Thursday, April 15, 2010


Il Cantinone - via di Santo Spirito , 6/r tel 055-218898
I have been walking past trattoria Il Cantinone for years and finally I decided to descend into the ‘big cellar’ (translation of name) for a good Tuscan feed, which is what you expect to get as the black rooster (symbol of Chianti Classico, the most famous wine consortium in Chianti Tuscany) is displayed next to the name of the trattoria. In the end we didn’t eat a complete Tuscan dinner, but we could have done, I left very happy with everything - the food, the price & the great service.
Situated below street level, in an old cellar kitchen of the Capponi family palace, the fabulous raw brick vaulted ceilings date to the Medieval period and the atmosphere is relaxed & welcoming. The menus are cased in wooden folders, adding a nice touch to the rustic structure. The trattoria is owned by three brothers from Calabria, which may also explain the existence of other regional sauces thrown in for for diversity!
To start: a plate of grilled vegetables with bocconcini (little balls of buffalo mozzarella cheese) - excellent, a plate of spaghetti all’abbruzzese (Nduja & cheese) – excellent. To continue: Ossobuco with mushrooms & a side of spinach - excellent, finally, fillet of pork cinta senese with a strip of lardo di colonnata melted on top & placed on a bed of spinach – good.
House wine and water & the total price was 55euro.
As I was walking out, the cheesecake looked good but we had already decided that we had earnt gelato at our favourite place, all in the name of quality control, to make sure that it was up to the usual high standard!
CINTA SENESE – this is a native Tuscan breed of pig, the only one to have survived extinction. We can be sure that it has been around at least since the 1300’s, as it features in my favourite fresco from the 1300’s – the Good & Bad Government Cycle in the town hall of Siena . It has black hair with a white strip (from which the name derives, cinta = belt) & is leaner that most other pork.
LARDO DI COLONNATA – the most famous lard in the world! It comes from Colonnata, a little village in the mountains near Carrara, a stone's throw from the Tuscan coast, where the most famous white marble is quarried still today after centuries (used for David by Michelangelo). The secret to the great tasting lard is due to the six months curing process in the locally made marble vats, the quality of the product due to taking it from the back of the pig & the spices used. Sea salt is placed at the bottom of the marble vat (this will dry out the lard) & then, like making a lasagne, layers of lard are placed between layers of mixed garlic, herbs such as rosemary, spices and ground black pepper (the flavours are soaked up by the lard making it so yummy). They have been making it like this for centuries, the smart quarriers of Colonnata taking advantage of the primary resources surrounding them. It is the perfect thing to place over meat, or on warm toasted bread.
OSSOBUCO – braised veal shanks, a dish which originated in Milan. In Lombardy it is often served with risotto. Its name translates into English as ‘bone hole’ & indeed one of the tastiest things about it is eating the marrow in the bone’s hole!
NDUJA - this is a spicy calabrian sausage that is made from smoked pork, pepper, onion, wine & seasoning. It is made from using meat from head minus the cheek, other trimmings from the body and fatback (fat under the back of the pig). All of this is roasted with red hot peppers which makes it super spicy & delicious. You can buy this in a jar all mashed up and it is great to keep at home for when you get a take away pizza Margherita to smear on top of it! 

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