It’s a breezy day in the Florentine hills as we gather for our first press preview lunch since the pandemic rainbow of restrictions halted our culinary jaunts. Beaming across the cast-iron tables and chairs beneath established foliage around the eighteenth-century lemon house on the eponymous wine estate, Osteria Torre a Cona is the gastronomic destination on this momentous day.
The new approach to Tuscan cooking served at the restaurant, which opened in early May, is in a reliable quartet of hands. Maria Probst and Cristian Santandrea, chefs with a Michelin star in their kitchen cabinets from now-shuttered La Tenda Rossa, are tailoring the culinary identity to the estate’s impeccable ethos of quiet elegance, contemporary living and blissful relaxation. An antipasto of grilled sardines topped with sausage meat, nicely balanced with a vinegar reduction (9 euro) enraptures the taste buds and poses the question: what exactly is contemporary Tuscan cooking in 2021? I find myself asking. Local ingredients and familiar flavours cooked as nourishing dishes comes the answer in the form of fennel seed pici pasta served with Cinta Senese pork sauce (12 euro); the green gnocchi with aglione and spring truffle (12 euro) is already tempting me back for supper soon. There’s a nod to international visitors with seemingly less demanding offerings like chicken with lemon, herbed mash and truffle (22 euro), while the lamb and mutton cutlets with agretti (monk’s beard) and artichokes (25 euro) will elicit an air of mystery, or the odd frown, among foreigners who haven’t watched Masterchef in the last five years.
Accompanying the cuisine are the estate’s graceful wines; the vineyards wreath around the age-old walls of the property owned by the Rossi di Montelera family since 1935. As we sip the shimmering Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva “Badia a Corte”, Niccolò Rossi di Montelera remarks that it’s his favourite wine. “It’s because of the Piedmontese style; my family’s from Turin, after all.” A stylish red with an enduring nose and courtly tannins, the Sangiovese grapes for the Riserva come from a single vineyard at an altitude that exceeds 300 metres. Dessert is served: a decadent revival of the Florentine zuccotto ice-cream cake with lashings of ricotta, dark chocolate drops and a swirl of soft fine dining meringue (8 euro). It’s gorgeous and further enhanced by one of the most entrancing vin santos on the market: Torre a Cona Fonti e Lecceta Occhio di Pernice, a luscious dessert wine that remains uncloying and uncomplicated.
Feeling Orpheus creep in, the temptation to close my eyes and dream of Tuscany isn’t eased by the fact that 20 relaxing and refined rooms lie a short distance away. Recently renovated, antique furniture alternates with contemporary furnishings in a “home away from home” ambience. Instead I knock back an espresso, like a proper Tuscan, and return back down the hill to Florence, just 25 minutes away. What a lunch!
Osteria Torre a Cona
Via Torre a Cona 49, Rignano sull’Arno
Bookings required: 055 699000 / firstname.lastname@example.org