Fattoria di Maiano 

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From all the outward trappings, Fattoria di Maiano has all the makings of a tourist trap: tours of their olive oil production, an educational farm, even a “safari.” The majestic old family villa has been converted into room where guests can stay, and numerous large dining rooms and a terrace offer beautiful views over the olive groves and the foothills of Florence.

Yet the restaurant proves popular also with the Italians. On holidays it fills up with entire families celebrating together. Unfortunately you might also find a Globus tour bus parked outside. But for the most part it appears to be a genuine family run restaurant in a spectacular setting. One could imagine how after hundreds of years the family has needed to adapt and change to keep the land and the property in the family. And it is obvious that everyone here works hard to offer guests a special experience.

The menu is mainly traditional. Fresh fried coccoli come out in large bowls for everyone at the table. Cut one open, drape a piece of flavorful fatty prosciutto over it, and a dollop of tangy stracchino, and mangi! It strikes all the right notes. The hot dough melts the fat of the prosciutto, bringing forth its flavors. The cool tang of the stracchino offsets the salt of the meat and the dough. While you will find coccoli elsewhere, they don’t usually come with prosciutto this good. The prosciutto here is sliced thin, offering that balance of salty and sweet  and with a generous rim of fat, this is prosciutto to savor. The coccoli are equally important, and these are delicious, generous in size, and fried to a deep golden hue, they are very crispy on the outside, and well-seasoned with salt. They are addictive, but eat too many and you will miss out on the other dishes.

Potato gnocchi turn bright green with the addition of flavorful basil in the dough. This adds another layer of flavor to the dumplings, while thankfully, keeping the light texture that distinguish the best gnocchi. Ragu is redolent with rosemary and herbs, and the intoxicating aromas of roasted meat. You can smell the sauce from across the table.

Book in advance, and you can try one of their homemade pastas. Slightly firm ravioli come stuffed with molten pecorino. The slightly chewy pasta is topped with chopped onions ever so lightly glazed. The nutty flavors of the cheese dominate, while the sweet tangy onions help cut the richness. Both salty and sweet at the same time, this is definitely a modern dish, proving that this is a restaurant that while very traditional isn’t afraid to innovate.

Signature Dishes: Homemade Tortelli filled with Melted Pecorino

Get It!:  Coccoli con Stracchino e Crudo (Coccoli with Stracchino and Prosciutto), Gnocchi or pasta with Ragu  

Via Benedetto da Maiano, 11, Fiesole. www.fattoriadimaiano.com; tel: 055 59432

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