Tuscany, and especially Chianti, is known worldwide for its excellent food, so it should come as no surprise that many great restaurants can be found there. Tourists from around the world flock to Chianti in search of great wine, traditional cuisine, and an “authentic” Italian experience. While the wineries and towns can be crowded with tourists, some “hidden”, tourist-free restaurants can still be found tucked away on the winding roads that connect vineyards, olive groves, and forest throughout Chianti. Here are five of the best.
1. Locanda di Pietracupa
Surrounded by vineyards and very close to the town of San Donato in Poggio, the upscale Locanda di Pietracupa is found on a small road in the countryside. There is a large patio here for outdoor dining that boasts stunning views of the Chianti sunsets. The dining room, with its pressed white linen tablecloths and fresh flowers on each table, is modern and clean, and moderately lit to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. Service is formal while still being relaxed. The food here is of the highest quality, everything being made in house, seeking to create traditional Tuscan cuisine with a modern twist. The chefs here make the most paper-thin, delicate pappardelle you will find anywhere. The recently added grill offers diners the chance to try an unforgettable “Bistecca Fiorentina”. One of their creative dishes is a parmigiano cheese “basket” filled with fava beans and chopped salumi. Desserts here are a must, so be sure to save room. The menu changes seasonally, incorporating locally-sourced ingredients. There is an extensive wine list, which includes some very unusual and special after-dinner liqueurs. The restaurant has a few rooms as well, so you can have an unforgettable meal and then head upstairs to sleep it off. Dishes not to miss: Sformato di caprino (goat cheese soufflé), baked Tropea onions.
2. Osteria di Starda
Osteria Starda is the most remote restaurant on this list. Starda is a tiny village that has less than a dozen residents and only one restaurant, and is reached by driving about 4 miles down a long dirt road that snakes through the forest. The restaurant is also a hotel, and here they make their own wine and oil from the vineyards and groves that surround the town. The menu is handwritten on rough paper each day, according to what was fresh and available. The cuisine is traditional Tuscan. All pastas are handmade and recipes are classic. They make some almond biscotti here that pair perfectly with their own vin santo (dessert wine). The dining room has old stone walls and dark timber cross beams on the ceiling, evoking a homey, cozy, and timeless atmosphere. Service is relaxed and charming.
Dishes not to miss: Pici cacio e pepe (thick, hand-rolled long pasta with cheese and pepper), homemade biscotti and vin santo
3. La Torre di Gargonza Ristorante
Set back in the woods, on a small road on the southern edge of Chianti, is the 13th Century Castle of Gargonza. The castle and village has been renovated and is today a luxury villa with multiple rooms and suites to rent. On the castle grounds is this excellent restaurant, built in a completely renovated tractor shed. Walking in, it’s hard to imagine this room’s past life, as today it is an elegant dining room with beautiful wood beams on the ceiling and floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out over the valley. The food here is generally traditional cuisine, but they sometimes like to add a twist — for example, their delicious specialty dish, a risotto of prosecco and strawberries. Before or after dinner a stroll through the castle grounds is in order, when the place is completely quiet except for the sounds of crunching leaves beneath your feet.
Dishes not to miss: Risotto of strawberries and prosecco, molten chocolate cake
4. Ristoro di Lamole
This excellent upscale restaurant is found in the tiny town of Lamole, a hamlet that is just a few buildings around a small crossroads in the Chianti countryside. Surrounded by vineyards, the restaurant offers stunning views across the valley – on a clear day you can see the famous tower-filled town of San Gimignano from the patio. The restaurant is also a wine bar, with an extensive list of over 300 labels; the two owners are very enthusiastic oenophiles who will happily help you choose something perfect. Everything here is made in-house and sourced from local ingredients, and the menu changes seasonally. Though wine is very important to the owners, the food is the star here and is of the highest quality. Service is very friendly and relaxed while still very attentive. The dining room is light and airy; farm implements and wine accoutrements decorate the walls and give it a rustic, charming feeling.
Dishes not to miss: Ribollita (vegetable and bread soup, literally translated to “reboiled”), house made sausage
5. Le Forchette
Le Forchette, a very small restaurant tucked in at the base of an old building in Radda in Chianti, is set right on the town’s “balcony”, a wall that overlooks the valley below. This stretch of road has a large pedestrian area complete with sitting benches so townspeople can watch the gorgeous sunsets. On nice evenings Forchette sets out tables and chairs so diners can enjoy the view as well. Forchette serves traditional Tuscan cuisine with a twist, but everything is still very rustic and homey. The close quarters of the dining room allow you to peek into the kitchen; the casual and friendly service and the rustic food makes you feel like you’re eating in your grandmother’s kitchen. Desserts are all homemade so be sure to save room.
Dishes not to miss: Cheesecake