Friday, August 17, 2007


Wed 01 Aug 2007

The capital of Chianti is a town called Greve. It is serious wine country and we had to visit (although, on a less serious note, we were tempted to ensure we ate chips while there ...). For dining tips, we referred again to Laura, and she suggested a restaurant called Nerbone.

The restaurant is located on the town's main square, along with a great many other café choices. We were glad to have had the suggestion, but even so, Andy and dad completed a quick recce of the other offerings. The verdict was that there was a marked difference between the restaurants for the tourists and those not: the main difference being in price. Nerbone, with its window menu only in Italian, was at the cheaper end of the scale.

We settled in to our table and a litre carafe of house red (absurdly cheap at just €8) and digested the menu. This was probably the most interesting, and challenging, menu we encountered while in Italy, purely for the quantity and variety of offal on offer. Dad was happy, I was intrigued but not brave enough and Andy exercised some pioneering British spirit. And that's just the main courses!

To start with, both dad and Andy ordered the pici with pork cheek, tomato, garlic and onion. Pici is a local pasta, made with just flour and olive oil and rolled into quite thick spaghetti like strings. Because they both ordered it, they had one huge dish to share between them. Mum ordered ricotta ravioli with pear, butter and thyme sauce and I chose a special: taglietelle with galetti mushrooms.

My taglietelle was lovely: simply dressed in some butter and olive oil and served with masses of the galetti mushrooms. The ravioli was similarly simple, with the combination of so few flavours working well. Mum did comment that there wasn't as much butter sauce left over as she would have liked (as we had plenty of bread), but that is hardly a criticism. The serving of pici was huge (I had to help finish it off) and also delicious.

A gentle pause and we moved on to our main courses. My choice, of finely sliced beef with grilled chicory, proved to be the most spectacular. I haven't quite worked out how it was produced. I suspect that the finely sliced beef was layered on the metal plate, the chicory placed on top, and then a veritable forest of herbs (bay, rosemary, sage) finished off the dish, which was then put under the grill. The metal plate was incredibly hot, and the beef very barely cooked, but infused with the flavours from all the greenery. The dish looked quite spectacular, as all the herbs were left on top, and it seemed more like an overgrown plant pot than a main course!

Mum chose the grilled duck breast special: a huge portion of pink duck breast with a delicious yogurt sauce. Dad opted for boiled ox tongue, with salsa verde and pickles. Another big portion, with generous slices of tongue. And the pièce de résistance was Andy's choice: poppa fritta. This is fried cow's udder. I wasn't brave enough to order this for myself, but I was quite happy to give it a good taste test. The verdict was that we all thought it tasted like _something_ but we couldn't put our fingers on it. It was slightly spongy (a bit like bean curd) and didn't really have a great deal of flavour. I'm glad I've tried it, but certainly, cooked that same way, I don't know I'd bother eating it again (and especially not when I could eat beef and chicory!).

We were full, and we also had to head back to the villa before it got dark, so there was no time or space to sample desserts or coffees.

You can check out an alternative cow's udder dish (also at Nerbone) at Izzy Eats. I think the salsa verde would have been a welcome addition to the rather plain poppa fritta!

Finally ... it was only on our return to the UK that we discovered that Nerbone is the sister restaurant of a much more famous (well, it appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller!) Nerbone in Florence - so even if you're not out in the Chianti countryside you might be able to find some offal delicacies!

1. Nerbone di Greve, Piazza Matteotti, 22, Greve in Chianti, phone: +39 55 853308
2. Nerbone, Piazza Mercato Centrale, 47/R, Florence, phone: +39 055 219949

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Blogger Izzy's Mama said...

Alex: Funny that we both won't be eating that cow udder again anytime soon. Without the salsa verde it would have been fairly non-descript.

12:45 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

I guess it's a good thing it wasn't the tastiest morsel I'd ever come across because I wouldn't like my chances of finding cow's udder in the supermarket!

11:48 am  

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