martedì 7 luglio 2015

Gli Attortellati: Eat Your Way to Happiness at this Farm-to-Table Restaurant

by Laura Tressel

"I use the kitchen as a pathway to achieve happiness" -Ferran Adrià

Located in the Maremma region, about a 2 hour drive south of Florence, is a little piece of heaven. Gli Attortellati is a family owned and run restaurant that offers a "Zero Kilometer" menu- meaning the food that they serve is made of ingredients grown and raised in their own backyard. This Farm-to-Table concept is not something you can find within a city, but it is well worth the venture out into the countryside to experience. I've eaten at many restaurants and tasted some amazing food throughout Italy, but this was without a doubt the most unique and genuine dining experience i've had.

Gli Attortellati is open throughout the year, and their menu changes with the seasons. You will find different dishes in the winter months than in the summer, since they have to use what is available at the time. All the vegetables, fruits, grains and greens are grown right behind the restaurant, and the animals are raised there as well. They make their own bread, and the cheese is produced at another family farm close by. The menu is fixed, and consists of 4 appetizers, 2 first courses, 1 main course with a side dish, and a dessert. The meal lasts 3-4 hours, and with each progressive course you feel as if you can't possibly eat any more. But somehow, you keep lifting the fork because the flavors, aromas, and visuals of the food are just too much to resist.

Here is the dinner menu I experienced the night of my transformative visit. Because I am vegetarian, I received special menu items in place of the meat dishes, but since the rest of the group ate meat, I was able to see it all.

Appetizers (Antipasti):

  • Platter with pecorino, 3 different types of prosciutto, crostini with various spreads, and onions glazed with peproncino, cloves, and cinnamon to accompany the cheese. 
  • Farro salad with vegetables and herbs 
  • Fried eggplant dumplings filled with cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella 
  • Savory pancakes filled with pheasant (for the meat eaters) and zucchini with a "dolce e forte/sweet and strong" sauce with pine nuts for vegetarians
First Courses (Primi):
  • Aquacotta- a soup particular to the Maremma region of Tuscany, made with bread, vegetables, and fresh herbs. 
  • Tortelli filled with ricotta and Swiss chard, topped with butter and sage. (This was the best item of the night. The head chef, Mamo, was making the dough for the pasta when we arrived at the restaurant. The concentration of his craft showed through the extremely thin pockets of pasta, stuffed with the rich filling. The tortelli melted in my mouth, something I didn't think you could say about pasta before that night.)
Main Course (Secondo):
  • Meat: Roe deer with roasted vegetables
  • Vegetarian: Polenta with sautéed zucchini, eggplant, and carrots
Dessert (Dolci):
  • Blueberry tart with ricotta whipped cream

Aside from the unique dishes that make this restaurant stand out, the flavors are so fresh that if you close your eyes while eating, you can almost see the aromas of the herbs and cheese, and you can tell that the vegetables were picked earlier that day. Watching Chef Mamo fold and roll out the pasta dough in his open kitchen added another level of magic to the experience. The whole operation is so transparent that you don't wonder about the origin or preparation of a single dish. Along with the food, the service and atmosphere of the restaurant provide an unforgettable evening. There is indoor seating, where you can watch all the cooking and preparation of the food, or seating outside in the garden, underneath the trees and surrounded by the country. Gli Attortellati is a restaurant that upholds the values of authentic, fresh farm cooking, while creating unique culinary masterpieces that make it impossible not to finish all 8 courses. 

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