By Mario Batali
Off of the beaten path ‘tween Firenze and San Gimignano, Arezzo lies about an hour and a half drive northeast of Montelpulciano, just west of the Umbria and Le Marche borders and just east of the Chianti Classico production zone. Birthplace of Petrarch, Vasari and Michelangelo, Arezzo has a huge art following and is a gastro tourist destination unheralded by the Under the Tuscan Sun set.
Funghi porcini in the fall and the spring are among the best menu items as well as the schiacciata all’uva (a flat focaccia, pressed with fresh grapes and fennel seeds), magnificent cave aged pecorino di fossa and sensational prosciutto toscano, often from cinghiale (wild boar) are ubiquitous in ristoranti and trattorie alike.
My faves in town are, in no particular order Buca di San Francesco via san francesco 1, tel 0575 23271. 14th century frescoes on the original walls create an almost disneyfied atmosphere in this locale more or less defined as much by the simple classic cooking as by its historical guest book filled with names like Dali, Chaplin and eurotrash royalty from the mid 20th century. Zolfini beans and especially cauliflower dishes are what rocked my world on my recent visit, but the chicken livers all’aretina, with sage and vin santo and the chicken “in porchetta” were both delicious as well.
La Torre di Gnicche piaggia san martino tel 0575 352035. Not so much a restaurant as an enoteca this place revolves more around the wine then the kitchen… which is great for me as I love the colli aretini wines. Great salumi and a killer goat cheese from the val tiberina along with definitive tomato soup thickened with day old bread and drizzled with fragrant oil called pappa al pomodoro will make a great snack to disguise your afternoon wine moments from your non drinking friends (if you have any).
For a great coffee bar there is Caffe dei Constanti on Piazza San Francesco that has been around since 1806 and feels timeless in its warmth and beauty and my fave pastry shop is Pasticceria de Cenci on via de cenci for its amazing selection of tiny bites of sweet toscanity.
Just west in a localita called Sogna-Ambra near Bucine there is a little jewel box of a trattoria called Le Antiche Sere tel 055 998149 where a creative take on Arezzan and non tuscan classics create a delicious meal and the opportunity to spend the night in one of 3 sweet little apartments make it a great romantic stop on a car tour, there is not train service!!!