Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Monticchiello: Osteria La PortaVia del Piano, 3 , Phone: 0578.755163
Reviewed by: Jim B from USA, review #3599
Every course at La Porta was a hit, and the overall dining experience was our best in Tuscany to date.
After spending the day in the shadow of Mt. Amiata and frolicking in the warm pools of Bagno San Filippo, my wife and I were looking forward to dinner at one of two restaurants on the north face of the mountain: La Taverna del Pian delle Mura in Vivo d’Orcia (very highly recommended by our cooking instructor Sandra Casale) or a little further up the road towards Castiligone d’Orcia: Ristorante il Lecci (highly rated by Trip Advisor folks). Turned out that Pian delle Mura was closed due to illness of one of the owners, and il Lecci didn’t open for over an hour. So instead we drove to La Porta in Monticchiello, one of those restaurants that rated well in guidebooks and with non-tourists as well. It was on my “must try” list, although after our disappointment at the well-reviewed Conte Matto, I didn’t know what to expect.
We arrived (without a reservation) ten minutes before the restaurant opened and were graciously seated by the hostess. She immediately provided us with a complimentary prosecco – not two sweet, not too dry, juuuust right. We were then served another complimentary treat – an egg “square,” a thin slice of what might be called a fritatta in the States.
To start things off, we shared a salad of goat cheese that featured hunks of six cheeses from local farms. They ranged from very fresh to slightly aged (no more than a few months); one was coated in poppyseed. Jess quickly became insistent: “No, no, stop now and try this one on the bread with the lettuce!” A fantastic warm-up. The house red wine paired brilliantly and acted as a booster shot for the goat flavor.
Next, we shared two primi: A vegetable soup with white bean, and a barley risotto dusted with parmesean and parsley. Jess was speechless for a while. She finally said the vegetable soup was the best so far in Tuscany (I couldn’t disagree). And neither of us had experienced a risotto like this one. Our hostess confirmed that the barley was first partially cooked, then further cooked with broth and cheese like classic risotto. The grain had a full, explosive quality that spread the stunning flavor to every corner of the mouth.
Jess was saturated at this point, but I opened the valve to my second (Tuscan) stomach and prepared for the main event: rack of lamb prepared with herbs in traditional Tuscan style. We had a delicious side veggie sfumatino that looked and tasted more like a potato soufflé. The lamb was a worthy star of the show: great flavor, tender, and cooked perfectly, if slightly heavy on the rosemary for my palette. Adding a smidge of the sfumatino with every bite of the lamb proved to neutralize the rosemary issue, and the house wine continued to sing a nice harmony.
We were completely in love with La Porta at this point, and considered leaving without dessert because we couldn’t imagine it getting any better. Plus our multiple stomachs were maxed out. But since we’d been on such a tiramisu tear that week, we decided to share their “amaretto biscotti with marscapone and chantilly cream” dolce (which sounded like tiramisu to me). The presentation was beautiful: the dessert was topped with a spider-web of drizzled chocolate, and arrived with a complimentary Muscat that carried and expanded the amaretto flavor. I would have enjoyed it more if the biscotti had been soaked more fully in the liqueur; instead, I needed to chase the somewhat hard biscuits hidden under the cream and attempt to cut them with my spoon. But what’s a mild inconvenience like that when you’re in newly in love?
Service was superb: efficient, kind and professional. Our hostess spoke excellent English. Jess accurately commented on the “feminine” flavor of the restaurant: that is, you could tell that it was designed and run by women. The environment was relaxing: well-designed, and though the restaurant was full, we found it easy to converse in quiet tones.
The check was 70 euros, which we were delighted to pay for a meal of this quality. La Porta lived up to and crushed (as in “out of the park”) expectations. We both agreed that it was our best meal in Tuscany to date, and we would return in a heartbeat.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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