After 3 days, I have had a great meal in Tuscany. My friend Anish Ghosh and I went to the Fodors-recommended Osteria Dei Cavalieri, which was just round the corner from my office in the Piazza del Cavalieri.
Well, the food was great. First meal in Italy where I can really say it was great, from start to finish. Before dinner we shared a bottle of chianti on the other side of the Piazza, accompanied by some very nice mini-prosciutto sandwiches. The reds here are really something.
So of course, we also had red wine with dinner. Just the house red, it was even better than the pre-dinner bottle.
I suppose, before I use my typically purple prose to praise dinner, I should say why the other meals haven't been great: first, several of them have been in an university cafeteria. There's no way for a meal in an university cafeteria to be great. None. Even it does have prosciutto and melon (which was good, but the rest of the meal was crap).
The other restaurant meals have been fairly mediocre. Not bad, and the ingredients have been very good (the tomatoes actually taste of tomato!), so things like caprese salad have been very nice, but they've all been sort of "eh".
Not tonight, though. Not tonight... (an expression favored by NCAA athletes, when they win a home game against favored opposition: "they may be the better team, but not tonight! Not tonight!" - imagine it being said as a football or basketball player waves a meaty finger at the camera).
OK, end of bizarre parenthetical. I'm kind of drunk, if you can't tell. Red wine. Lots of red wine.
Anyway, back to the meal. I started with swordfish carpaccio, which was really terrific. I love encountering different textures, and the thinly sliced raw swordfish with olive oil, a roasted red pepper strip, and some greens really made me realize about what food critics mean when they say something is "well composed". BTW, I also thought about this after a bacon-rochefort salad at the Union League Cafe in New Haven.
My main course was grilled leg of rabbit accompanied by grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, and peppers). Now, the rabbit was very tasty, gamey of course, with some interesting herbs on top. But for me, the real standout were the grilled veggies. It's very easy to screw these up. But the texture and the flavor (just some olive oil and sea salt) were nigh-on perfect.
Osteria dei Cavalieri also has a 11 Euro lunch tasting menu, so hopefully this is just the first of many good meals there.
More later. I remain, your faithful Tuscan correspondent.