Tag Archives: Porcini

La Bucaccia – A family run jewel under the Tuscan sun

About an hour’s drive south of Florence, in the southern Tuscan province of Arezzo, high in the hills near Lake Trasimeno, site of Hannibal’s great defeat of the Roman Army under Gaius Flaminius in June 217 B.C., lies the commune of Cortona. Founded by the Etruscans, Cortona is known by the expression “mother of Troy, grandmother of Rome” due the myths which connect the town to the founding of both of those great cities. More recently, the commune is famous for being the setting of the book and film Under the Tuscan Sun.

Exactly 1782 years and 2 days after Rome’s defeat by Hannibal’s armies, Sasha and I, along with our dear friends Cosimo, Christine, Domenico and Angelina, arrived in Cortona.

Of all the Etruscan gateways to Cortona, there is only one that remains intact, the Porta Bifora, called “La Bucaccia” or “evil hole”. La Bucaccia owes its fame (and its name and closure until 1996) to 1258, when the citizens of Arezzo and the exiled Cortonese Guelphs entered Cortona through this gateway and sacked the town.

Porta Bifora "La Bucaccia"...the "evil hole"

Just up Via Ghibellina from the Porta Bifora sits a stunning example of Tuscan cuisine at its finest, Hostaria La Bucaccia. This restaurant, heretofore overlooked by Micheline, is sure to one day receive the star it well deserves. Run by Romano Magi and his exceptional, master chef of a wife Agostina, with ample help from their adorable daughter Francesca, La Bucaccia is not only the best restaurant in Cortona, but of all the places we ate on our Italian tour, it was my favorite.

Romano and Agostina Magi and Chad

Romano and Agostina Magi and Chad


La Bucaccia - Sign
Entrance to Hostaria La Bucaccia

Entrance to Hostaria La Bucaccia


The interior of La Bucaccia is the former cellars of the 13th century Palazzo Cattani

The interior of La Bucaccia is the former cellars of the 13th century Palazzo Cattani


Cinghiale Paradise - wild boar sausage, prosciutto con melone, salame, finocciono with apricot, and bresola with apples.  You sure can't get this in the US.

Cinghiale Paradise - wild boar sausage, prosciutto con melone, salame, finocciono with apricot, and bressola with apples. You sure can't get this in the US.


Carpaccio of black pork with fresh greens and balsamic

Carpaccio of black pork with fresh greens and balsamic


Tagliatelle with fresh black truffle, fresh ingredients perfectly cooked with that wonderful truffle flavor

Tagliatelle with fresh black truffle, fresh ingredients perfectly cooked with that wonderful truffle flavor


Sant’Egidio style chestnut Ravioli filled with ricotta and sprinkled with mint flavored porcini mushroom sauce

Sant’Egidio style chestnut Ravioli filled with ricotta and sprinkled with mint flavored porcini mushroom sauce


Pappardelle with wild boar ragu; savory and sweet, rich and delicious, this is a classic cortonese/tuscan dish that perfectly captures place and transcends time

Pappardelle with wild boar ragu; savory and sweet, rich and delicious, this is a classic cortonese/tuscan dish that perfectly captures place and transcends time


An up close look at one of my favorite pasta dishes ever: pappardelle al cighiale ragu (wild boar)

An up close look at one of my favorite pasta dishes ever: pappardelle al cinghiale ragu (wild boar)


Sliced steak of black pork in a peppercorn sauce - an Agostina speciality

Sliced steak of black pork in a peppercorn sauce - an Agostina speciality


Grilled steak with lemon

Grilled steak with lemon


Grilled steak topped with a smoky bacon flavored sauce

Grilled steak topped with a smoky bacon flavored sauce


Grilled steak in a sweet red wine reduction sauce

Grilled steak in a sweet red wine reduction sauce


Chocolate cake with cream and chocolate sauce

Chocolate cake with cream and chocolate sauce


Tiramisu

Tiramisu


Strawberry gelato

Strawberry gelato


Biscotti perfectly compliment Vin Santo as a way to finish a great meal

Biscotti perfectly compliment Vin Santo as a way to finish a great meal


Vin Santo "La Bucaccia" riserva 1977 shown with the decanting pourer
Vin Santo 3 ways, all of them delicious

Vin Santo 3 ways, all of them delicious


In this small but well equipped kitchen, Agostina makes magic happen

In this small but well equipped kitchen, Agostina makes magic happen


In Agostina's kitchen, with husband and partner Romano and sous chef

In Agostina's kitchen, with husband and partner Romano and sous chef


Dining among the Florentine princes at La Giostra – June 23, 2009

After a long day of travel, art and food, interrupted by 2 delayed trains, Sasha and I finally arrived in Florence a few hours late but excited as ever. We checked into our 16th century palazzo of a hotel, Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo, located here, right across the street from Brunelleschi‘s masterpiece on top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore . Even though Sasha was tired from our very long day, I was determined to start the Florence section of our trip of with a proper Florentine meal. And in La Giostra, I found one.

La Giostra is run by members of the Hapsburg Lorena family. Italian princes from when Italy was under Hapsburg rule, the family home is at Barberino Val d’Elsa in Chianti where for many years, like others in the Chianti region, they had produced olive oil, wine and other culinary delights. The restaurant is run by the colorful and bracelet covered Dimitri, his brother Soldano and Anastasia.

The restaurant space (they have two dining rooms on the same street located here) dates from the sixteenth century when it was used as a storage area for the painted horses and other parts of the Salvemini square carousel. In fact, the restaurant takes its name, La Giostra, a word that used to mean ‘the joust’, from this very carousel.

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

The food at La Giostra is traditional Tuscan; rich pastas, hearty meats and strong wines abound. I was seated for my first meal in Tuscany, surrounded by the cacophony of a full restaurant in an old, narrow, brick room, ordered a bottle of 2006 Canneto Vino Nobile di Montelpuciano Sangiovase and prepared myself for a feast.

Antipasta La Giostra

Antipasta La Giostra: Bruschetta with pomodoro and chicken liver with rabbit, tomato, mozzarella and mortadella, roasted peppers, potato salad and two mini quiches

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana, a mix of traditional Tuscan spices

Osso Bucco La Giostra

Osso Bucco La Giostra; Amazingly sweet and soft (almost candied) carrots make this dish shine

For those interested in this very fine restaurant’s menu…here’s some it is.

La Giostra Menu 1
La Giostra Menu 2
La Giostra Menu 3
La Giostra Menu 4