Italy-Cortona for a Concert and Dinner
Our next road trip took us off to see the Tuscan sunset just outside Cortona (now famous by the movie Under the Tuscan Sun). First stop was to the grounds of a converted villa, Borgo Il Melone to see a classical duet piano concert. We wanted to do as Italians do or at least some of the ex-pats that are living there. Here we find ourselves in wonderful gardens with those crazy straight skinny evergreens ever so present and stone buildings with clay tile roofs. I just loved seeing the lavender in the formal gardens. It reminded me of the lavender chocolates I made at home. Scanning the grounds we decided this might be a nice place to stay during one of our return visits to Tuscany. It is seven o’clock; are we ever going to eat? We were also starting to adjust to the fact that we would not typically be eating before 8pm every evening.
After the concert we had some light appetizers and local wines. The wines again surprised me as I have not been one to look for Italian wines when shopping back at home. Italian wine = Chianti in my thought process. The wine offered at this gathering but in general any house wine is also refreshingly good. You do not even need to look for a DOC or DOCG labelled wine to find a good one. What better way to spend the early evening than sitting outside enjoying these Italian gardens, good company and new friends after the concert.
After our wine tasting we headed back toward Cortona (Cumcia) stopping at a local restaurant, Il Ghiottone. This would be our first taste of authentic Italian pasta although I was threatening to order pizza again. The menu was extensive, but we finally decided on salad verde, spaghetti carbonara, and lemon tagliatelle. It was well after 9pm so one pasta serving would do the trick. The wine arrived and a basket of bread. One bite into the bread followed by the confused look on my wife we realized that this was not the bread we expected. Artisan or hearty yes, but frankly somewhat tasteless. Tuscan bread is about as basic as dirt (a recipe can be found here. Yeast, water, and flour no salt. So why no salt. Some have said it dates back to the 12th century when the Pisans with control over the maritime trade decided to hurt the rival Florentines. They simply raised the price of salt so significantly that the Florentines (Tuscany) decided to bake bread without it. It does not seem to make sense to me that bread without salt continues on today but tradition can be hard to break. I doubt they find too many people asking for more bread.
The pastas arrive and we can’t wait to dive in and try them (we are also starving and the bread did not help). First, the lemon tagliatelle which was cooked perfectly al dente. The noodles were mixed into a very light blend of lemon sauce but not heavy on cream. It was a light and not overpowering notes of citrus for all the senses while not taking away from the noodles. Again, the Italians are keeping things basic but pure. I have never seen this noodle at home but it reminds me of linguine but with an heavy egg yolk base.
The pictures unfortunately are not the best but here we have the spaghetti carbonara. Overall a disappointment. We were looking for something to directly compare to what we make at home. The flavor was bland and the egg mixture was overcooked. I know from experience that this can happen but this will not be ordered again on the trip. I can make this at home or my spicy version of the same. One final note on the salad. Always remember basic. Salad verde is green salad which means a pile of lettuce and that is all. At least there was good olive oil and balsamic to put on it. That caps this segment of the trip. We still have to try some gelato. Hopefully tomorrow.
You can see our GPS track and more pictures here.
posted by Heather Ann Claggett on July 7, 2011
Interesting that you were not impressed with Italy’s Spaghetti Carbonara. I have tried it twice, once 35 years ago and again last spring. I will not try it again.
The only way bread without salt can be saved is with goo olive oil and herbs.Once again great photograghy.