Restaurant: Arnolfo Ristorante
Location: Colle di Val d’Elsa, Italy
Date: June 16 & 23, 2011
Rating: Awesome, but hard to find
Just fifteen minutes from our villa and Siena lies the city of Colle di Val d’Elsa and its two star rated Michelin restaurant, Arnolfo. So we went twice! This is an amazing restaurant in a gorgeous location atop the old city. The rub, however, is getting there. The first time the GPS insisted we drive into a masonry wall (closed road). We gave up with that, parked, and ended up walking over a mile, including taking the elevator up to the old city. The walk back wasn’t no fun either and the staff told us that to actually drive here you have to go 6km out of your way to the next town and then come back by one particular approach — but then there is no parking in the old city.
So the next time, feeling all smart, I tried to park in the “close” (only 500m) lot below the old city. But the first entrance I tried was so narrow that I almost got stuck and had to back up my 9 seater van down 200m of alley and around a 90 degree turn — only took 30 minutes and soaked through my suit in the 88 degree humid weather. Then we had to hike up the half mile.
But it was worth it.
They have a gorgeous patio which far from “being in the middle of a city” looks out on the Tuscan hillside.
Even the non-view direction is lovely.
Grissini, first of several bread courses.
The menu on June 16 (the last of the “spring menu”).
And the new “summer” menu on June 23, as we luckily straddled the change.
Stating with a little prosecco to cool off.
Then comes a tray of amuses. From left to right. Green pea mouse, tomato stuffed with mozzarella, apple disc with prawn, veal croquet, and gorgonzola and fig jam sandwich. These were all good, but the last was incredible.
Like most great restaurants Arnolfo caters to every restriction. This is a variant amuse plate for vegetarians.
For example this beet and goat cheese mini.
Bread course number two, tomato bread and with lardo (sliver of pig fat).
And for those not so into the pig, the one on the right is onion.
Nor are the gluten free left out. Various potato and rice triscuits!
I’ve come to like Vernaccia, which is a D.O.C. white from San Gimignano. Very light, but with more flavor than a Pinot Grigio.
“Scampi, Goose Liver Escalope, Strawberries.”
“Sea Bass, Strawberries.” A variant for the shellfish impaired.
My notes failed me a little here, but I think it’s some kind of fish (possibly a pork belly though) in a pea soup.
“Red mullets, Peas, Silver skin Onions.”
“Asparagus, Ricotta Cheese, Eggs.” Now this was an interesting dish. The white asparagus were grilled and wrapped in pancetta (bacon). The white and yellow stuff is deconstructed egg (yolk and white as powder). The ricotta is in the upper right and was delicious. The powder wasn’t as successful as the bonus egg, shown below.
This is more or less a coddled egg. I dipped the asparagus for extra umph.
This was a small production local Chianti Classico that the sommeler recommended. Good too, and like 30E. Try to find a decent wine at that price at a French 2 star!
“Guinea-Fowl, Chick-peas, I.G.P. Tuscan Ham.” Good stuff.
“Spinach soup with sea bass, tomato.”
“Perlina Aubergines, Tomato, Watermelon, Buffalo Mozzarella I.G.P.”
“Prawns, Peaches, Yellow Pepper.” Yummy. The pairing of the delicate shellfish was delicious with both the fruit and the peppers.
Arnolfo has very nice presentation, which I couldn’t photo every aspect of.
“Goose Liver, Red Onions, Spices, Cherries.” Oh wow yum. And that is some kind of cheese foam/ice cream on top. This was really good stuff.
And two extra goose liver preps for good measure. A sort of Napoleon and a little pistachio coated truffle, solid fois inside.
“Rabbit, Bloack Olives, Ratatouille.” Not your everyday Ratatouille. Notice the white asparagus too.
“Tortelli with chicken from Val d’Orcia, with asparagus and red pepper soup.” These are serious homemade pastas.
“Tortelli, Red Onions from Certaldo, White Beans from Sorana.”
“Mezzelune pasta, Courgettes flowers, Wedge shells.”
“Tagliolini, Rabbit, Black Olives.” In the front, out of focus, are discs of rabbit meat to go with the chunks of bunny in the pasta.
“Ravioli, Aubergines, Ewe’s Ricotta, Red Pepper.”
“The 2006 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva is a pretty, juicy red laced with cherries, dried flowers, tobacco and underbrush. The tannins dry out a touch on the finish, which is the only thing that keeps the score from going higher. Still, this forward, fruit-driven Chianti should drink nicely over the next few years. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2016. “
“Cod, with onions.” And some other stuff.
“Fish soup, Crustaceans, Mollucs, Vegetables.”
“John Dory, Asparagus, Datterini Tomatoes, Capers from Pantelleria.”
“Dentex, Gazpacho, Aubergines.”
“Swordfish, Roasted Peppers, Candied Tomatoes.” You can see that each dish is quite complex.
A brunello recommended by the sommelier.
“I.G.P. Chianina Veal Steak and cheek.”
“I.G.P. Chianina Veal Tartar and vegetables.”
I didn’t used to be into tartar, but it’s really been growing on me over the last several years. Quail egg on top.
“I.G.P. Chiania Veal Steak, Potatoes.”
“Cinta Senese Suckling Pig, Porchetta, Leg, Loin, Leaf Cabbage, Beetroots.”
This town evidently produces 14% of the world’s crystal. Italian shopping hours being what they are, despite three visits, we never saw one open.
Ah the suffering involved in dining in one of the world’s great wine regions. 93 points from Parker. “Consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini has turned out a beautiful wine at this historic estate, a property which he speaks of in effusive terms. Talenti’s sublime 2001 Brunello Pian di Conte exhibits a deep, translucent ruby color. It opens with captivating, vibrant aromatics, with notes of freshly cut roses, raspberries and licorice. Gorgeously expressive yet delicate on the palate, it offers layers of dark fruit, earthiness and sweet oak supported by a refined, classic structure, with exceptional length and fine, silky tannins on the fresh finish. It is a superb effort. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2021.”
We are assaulted by a battery of pre-desserts. Vanilla ice cream with cherry rhubarb “soup.”
“Almond Mascarpone, pistachio ice cream.”
“Ricotta Cheese, Orange, Honey.” Tart and sweet.
“Selection of Tuscan Sheep’s-milk and Goat’s-milk Cheeses.”
I can’t even remember what this one was.
“Zuccotto, Star Anis, Coffee, Fennel Ice Cream.”
“Grand Dessert Assortment.” Because one isn’t enough. Chocolate cake, Passionfruit sauce. Coffee something. Strawberry flan. A bit of the above Zuccotto, and something else.
“Zuccotto, Pinenuts, Alkermes, Chocolate Sorbet, Fleur del Sel.” The central thing was basically a meringue.
“Fruit and custard mille fueile.”
“Apricots, Almonds, Lavender Ice Cream.”
We also had a birthday (mine more or less), so there was this bonus cake!
And just a few petite fours. Lemon jelly in the center. A little fruit tart on the right.
More, on the second night. Berry tart. Ricotta vanilla dome. Pistachio burger. Blackberry mouse. Almond marzipan.
Our second meal here was slightly better than the first for some reason, but both were top notch. Service was spectacular all around. Highly recommended as a very updated medium modernist take on Tuscan cuisine. The quality of local ingredients was impeccable, and they know how to modernize playfully without letting the techniques get out of control.