Locally “famous,” Casa del Prosciutto enjoys a strong reputation. This is the essence of Tuscan cuisine; meat, cured and grilled. It is a convivial little restaurant divided into multiple rooms. The downstairs is friendly and warm, upstairs is obviously overflow, crowded with harsh lighting and little charm. But sit at the entry and you can watch the staff at work, slicing salumi, pouring after dinner digestifs and ferrying large plates of grilled meats to hungry dinners.
For the ultimate authentic experience, start dinner with the platter of Affettati Misti (sliced meats) and crostini. Sample three different cured meats: salty Tuscan style prosciutto, the fatty fennel infused Finochiona (a Tuscan favorite!) and a hard pork salami. Offset these with crostini, the traditional Tuscan chicken liver crostini, which is different from the norm, more sauce than spread, and with milder flavor; or the rich olive oil infused mixed vegetable crostini with diced carrots, artichokes, olives and mushrooms.
A pasta trio is a tasting adventure with three generous platters of pasta for the table to share. Pappardelle alle Lepre, is a hard-to-come-by Tuscan classic, its deep meaty flavors will convince you that it should never disappear. This is wide pasta ribbons with tender braised wild meat, rich and flavorful, as only wild game can be. By contrast a Tagliatelle all’Ortolana has thin delicate noodles in a fresh flavored tomato sauce and sautéed vegetables including bell peppers, zucchini and spinach. It has a fresh vibrant flavor with just a hint of spice.
Secondi come from the grill – hearty portions of grilled meat, for a fraction of the price you would pay in Florence. Get one for two and share. The meat is grilled simply, it’s flavors unmasked. Lamb is tasty and flavorful, the thin chops nicely seared on both sides, although this rare meat lover would have preferred the meat a little less well done. Veal is much better, a thick veal chop, just a hint of rosiness inside and with a nice rim of fat on the edges. The meat is soft and tender, and the flavors delicious and pure.
Do as the Tuscans do, and forego dessert for a digestif. You aren’t hungry after this meat-lovers ménage and the desserts don’t merit the effort. Instead smile smugly; just a few kilometers outside of Florence, it feels like another world, a rustic wonderland where the house Chianti comes from the vineyard just up the street and a decadent silky gorgonzola style cheese was made by a local cheesemonger.
Via dei Bosconi, 58, Fiesole. www.casadelprosciutto.com; tel: 055 548830
Get it!: Pappardelle alle Lepre (Pappardelle with Wild Hare), Vitello alla Griglia (Grilled Veal)
Signature Dish: Affetatti Misti (Sliced Meats and Bread with Spreads), Penne with Sausage and Eggplant, Grilled Meats