Tag Archives: restaurants

A Simple Feast at Il Granaro del Monte

Il Granaro

Il Granaro del Monte
Hotel Grotta Azzurra
Via Alfieri 7
06046 Norcia (PG)
39-0743-816-513
info@bianconi.com
www.bianconi.com

We feasted at our hotel’s restaurant, Il Granaro del Monte, considered a national culinary monument.  I was in agreement from the very first savory bite.  What makes their cooking so extraordinary?  Ordinary, wholesome ingredients prepared with a love and respect for the land that produces them – Norcia!  The Black Truffle is king and is an essential part of the cuisine of Umbria.  Truffles are best consumed shortly after being extracted from the ground, as their particularly strong scent and taste fade quickly.   At the Granaro, the chef does not allow this to happen and he prepares the truffles in countless ways.  For me, they are absolutely divine simply perched on a mound of handmade tagliatelle.   But a meal would not be complete without sampling Norcia’s lamb and cured pork specialties, the lentils of Castelluccio (presented here in a velvety soup), the spelt, the cheeses…

Picture the sheep as they graze in the flower-filled meadow of Castelluccio, the cheeses made from the sheep’s milk, the honey of a thousand wildflowers.  These are the elements that are used to recreate traditional dishes following ageless recipes, held dear by the Bianconi family and presented daily to their guests.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

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The Pierre – a New York icon

 

2018 The Pierre for webThe Pierre
2 East 61st Street
New York, New York 10065-8402
1-212-838-8000
http://www.thepierreny.com

As I sit here in the lobby of The Pierre looking over the New York Times edition of February 9, 2018, I try to imagine what it was like when the headlines of this same paper on February 2, 1929 announced the plans for the new hotel to be built on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 61st Street, replacing an existing mansion. The $15-million project was a joint venture to create an exclusive hotel, reflecting simplicity yet the ultimate refinement within a club-like environment. It opened on October 1, 1930 and became the toast of New York society, until the Depression hit and years of financial struggles ensued. But the Pierre is a survivor. In 1959, The Pierre became a cooperative of permanent resident owners, while the remaining guest rooms, restaurant and bars remained open to a devoted international clientele. A series of reincarnations in the form of restorations, renovations and innovative social venues have made The Pierre what it is today – an historic icon of New York residential and hotel luxury. The Pierre has 140 rooms and 49 suites. Eleven Grand Suites have apartment-like quarters and private terraces.

We could opt to have afternoon tea at the Two E Bar & Lounge, an Art Deco room that was originally the Gentlemen’s Library but instead we choose to “lounge” in our room and enjoy its panoramic view of New York’s skyline and a tree-top view of Central Park. It is with pure pleasure and much anticipation that we dress up and wander through the Rotunda on our way to Perrine’s Restaurant. We linger to admire the 1967 murals by Edward Melcarth, painted in a palette of soft pastels, reminiscent of the frescoed rooms of European palaces. Opposite the Rotunda is the Grand Ballroom restored in 2006. It remains one of New York’s most sought-after settings for gala events and weddings.

The restaurant, on the other hand, is unpretentious, quiet, inviting. Sait, our waiter, orchestrates our dinner like an experienced conductor, leading us through a symphony of dishes created by Indian-born executive chef, Ashfer Biju. The cuisine is French-inspired and is superb. Appetizers, such as tuna tartare, steak tartare, a winter citrus salad and crab imperial flatbread are worthy of an imperial table. Sait knows just the wine to accompany these delectable treats. To continue on our culinary passage, we have lamb chops with polenta and roasted root vegetables, with a sampling of winter mushrooms and sweet corn and kohlrabi gratin. Finally, the ultimate in sweet indulgences leads us to the decision that we must now stroll through Central Park in the cold crisp air of early evening. We head to Wollman Rink, where skaters have glided across the ice since it opened in 1949 – a most enjoyable ending to our first day in New York. Tomorrow, our walk will take us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms_withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

A Tuscan Lunch by an Ancient Monastery

Antico Ristorante La Certosa

 

Antico Ristorante La Certosa
Via Cassia, 1
50124 Impruneta, (Florence)
39-055-204-8876
info@lacertosa.it
www.lacertosa.it

 

 

When a restaurant occupies what was once the Monks’ Old Pharmacy of the 12th century Antico Ristorante La Certosa - Sala ChiostroCertosa Monastery, it has every reason to attach the venerable attribute “Antico” to its name.  Opened a little over a decade ago, La Certosa, offers traditional Tuscan cuisine and awesome views of the hilltop monastery. Each of the several dining rooms is uniquely decorated with newly frescoed walls that take their inspiration from Tuscany’s artistic past.  We lunched in the Sala Chiostro, an intimate space that wrapped us in the warm colors of the Tuscan countryside – sunflower yellow, golden wheat and wine red, easily putting us in the mood for the wonderful food and wine that soon came to our table.

When we asked our waiter to help us select from their many offerings, he simply shrugged and said, “You are in Toscana, what else? It’s obvious.  Beef!”  His recommendation was obviously the right choice.  If we were to eat nothing else but the main course, tagliata alla fiorentina, the most tender slices of beef, seasoned simply with salt, rosemary and capers, accompanied by roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables, we would have left completely satisfied.  But naturally, we savored assorted antipasti of salumi and crostini, and a sampling of two different pastas, accompanied by an excellent DOCG Chianti from Villa La Palagina vineyards.  La Certosa cuisine has no secrets – it is simply Tuscany country cooking at its best – fresh ingredients, in the hands of master chefs, simply prepared.  And Ecco Fatto! You have a most satisfying meal.

To add to the enjoyment of a dinnertime meal, La Certosa offers entertainment in the evening – traditional folkloric music or arias from Italy’s beloved operas.  On occasion, La Certosa looks to its past and offers a special dinner with a monastery theme, recreating an ancient refectory atmosphere where the waiters dress as monks.  In addition to the several indoor dining rooms, an outdoor patio becomes an enchanting setting for dining alfresco in the warmer months, whether for a romantic dinner for two or a festive dinner for a large group.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Ristorante Monna Lisa – where hospitality is a sacred art

Monna Lisa

 

Ristorante Monna Lisa
Via del Forte,
Castiglione del Lago (PG)
39-075-951-071
monnalisa@simail.it
Owner: Maurizio Bracci

 

 

Hospites sacri sunt.  Ristorante Monna Lisa’s owner, Maurizio Bracci, holds true to his restaurant’s motto, espousing the sanctity of hospitality.  Maurizio is a warm and welcoming host, who turns hospitality into a fine art.  The atmosphere is casual, familial – we are at home at his table.  The dining room, with walls the color of corn and table linens the color of wheat, sets the tone for meals that celebrate the bounty of the “territorio.  Below is another dining room, an old-fashioned taverna where private parties can be accommodated and simpler, traditional peasant fare is offered.  The centuries-old wine barrels were impossible to move from the structure where they began their life, so when Maurizio restored the tavern, he simply incorporated them into the walls, where, he says, they will remain. 

Menu offerings include both fish from Lake Trasimeno, specialties from the sea, or dishes typical of the Umbrian-Tuscan region of Italy.  Their tagliere antipasto, a wooden platter with a bounty of local salami and cured meats, bruschette and variously aged Tuscan pecorino cheeses, could have easily been subject for a still life painting, had we left it untouched.  Not possible.  Choosing to sample a little of the sea, a little of the land was a good way to proceed.  Most memorable were the gnocchetti all’ortica con polpa di granchio e capesantetiny green gnocchi bathed in a creamy tomato sauce made with crabmeat and scallops.  We did not stray far when selecting a wine.  The hillside vineyards of the lake region, Colli di Trasimeno, produce a grechetto that is superb – a dry, white wine that whispers of white fruit: peaches, pears and even of bananas.

Ristorante Monna Lisa is a family-run restaurant, with wife Josefina in the kitchen making an art of her cooking.  Each course arrives at the table, skillfully prepared and artfully plated.  Her dessert of macedonia spills from a waffle cone reminiscent of a cornucopia, accompanied by ice cream, whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar – not simply served, but presented as a gift!

Gift yourself a meal at this delightful restaurant!  

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Ristorante Pascolò – by the sea

Ristorante Ristorante PascolòPascolò
Via Giuseppe Pellegrino 154
Vietri sul Mare (SA)
39-089-763-062

http://www.ristorantepascalo.com
Owner / Chef: Pasquale Vitale

Pasquale confesses to having been a vagabond for many years – traveling and learning his craft as chef.  He worked in many fine hotel restaurants in Italy’s famed resorts.  Then he spent six months in Miami, where he admits to acquiring excellent organizational skills.  These same skills and his love for adventure is what he brought with him when he returned to his hometown of Vietri sul Mare.  He opened up his restaurant in 2006, giving it the name Pascolò, with a subtitle “Arte in Tavola.”  Art is what he brings to his tables.

PasqualeLocated directly on the marina of Vietri, his family-style restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining in season.  Naturally, his cuisine is primarily seafood-based, featuring the freshest catch of the day.  In addition, Pasquale loves to “revisit” some Campania classics, adding his special twist.  We tried his version of spaghetti alla chitarra, traditional pasta of the region, usually served with lamb.  His is dressed up with the frutti del mare – a dish that appeals to the eye, as well as the taste buds.  Pasquale loves to save his pièce de resistance for the meal’s end. We had a pastry-like cake made called scomposta al limone made with limoncello – Pasquale’s creation meant to leave its sweet taste lingering in his customer’s memory.    Remember we will.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

Villa Il Poggiale – from family home to elegant hotel

2017c Villa Il Poggiale

Villa Il Poggiale
Via Empolese, 69
50026 San Casciano di Pesa (FI)
39-055-828311
http://www.villailpoggiale.it
villailpoggiale@villailpoggiale.it

A steady downpour holds me captive inside, but it is Villa Il Poggiale that captivates me. A Florentine Renaissance home, this villa dates back to 1408, passing down ownership from one family to another until it was purchased by the Vitta family in 1960. Three generations enjoyed this, their family home, and when no longer needed as a residence, it was decided that they would convert their elegant mansion into a hotel. The owners have worked hard to maintain the style and charm of the original interior, even as they expanded and re-designed the structure, so that one can still enjoy today the welcome of its shaded loggia, the frescoes that adorn walls and ceilings, and the intimacy of the rooms. Villa Il Poggiale offers all the luxury of a first-class hotel, but has successfully achieved their goal of maintaining the feel of home. This is made clear from the beginning when we are handed the keys to the front gate and the entrance to the villa so that we can come and go as we please.

At the moment, I am sitting quietly in our room listening to the music of raindrops. I am embraced by the comfort of our room, one of the 24 rooms and suites in the villa, each furnished differently with the finest of linens and antiques. I glance out my window from time to time to watch the puddles form below in the garden and in the distance, a purely Tuscan landscape glistens in the mist. I wander through the many little salons, each one beckoning me to sit and read my book within their cozy spaces, and I finally choose one. As late afternoon arrives, and it is clear that there will be no swimming in their lovely pool, I choose to visit the in-house spa and indulge in the warmth of a sauna.

We dine at the villa’s restaurant, La Tinaia, the space where the peasants used to bring the grapes at harvest time. Here, where the emphasis is on taste AND healthy eating, guests are given a choice – not an easy one – from a fixed menu or à la carte that reflects the simple yet refined cuisine of Tuscany. A generous buffet of antipasti leads the way and the entrées that follow include ingredients brought right from their garden to the table. The wine list does the rest.

It is easy to fall in love with this villa and the staff who treat us like family, but the countryside awaits. Villa Il Poggiale offers custom-designed tours of the neighboring towns, with wine-tastings and even cooking classes for those who wish to explore Tuscany in this relaxed manner. Even for the independent traveler, the possible excursions throughout the Chianti region are many: Greve, Panzano, San Miniato and the towered town of San Gimignano await. And then, there is Florence…

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ristorante San Martino 26 – a “towering” cuisine in San Gimignano

San Martino 26 (16)Ristorante San Martino 26
Via S. Martino 26
53037 San Gimignano (SI)
0577-940-483
http://www.ristorantesanmartino26.it
Owner: Fabio Pernarella
Chef: Ardit Curri

Fabio Pernarella and his family bring 27 years of restaurant experience to this relatively new enterprise in San Gimignano. Perucà is their other ristorante, where their entry into the restaurant business had its humble beginnings. For over two decades it has been a most popular Tuscan restaurant, not to be missed. But in this city of fabled towers, Chef Ardit Curri, a true culinary artist, offers a cuisine that towers above the rest, taking a traditional way of cooking to new and creative heights at Ristorante San Martino 26. Like the cuisine, the ambiance is a harmony of light and contemporary décor, blending beautifully with its ancient stone walls and cellars.

San Martino 26 (3)The only way to really explore these tempting innovations is to sit back and enjoy one of their seasonal tasting menus. Journey along with the chef and let your waiter pair the wines with the various courses, making this adventure a celebration of all that is good and beautiful in Tuscany. Each course was brought to the table like a small gift, beautifully presented, familiar yet surprising: like Il Fegatino Toscano, chicken liver with vin santo on a home-made pan brioche or the poached egg yolk hidden in a mound of whipped egg-whites and Parmesan, topped with truffles. We particularly enjoyed La Chitarrina, fine hand-made egg noodles made spicy with aglio e olio then coated with a more delicate creamed anchovy and shrimp sauce.

Our wines included the famous Vernaccia wine of San Gimignano, a crisp white wine locally produced from the Vernaccia grape. Earliest mention of this wine dates back to records from the 13th century, but since the Renaissance, it has been considered one of Italy’s finest wines. With our main entrée, roast pork with steamed carrot and purée of green beans, we sipped a Super Tuscan Peperino. The sweet Moscadello di Montalcino, with its gem-like topaz color, accompanied our dessert and it was a match made in paradiso. In spite of what seemed like an endless parade of dishes, because portions and flavors were balanced to perfection, we left completely satisfied at meal’s end, ready to explore the treasures of this medieval city.

San Martino 26 (10)

Chef Ardit Curri

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