To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we had planned a camping weekend in the Casentino Forest Park (Parco Foreste Casentinesi), near Arezzo, in Tuscany. After weeks of heat and shining sun, however, the weather decided that it was time for a sudden and unexpected change. Since it was rainy, cool and windy, we decided that going camping on a mountain was not such a good idea!
After looking into several alternatives, we decided that we would just go try a restaurant in a village nearby, La Locanda del Glicine in Campagnatico. We had always heard good things about it, without ever finding the right occasion to go try it, so we booked a table for 8:30 pm.
When we got to Campagnatico the first surprise was how charming the village itself is: there are amazing views over the surrounding countryside, and almost all of the houses have been restored to bring the faced stone back to the old splendour. The building that houses La Locanda del Glicine is actually one of the few unattractive buildings in the village, with a grey plaster façade, just a few steps from a lovely square with a lively bar with outdoor tables.
The interior, though, is really beautiful. Stone walls, terracotta tiles, beautifully decorated tables with candles and wisteria-themed (“glicine” in Italian) plates and tableware.
To our great surprise, we were the only guests. At first, this felt a bit weird, but it turned out to be a big bonus: we had the entire restaurant to ourselves, and we had the unique opportunity to enjoy a very private and slow candlelit dinner.
The waiter brought us menus in both Italian and English. Actually he brought us the English menus first and we had to ask for the Italian ones. That’s the danger of eating out with someone who is so obviously not Italian. Everyone mistakes you for a foreigner as well! In all fairness, the English menu was translated well. Nothing cringe-inducing like you usually find in in-house translations, but we still prefer to have an Italian menu. The wine list was extensive with a large selection of reasonably priced local wines like Montecucco, Morellino di Scansano as well as the more traditional Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti.
When we first saw the menu, we thought that it was not particularly “fanciful”. All the dishes offered were typical of the local culinary tradition. Being local, we always try to find restaurants that offer innovative and yet authentically Tuscan dishes, somewhat like at La Locanda del Cassero in Civitella Marittima or at L’Antica Fattoria del Grottaione in Montenero d’Orcia. So we essentially chose the dishes that seemed the less banal.
As soon as the aperitivo was brought to our table we understood that with Locanda del Glicine first impressions just don’t work: our first impression could not be farther from the truth. We were served a delightful tiny “arancino di riso” on tomatoes on a teaspoon accompanied by a warm cream of chickpea in a small glass. A basket full of different types of home-made bread and wafers made of various types of flour (chickpeas, chestnut, etc.).
We figured immediately that what makes the restaurant special is not the “dish” itself, but the way it is prepared and presented. The little touches makes even the most banal of the dishes a sublime recipe.
We ordered two antipasti: ravioli di piadina and stuffed fried fiori di zucca, both delicious. The raviolini were accompanied by small cubes of swordfish and two different sauces. The zucchini flowers were amazing: crispy and not greasy with a warm mozzarella heart. They were served with an anchovy sauce.
We skipped the primo, because they all seemed too “normal”. We figured immediately that that had probably been a mistake, because it was clear that despite the plain descriptions, far from being a banal dish, it would have certainly been delicious.
For secondo, I ordered an arrosto in crosta with potatoes and my husband had rabbit. I didn’t try the rabbit because I don’t like it in general, but he loved it. I can certainly say that the roast-beef was amazing. Perfectly cooked, and wrapped in a delicate crust made of thin toasted bread-slices and sage and accompanied by delicious roast potatoes. So different from what you usually find in restaurants when you order arrosto in crosta! So very delicate!
Finally, we had dessert. The dessert menu is mouth-watering just on paper, so we were quite sure we would have loved sweets from the start. My husband chose a raspberry cream with chocolate mousse (amazing!) and I had a surprising selection of different types of sorbet, including San Giovese grape sorbet which was really good. The presentation was fabulous, with several small balls of sorbet with a chocolate wafer and different warm creams including what I believe was warm fresh apricot jam.
We had a bottle of Montecucco red wine Parmoleta and coffee. The coffee was Nespresso (what else?) and our waiter brought over a selection of different flavours to choose from.
The owner came to say hi and to ask whether everything was ok. He is a very charming man, originally from the area, but who has spent most of his life in Northern Italy from what we gathered. He’s now back in Tuscany with his family and is working to promote the local wine, Montecucco D.O.C. through his vineyard Cantina Pieve Vecchia. It was obviously way more than ok: we had had a perfect first anniversary dinner!
It was quite expensive (118 euros for the two of us for a 3 course meal), but the expense was more than justified by the quality of the food and of the service. La Locanda del Glicine is an excellent choice for a special occasion or if you want to enjoy a top-scale meal in a lovely hilltop village in Tuscany.