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Friday, March 26, 2010

Tuscan lunch

A fellow blogger is going to Italy for a major wedding anniversary, which started me thinking about romantic places to eat. One can go on and on about the wonderful food in Italy, be it in the local outdoor market or in a simple trattoria or in an over-the-top multi-Michelin starred restaurant. In the interests of geographical diversity, I will recommend three restaurants that Mr. Wonderful and I have enjoyed in Tuscany, Lake Como, and Rome. However, my most important recommendations are two: go hungry and pretend the prices are in dollars not in euros.


Before the wonderful books of Frances Mayes -- In Tuscany and Under the Tuscan Sun : At Home in Italy -- made Tuscany into TUSCANY, there was Il Falconiere.  It is both an inn and a restaurant on the outskirts of Cortona. To capture the Il Falconiere atmosphere, go to their web-site. Do not skip the “intro”, rather,  listen to the music, watch the photos scroll through, and feel a smile appearing on your face as your mood turns dreamy. You really have to want to go there since finding it can be a challenge. But, once you’ve been there, you will want to go back.

Of course, when Mr. Wonderful and I first got there, dreamy was not our mood. We had been wandering through the old town of Assisi with friends on a very hot day, when suddenly Mr. Wonderful looked at this watch and said we must leave for lunch; the relics of St. Francis must wait until another visit. If traffic is kind, the drive from Assisi to Cortona takes just under two hours. We made it in almost half that time but were still an hour late on our reservation. We also missed the exit from the main road to the restaurant. A quick telephone call and we got instructions to turn right after the third stop after a car dealership. Then we were on a tiny narrow road bordered with hedges and winding around a stone wall with strategically placed convex mirrors. Just as I become convinced we were lost on a road where no turns were possible, that same road opened up to Il Falconiere.

We piled out of the car and into a little gem. We sat at a table covered in fine white linen under arched ceilings. The staff gracefully dismissed our lateness and breathlessness by quickly bringing flutes of Prosecco and a melon-prosciutto amuse-bouche. We sipped and munched while studying the elaborate menu, the cover of which had a pale watercolor of a Renaissance woman on a horse with a hunting falcon on her wrist. The late lunch took hours as we ate luscious appetizers made with local mushrooms and a main course of tender veal chops with perfect al dente green beans and a pumpkin risotto. Tuscan wine in copious amounts made the lunch that much more dreamy. And, I cannot forget the assorted sweats we shared with our double espressos.

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