Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Antica Osteria di Vico

Thurs 2 Aug 2007

Continuing the backward journey through Italy (begun with truffles at La Taverna di San Giuseppe), the next stop is the Antica Osteria di Vico, in the village of Vico d'Elsa in Chianti.

Vico d'Elsa is a tiny and remote village, and we wouldn't have headed off in this direction, had it not been for Laura, who was our host for the week at Il Nido. We quizzed her constantly about good places to eat (two of her other recommendations forthcoming!), and she did not fail us.

We stopped at the Antica Osteria di Vico for lunch. It was a hot day and the restaurant has a large patio area for al fresco dining. The restaurant also features a lot of grilled meat, which was all being cooked outside, so it was like having an open kitchen.

There was also some impromptu entertainment in the form of the huge table of workmen sitting near us. At the end of the meal, the land lady explained that they all worked together and it was their last day of work before going on holiday. Judging by the huge large and even larger bottles of red wine they were drinking, I doubt too much work was done that afternoon. While I can't speak any Italian, there was definitely a lot of joking, ribbing and random moments of quiet, before they all burst into song down the phone to unsuspecting wives or girlfriends.

But on to the food ... we started with mixed crostini (a garlic-y topping, a tomato topping and an olive toopping) and a plate of mixed cinta senese, which was different salami made from the local pig. We drank a bottle of the house white with this, before moving on to the house red and our main courses.

Mum and dad opted for a large mixed grill to share. This decision was based on the fact that two small grills would have been all pork. This was the most disappointing part of the meal. Although the pork was rated very highly (and left them both wishing they'd ordered two small grills) the lamb was deemed almost inedible and they were less than thrilled with the beef. This was a shame, because Andy had ordered sliced grilled beef on rocket salad, which came beautifully rare and was absolutely delicious. While marginally more complicated than just grilled meat, this dish (yet again) showed how important simplicity is in food. If you have good beef, good rocket and good olive oil you don't really need too much else.

For some reason, in the heat, I ordered rabbit stew, with Vernaccia and saffron. It was lovely: the meat was tender and moist and the sauce just had to be mopped up with plenty of bread.

After all of this we didn't really have room but were still tempted by a plate of cheese and a portion of the chocolate tart with home made chilli jam. And coffees. And then some dessert wine.

Then we had a little rest, watched a ginger kitten play with pieces of paper and then headed on our way.

A very different meal from that in Siena, and the grill was a bit disappointing, but in all, a great (not to mention obscenely cheap!) lunch - and a good birthday celebration for dad, who was celebrating turning 65!

1. Antica Osteria di Vico, via della Villa 11, Vico d'Elsa, phone: +39 55 807 3279.

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