Last night we had dinner at La Pieve Vecchia in Monterchi. It’s about 15 minutes from here and has an incredible terrace that overlooks the tiny hill towns of Monterchi and Citerna. Back in the day, there was a fierce rivalry between Monterchi and Citerna. Monterchi is in Tuscany and Citerna is in Umbria, but they are only about a mile apart as the crow flies. They sit atop hills that are now divided by a small road and you can see one from the other. You can imagine how they would look out across the valley to the other town and wonder if they were up to no good.
La Pieve Vecchia is in the valley that separates these two hills. It’s closer to Monterchi and that’s the killer view from the terrace. Citerna is more off in the distance, across the road, but still there keeping watch over the shenanigans of Monterchi. I’m glad we don’t have to worry about marauding soldiers storming down the hill to invade us while we’re having dinner. Our biggest worry is whether to have a bottle of Vino Nobile or Chianti.
We had some clouds yesterday so the day was a little overcast. This was perfect for dining on the terrace because the sun sets in front of it and it can be quite unpleasant if there are no clouds. We wisely made a reservation a few days ago and got a primo table right at the edge of the terrace overlooking Monterchi. This is one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve been to here. It’s an old stone farmhouse that’s been turned into a little inn with this killer restaurant. I’m not sure how many rooms they have – can’t be many – but the restaurant is always packed. They have a fairly large parking lot, but every time we drive by there in the evening cars are lining the road in each direction. It’s very popular with the locals, which is always a good sign.
Our feast began with fried squash blossoms and panzanella.
These have become very trendy in the US in recent years, but they are very traditional foods here. I will say the panzanella was good, but substituted croutons for the torn bread pieces. I don’t think that gives the same texture and taste. The torn bread absorbs all the flavors and dressing and really binds the whole thing together. Croutons just don’t do that. The squash blossoms were just that – blossoms with no stuffing with a thin, light batter. They’re flash fried and come out crunchy but still delicate. Heavenly.
We both wanted meat for dinner. After eating so much pasta, we were ready for a carnivore kind of meal. Steve got the sliced, grilled steak – tagliata. Tagliata means cut so if you ever see that on a menu it means the steak is sliced. We have found over the years that this is better for us than a whole steak. Italians cook their meat very rare and a steak is usually just a little too bloody for us. Tagliata are easier to cook a little more and suit our tastes better. This one was with rosemary and juniper. I got the roast
pork with mushrooms and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were actually roasted potatoes that had been smashed – much better than regular mashed potatoes. Mine was also seasoned with rosemary, which was growing right next to our table. Both were wonderful and just what we wanted. Sitting on that lovely terrace looking at those two ancient hill towns, eating wonderful food, drinking fabulous wine – well, it almost made me want to cry with happiness. These are the experiences that make life worth living, in my opinion.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we got the Vino Nobile.