from the waiter (i think he’s the owner of the bar).. i told him I wanted to start with a white wine to go with some nice antipasti. he asked what sort of white wine i preferred, to which i said “no chardonnay (i somehow have something against it) and something more full bodied”, to which he brandished out a wine called Manna from Franz Haas (8 euros a glass) which was a blend of riesling, chardonnay (he apologized for that and assured me it didnt lend much to the overall flavor.. lol), sauvignon and a late-harvest Traminer aromatico (apparently the Italian version of Gewurtztraminer. This wine looked slightly golden and clear and was DELICIOUS, just the correct mix of fruity flavors and aromatics with a heavier, more full bodied sense.
the white wine was paired with a antipasto he recommended – terrine paired with pan brioche and sweet wine reduction (omg.. i just noticed the dish is essentially french.. lol). anyways, the ingredients went amazingly – sweetness of the drizzled wine reduction and pan brioche with the savory flavor of the terrine made one filled with happiness – and the white wine formed the perfect counterpoint that enhanced the flavors even more.
next up comes the red. mind you, this place doesn’t just recommend wines by their word of mouth.. they actually let you taste the different wines the recommend before actually letting you choose one. when i told the waiter i was not too impressed with chianti and wanted a super tuscan, he semi-indignantly told me to try a chianti and a chianti classico, and told me that he didn’t believe in new-fangled blends (like a super tuscan), and offered me a Brunello di Montalcino, 2004, a really famous red wine in Italy (10 euros a glass).
So apparently Brunello di Montalcino needs to be aged for more than 5 years before release (hence the 2004 vintage being served) and also needs some time to properly aerate. The waiter described it as an leathery rich blend to which i remarked whether it was similar to Cab Sauv and he dismissed it as being dirty… lol.. tasting the wine, i kinda understand the difference – you definitely taste the leathery/earthy flavors but the finish feels different, a little lighter on the palate and rich tasting. And it smelled so so good. I ordered a pasta dish with beef stew to pair the wine with the dish.
this was the dish that really.. made the entire meal sing. i probably havent had that much pasta to really comment, but this pasta was frothy and light and just.. felt so uplifting and wonderfully tasty. the beef along with the cheese, paired with the wine elevate the dish even further. honestly, i think a mark of how good a restaurant is is the fact that I felt like coming yet another time to sample more wines and food even though I had just finished my meal. It was so good I felt compelled to ask the waiter to add to my tab another red wine he would strongly recommend to end off the meal – he complied with a 2001 Montalcino that was even better than the 2004 vintage but charged me the same as a gesture of goodwill. Mind you, all the wine samplings were already gestures of goodwill.
The meal ended off with me feeling entirely satisfied and happy, and wondering when was the next possible time I could sneak back to Florence for another meal. It’s that food – and it deserves a 9.8/10 for its efforts. I made a friend, learnt so much more about wine, and really had a gastronomic experience. c’est la vie =)