Not far from Florence, in the breathtaking Chianti Rufina area, you will find Podere Belvedere, one of Italy’s most original projects.
Let’s go back to 2009 when Edoardo Tilli opened a small bed and breakfast nestled in the hills close to the village of Rufina. That’s when the founding pillars of today’s Podere Belvedere were built. Fast forward to 2023 and Tilli is the chef of what is regarded as one of Tuscany’s most interesting restaurants, working alongside his wife, maître and sommelier, Klodiana Karafilaj.
The menu is a snapshot of time and space, the land and the seasons, while every ingredient is grown on-site or sourced from ethical producers. It’s an approach, if it were adopted by most restaurateurs, which would result in a much less impactful industry, but sadly currently just a handful of enlightened professionals really handle it correctly. The research rotates around the concept of earth, aging and fire: ancestral values that are intrinsic to our subconscious and transparent in their incorruptible requirements for skills and knowledge. With simplicity, there’s nowhere to hide; produce must be at its very best. Let’s consider vegetables, for instance. Chef Tilli collects them a few hours before each service; they are never stored in fridges, rather immediately cleaned and transformed or preserved. Sometimes the kitchen team is forced to go out during the service and pick some more, preparing them “à la minute”.
But the pivotal and innovative work behind Podere Belvedere centers on meat. The chef selects some of Italy’s finest creatures, which are reared freely and old enough to be respectfully and sensitively sacrificed. This is real sustainability at its finest, where animal proteins are rare and expensive, and not substituted with industrially grown plant-based foods or vegetables. The age of the animals (normally around 13 years) also guarantees an unimaginable depth of flavor, something you don’t get to taste every day. But what provides the ultimate taste, the infinite palatal perception, is the wet-aging process. When applied to beef, fermentation will ensure a three-dimensional experience that is light years away from the chunky, undercooked and chewy leather which another restaurant might sell as “traditional”. Both the animal’s active longevity and the aging process contribute to endless nuttiness and notes of dried mushrooms, perfectly garnished by glorious and salty fat, thereby setting the new Italian standard for bistecca. Fermentation denotes human evolution, while fire represents civilization and community. Sparks are cerebral enlightenment, as Chef Tilli loves to say. It is human genius, the idea that elevates craft to art. This consideration of the past illuminates the future. Through controlled and extreme aging, ocean-like mineral flavors can be perceived in deer, in dishes like fake prawn, where the collagen of the ungulate is garnished with its tartare and some plankton, then paired with the deer’s roasted bone marrow. The taste, texture and roundedness all resemble the crustacean. It is magical.
The Podere Belvedere project is only in its infancy, however. The end goal is to build an entire farm, where vegetables are grown and animals are raised to supply the restaurant and where clean energy is independently produced. Klodiana and Edoardo are on the lookout for investors who share their same values. This is more than just a restaurant, more than just a relaxing hotel that brings guests back to their roots. Podere Belvedere is a way of life, an invitation to listen to ancestral whispers and slow down the pace to clear one’s vision. In a society constantly in pursuit of unachievable perfection, Edoardo and Klodiana embrace imperfection, the unexpected and the unknown. After all, perfection belongs to fairy tales, not to history.