When Paul and I were first able to afford a trip overseas, we chose Italy over Ireland because, as shallow as it sounds, we figured the food would be better. Fifteen years later, we still can’t remember having had a bad meal in Italy.
We will always remember, however, the lunch we had on our recent day trip to Tuscany. It took place at a very special restaurant owned and operated by a very special couple, Manuelle and Laura. They are perhaps the best, most exuberant ambassadors of Italian food and wine you’ll find on the planet.
They opened their tiny trattoria (only about 6 tables), on a day they had planned to be closed, just for the 8 of us. The restaurant, A Gambe di Gatto, is in the historical center of Montepulciano, a gorgeous Tuscan hill town we saw very little of because … well, because we were there to eat.
The guiding principle of A Gambe di Gatto is simple: serve the best possible Italian food. Throughout your meal, while Laura works magic in the kitchen, Manuelle describes the special food he is serving, taking pains to highlight what is particularly special about it. They are food preservationists — that is, they take great pride in featuring foods that are becoming harder to get, either because they are from remote areas of the country or because there are a dwindling number of producers of that delicacy. For example, we had pitina, cured meat served as antipasto (literally, “before the meal”) that’s made by only a few families in a remote northern Italian mountain village; delightfully salty Selargino capers, found only on the southern end of the island of Sardinia; and peach preserves made from Sicily’s celebrated pesca di leonforte, topping a variety of locally made cheeses, specially aged to intensify the flavors.
Manuelle intersperses these offerings with tastes of his very carefully selected wines, olive oils, and balsamic vinegar. He and Laura travel throughout Italy each winter while the restaurant is closed to find new treats to bring into their restaurant.
When it was all over, we bought the parts of the meal we could enjoy without Laura’s magic touch … the limoncello, Tuscan honey, and — sit down before you read this part — chocolate with intense bits of rosemary. Mamma mia!
Like the fabulous soup-to-nuts – or, in our case, bruschetta-to-limoncello – meal to which Manuelle and Laura treated us, I could go on and on. I’ll spare you, but only if you’ll promise not to miss A Gambe di Gatto, which is located at Via dell’Opio nel Corso, 34, in Montepulciano, not far from the A-1 autostrada, just an hour from our villa in Benano. Their phone number is (39) 578 75 74 31.
But hurry! This place is being discovered (see other diners’ reviews on Slow Travel Italy’s blog). And be sure to make a reservation (una prenotazione).