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Montepulciano: A Gambe di Gatto

Via dell'Opio nel Corso, 34 , Phone: 0578.757431

Closing day: Wednesday

Reviewed by: JerryG from TX, review #3494

When: 2010

Unique oasis in Montepulciano

, photo by

We just returned from a two week stay in Tuscany, a magical place in its own right. When we travel, we try to meet and spend time with real people and avoid the tourist mainstream. After all, it’s all about the people you meet and the relationships you develop!

We had been fascinated by SlowTravel reviews of A Gambe di Gatto in Montepulciano – a place that relies heavily on the tourist trade. So, we made a concerted effort to find the place. EVERYTHING that was touted about the restaurant, and more importantly, about its owners, host, Emanuel, and his wife/chef, Laura, was true in spades! Our visits to this captivating spot were the dining highlights of our trip, and we ate in some great places.

What sets this spot apart is, simply put, the people. Emanuel is an incredible gentleman with enormous food and wine knowledge, and the exceedingly gracious and humble Laura is a master in the kitchen, making every item from scratch and to order. Their personalities double the dining experience.

Everything we had read about Emanuel’s passion for wine and olive oils was true and more. He has relationships with small producers of some incredible wines from all parts of Italy, many of them organic. He will let you (more like insist that you) taste as many as you like and offer complete, verbal wine making and tasting notes on each – time in barrels, type of oak, etc. for comparison purposes. Then, when you choose your favorite, the price per glass is ridiculously fair, much less than at the myriad of tasting rooms in the area. The same goes for olive oils, about which Emanuel knows much. He suggests several to taste with every course that put the dish on steroids! Amazing! He even asks you what music he should be playing. No matter how many others are in the 16 seat bistro, it is as if you are the only customers. This is a gift.

Laura’s menu is not like the seemingly identical menus in most places in Tuscany. A number of the dishes look familiar (e.g., the omnipresent pici al ragu), but each has a different twist, a different flare. For example, the sauce on the heavenly ravioli pillows was green and yellow from zucchini … not a tomato in sight. It was ethereal! When we came back for our last meal in Tuscany at A Gambe, Laura had come in early to make us a special meal, having concluded that we were vegetarian (we are not, but, having had many typical Tuscan meals loaded with beef and cinghiale, we had pounced on the other options on her menu). Suffice it to say that the pici she made with hand rolled bread crumbs and anchovies was beyond description … and a personal gift to us!

We had such a wonderful experience that we were compelled to beckon folks in off the street so that they could enjoy some of the magic! Don’t miss this oasis in the middle of Montepulciano!

Reviewed by: Pokey from MA, review #2770

When: 2007

"Magical"-"beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life". This describes our experience at the charming a Gambe di Gatto.

Bruschetta Vegetarian, photo by Mindy Smith

Since I can't write a more glowing review than "Fur Kids Mom," I will tell you about our experience. I knew I had to go here after reading Claudia's review. It was the best dining experience (other than our home-cooked meal in Florence) I had during my 2007 trip to Italy.

We arrived in Montepulciano in the early afternoon in October 2007 carrying with us a printout of Claudia's review. We found a Gambe di Gatto and it appeared closed. We were peering in the windows when the door opened and Laura and Emanuel invited us inside. They apologized that they weren't open yet due to a late evening at the restaurant the night before. I handed them the printout and mentioned "Claudia" and their faces lit up! They were so happy that I brought the reviews from Slowtrav.

We asked when they would be open, we really had our hearts set on eating here. They said to come back in a few hours, but before we left, Emanuel made me a delicious cappuccino topped, of course, with a foam shaped heart. This was his gift to me! The magic had begun.

After exploring Montepulciano, we returned at 3:15 pm and had our choice of tables. The magic continued! Emanuel went over the menu with us, describing in detail, each choice. We decided on the Bruschetta Vegetarian for 5.50 euro. One of the toppings was "Trevisana," delicious!!

I asked for a glass of vino bianco and Emanuel proceeded to treat me to a lesson in white wines. He was so much fun! Animated and passionate, you could feel the love! I sampled four wines, each sample a generous amount I might add (and FREE)!

(I copied the following from my notes and not sure of spelling)

1. Grechetto Assisi 2006 (Sportoletti)***** this is the one I loved the best. 2. Laimburg Alto Adige sauvignon 3. Laimburg Alto Adige pinot bianco 2006 4. Giacomelli label Vermentino dei Colli di Luni

My glass of Grechetto Assisi was 5 euro.

We each ordered the spinach and cheese ravioli with zucchini and pancetta. Oh my God, it was unbelievably delicious.

As a treat from Laura, we ended our meal with an assortment of cheeses, which she hand selected for us. They were served with green tomato marmalade and a fig in sugar. These we spread on the cheeses. They were all superb. The one I remember had been aged in tobacco leaves! Emanuel was so funny describing each cheese. I wish I'd had a video camera! It IS all about the passion.

Our meal was 29.20 euro but the experience and meeting this charming and lovely couple was priceless. I will never forget our time there.

Be prepared to stay a long time. You never feel rushed, you feel as if time has stalled for a moment and it's all about you, your senses, each morsel, each sip of wine. You are alive and enchanted by the experience of a Gambe di Gatto.

I HIGHLY recommend a Gambe di Gatto! Since the picture on Fur Kids Mom's review is so cute of Laura and Emanuel, I will post a picture of our Bruschetta Vegetarian.

If you go, please tell them that Mindy and Laurie (the flamingo pen and Boston magnet) sent you!

Reviewed by: Fur Kids Mom from USA, review #2500

When: 2007

It's all about the passion!

Emanuel and Laura, photo by Fur Kids Mom

Emanuel and Laura are two passionate people--you can detect it in everything they do and say, in every detail in the restaurant, in every bite of food, and sip of wine! Having a good meal and okay wine just doesn't cut it with these two--they do everything they can to ensure you will truly enjoy your meal.

We were there at the beginning of June 2007, as drop-in customers, looking for a place to have a light dinner. We were warmly greeted by both of them, and seated at one of the 8 (or so) tables in this small restaurant. Unless one is certain about what wine to order, Emanuel insists on offering a tasting of 4-5 wines in whatever category one is interested (red, white, prosecco, etc.). The first night we were there we were definitely in a red wine mood--so we were treated (for free!) to 5 wine tastings (several of both Rosso and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). This was nice because one of us wanted a Rosso, and the other a Nobile! We were able to order just a glass each of the wine we wanted--no need to order a whole bottle of either.

The second passion of theirs that we were alerted to is that of olive oil. They carry 20 different olive oils, and are quick to make suggestions according to the food you have ordered--however, several will be brought over for you to try to see what YOUR taste buds enjoy most.

Although the menu changes every 7-10 days, if the antipasto called "Bauletto di Asparagi con Marzolino e Lombo" is on the menu, be SURE to order it--it is amazing!

The owners do not mind a bit if two people want to share a dish, which is what we did because we really were not all that hungry. After the Bauletto dish, we split a primo piatto of "Ravioli con Dadolata di Verdure". It, too, was delicious!

The next passion we learn about is Emanuel's espresso prowess. His espresso macchiato is perfetto--and comes with foam-art--a tiny little heart created in the foam.

We noticed that attention has been given to everything--the color and shape of the various plates used for the different dishes, the flatware, etc. But what was really amazing to us is the amount of personal attention we received. It was a culinary/gastronomic delight--just the right balance of choice, information, and attention.

I asked about the meaning of the name of the restaurant and learned that it is a Tuscan expression, that means (my interpretation) "it's a sure thing." I don't recall seeing a cat leitmotif in the restaurant--so the expression was not carried out in any sort of "cutesy" way. The music was jazz, and lovely. Some customers from Argentina were in the restaurant, so for a time we were all treated to a lovely tango tune--soft in the background so as not to overpower the mood, conversation, and dining experience. The decor is a melange of modern lines with medieval structure.

If you go there, please tell them you read Claudia's review on SlowTrav. I promised them I would be back next year and wished them great success!

Reviewed by: DCenoteca from DC, review #2115

When: 2006

When you enter this cafe (be it for the cappuccino in the morning or for a delicious glass of wine and dinner) you'll remember exactly why you came to Italy.

A Gambe di Gatto ("the legs of a cat") opened about 7 months ago, and is owned by Emanuel and Lauda, a lovely couple from Milan who were drawn to the area several years ago for the same reasons as many a slow traveler. We happened upon their cafe the second day of our visit, and returned at least once a day for the remaining 6 days. On most days, it was at least twice!

The absolute BEST (and most artistic) cappuccino in Montepulciano is made by Emanuel, and in fact, Lauda, a lawyer, met her husband in Milan as he made coffee in her building. For only ONE euro you can greet the day with a cup, and a heart design or happy face in the froth! Such a deal, and an enjoyable way to start the day ...

Now we started at A Gambe in the evening, as we had an hour or so to kill before a dinner reservation down the street. We walked in and were treated to a tasting (and education!) about 3 Vino Nobile wines. Then we chose our favorite and were brought a nice tray of appetizers (gratis!). We moved to another glass of Nobile and regretted that we had to leave to make our reservation.

The next day we tasted several different Proseccos and learned quite a bit once again. We very much enjoyed getting to know the owners who provided lots of useful information about area restaurants, wineries, and places to visit outside the city. Upon learning that we were hiking to Pienza, they encouraged us to call them if we needed anything/ran into problems along the way. We didn't have to call them, but appreciated their generosity.

We dined on several tasty dishes; menu changes weekly based on fresh, local ingredients. My husband had the best soup he had on our entire trip, I had some delicious ravioli and a rice and pea dish. We had a very fresh and tasty salad with the best olive oil we had on our trip. They had at least three different kinds of oil that varied based on the dish. We also ate some lovely cheese from Pienza (with three kinds of bread), a delicious blackberry tart, locally-made and tasty biscuits, and I could go on and on.

If you wish to EXPERIENCE an environment with passionate hosts and an array of specially-selected foods and wine, you have found it!!! We cannot wait to go back. Emanuel speaks fairly good English (better than he thinks) and his wife is fluent! We cannot wait to return to their cafe.

Reviewed by: Jack from CT, review #1897

When: 2006

How lucky we were to stop here! It's a two person operation with the owner serving and his wife in the kitchen. Excellent Food and Wine at low prices

Directions: On one of the tiny cobblestone streets leading up to the top of the village.

We stopped in Montepulciano on our way down back down to Rome in May, figuring we'd grab a quick lunch and then be on our way. Just by chance we stopped into this little cafe. It was by far the best lunch we'd had in our two and half weeks in Italy.

We ordered some robust bean soup and while that was heating up I asked the waiter/owner to reccomend a wine. He brought over the four Nobile di Motepulciano that he was serving by the glass and gave us each a taste with description of the wine. I recommend ordering the assortment of pastries/cookies for dessert; they're excellent and quite varied in flavor and texture.

The owner (I wish I could remember his name) speaks a little english (knowing a little Italian doesn't hurt), but it's enough to understand him. As a chef I am extremely critical of food and service when I dine and I can think of nothing that wasn't done absolutely perfectly! It was thoroughly delightful!

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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