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Montisi: La Taverna da Roberto

Via Umberto I,3 , Phone: 0577.845159.

Reviewed by: JDeQ from Canada, review #2968

When: 2008

Restaurant in Montisi featuring traditional Tuscan dishes made with organic ingredients.

Delicious Grilled Meats!, photo by J DeQuetteville

There are a great many positive comments about da Roberto on the net. Because of this I was looking forward to a meal there. Gail had organized a multi-course meal with bread, water and wine for 27 euro a person. The restaurant was in Montisi so we could walk there from the villa – even better.

I’ve worked in restaurants before so I know that when things go off – they really go off. The night we were at da Roberto for dinner things seemed off – understandably we later found out. His head cook was off sick with quite a serious illness. John asked about Dora the waitress who is normally there to serve. Roberto said ‘don’t ask about Dora” and rushed away. We later found out that she hadn’t shown up for work leaving Roberto in the lurch. Then we arrived – a huge table of 23! Had it been me I would have closed up the doors and opened casks of wine with which to drown my significant sorrows. Not Roberto – he did it all – greeting tables, serving, and supervising in the kitchen – but the strain showed as he rushed from place to place.

Others in our group went back on other nights and raved about what a lovely meal they had had and how much they enjoyed Roberto’s company. Because of our experience I would have to put this down as a restaurant to go back to just to see how things went under normal circumstances.

For our dinner our group was seated at three separate tables – our table was lots of fun – laughter flowed! Roberto served platters of food to each table. There was lots of food and none of us left hungry. We started out with assorted crostini which were OK – not bad, but they didn’t WOW me either. Next he brought out platters of salad – an artichoke salad and a panzanella – the panzanella was excellent, the artichoke salad was OK - I think that the artichokes could have been trimmed better and cooked a wee it more. The cook being away sick had had an impact I suspect.

The salads were followed by a pasta course. Roberto was very good at explaining what was in each dish and where the ingredients were sourced. Clearly he takes food seriously! I like that. One pasta was a spelt pasta served with organic sausages and mixed greens – it was amazing and one of the highlights of the evening. The pici with a garlic tomato sauce was good.

The main course was a platter of grilled meats – sausages, ribs, and chicken. All of these were well cooked and delicious – the Italians certainly know how to grill meat! The meat was served with a mixed green salad, wonderful grilled vegetables, and deliciously crisp roasted potatoes. Things were clearly improving in the kitchen!

Now dessert was masterful . . . we were served a number of different desserts at the table to share. There was panna cotta with chocolate sauce and chopped pistachios, baked ricotta cheese with vin santo, cocoa and sugar on top, a mixed fruit salad, and an incredible warm chocolate syrup. All were wonderful. I have a photo (which I have promised not to share) of one of our tablemates using her bread to sop up the amazing chocolate syrup from the cake and panna cotta.

Roberto offered coffee and tea to any who wanted it. We were so full that we said thanks but no thanks.

The verdict – some of the food was amazing, some of the dishes were just OK. The food was a good value for the money. The service, however, suffered – there is no doubt about that. Roberto was quite stretched and it showed; given everything that was going on in his restaurant at that time I understand why he was not as friendly as he might normally have been. Certainly as the evening wore on and the other tables left he became far more personable.

Would I return? Yes. There were enough dishes we enjoyed to show me that the restaurant has some solid footing. Enough folks, whose opinions I greatly respect, rave about da Roberto so good things must generally happen here. Additionally, the responses from other houseguests who returned to da Roberto later in the week and the positive reviews I have read on the internet would lead me to believe that this restaurant is generally quite good and we hit a bad night.

Even on a bad night we enjoyed much of our dinner, LOVED our table companions, and received great value for the money . . . now if only the service had been better.

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

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