La Toppa is a favorite of the ex-queen of Holland, she is a regular visitor and the family regularly books events here. On summer evenings La Toppa opens its doors and the tables spill out onto the medieval stone streets of the old borgo. Colorful flags decorate the town and create a festive atmosphere. It almost seems as if the town is La Toppa, or perhaps, more accurately, La Toppa is the town.
Walk by the kitchen and you are assailed with the aromas of steak searing on the grill; and sure enough, as you are seated you will see hefty on-the-bone steaks going out to table after table. Despite this, the homemade pastas are truly where La Toppa excels. Ravioli con Ricotta e Spinaci (Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli) exhibit rare delicacy; the pasta is tender and supple, so sheer you can see right through it, allowing the pure sweet mellow flavors of ricotta and spinach to come through. Glazed with only melted butter and sage, which lends a savory richness and almost woodsy aromas, the flavors of the ingredients and the delicacy of the pasta take center stage.
Curly edged Pappardelle con Anatra (Wide Noodles with Duck Ragu) is the exact opposite, but perhaps even better. The sauce has incredible depth and complexity. You can taste the rich meatiness of braised duck, sweet notes of caramelized vegetables, and warm undercurrents of juniper and winter spices. The duck melts into the sauce and the thick noodles stand up well to it; parmesan is absolutely unnecessary.
Grilled meats don’t disappoint, lamb is a nice alternative to steak and a perfect companion to the local wines. The meat is flavorful, cooked just through, and is offset by a bright squeeze of lemon. But, much better yet is osso bucco or braised wild boar, marinated for three days before long slow cooking, the lean meat becomes tender and soft. It is cloaked in a rich tomato sauce laden with minced vegetables. Delicious sautéed spinach is the perfect accompaniment.
The wine list is composed primarily of Chianti with particular focus to producers in and around Castellina in Chianti. Even the house wine is pleasant and quaffable, not too heavy, and with plenty of fruit. The restaurant buys it from a local grower, purchasing the entire production and putting their own name on the label. It is food-friendly table wine; something that you would be happy to drink day in and day out, should you be lucky enough to live here.
Desserts are also homemade, and while the menu carries the usual standards, the execution displays unusual attention to detail. Panna Cotta is creamy and just firm, but the chocolate sauce that tops is a rich chocolate ganache made with plenty of pure bittersweet chocolate, instead of the bottled syrup you find at most places. Zuppa Inglese is particularly refined, served in a neat square, a layered confection of thin stripes of liquer soaked sponge cake, custard, and cream; each layer in balance, and the sum surprisingly light.
Signature Dishes: Ravioli con Ricotta e Spinaci con Burro e Salvia (Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Butter and Sage),
Get It!: Pappardelle con Anatra (Pasta with Duck), Cinghiale (Braised wild Boar)
Historical center San Donato in Poggio; Chianti. http://www.anticatrattorialatoppa.com; tel: 055 8072900. Closed Mondays.