Florence, Italy: Entertaining "Toni & Gionni" Style
Toni in the Selvapiana Cantina
If you LOVE the Italian Renaissance, Florence, the Medici, intrigue, romance and drama, this book is for YOU!!!
A tale of sibling rivalry, forbidden desires, and lies...
Chestnut Cheesecake & Ricciarelli
Ah, to live in the Tuscan countryside...
Residing in a beautiful, historic villa set within idyllic Italian landscapes is the dream of many people. Our friends,Toni and Gionni, live that dream. By the way, Gionni is the son of the famous Pasqualina (who is Pasqualina? To find out, please click link: http://hubpages.com/hub/Our-Perfect-Sunday-in-Tuscany-Meeting-the-Legendary-Pasqualina-the-ideal-Italian-Mamma).
Since Gionni has worked for the Selvapiana winery in the Chianti Rufina for several years, the owners treat him like a family member. Dottore Francesco Giuntini (an exceptional gentleman that I had the pleasure of meeting), is the man who created that particular region of the Chianti and made it what it is today. The dottore lives in a splendid villa set amidst a big, sprawling vineyard; Gionni and Toni live in one of the apartments constructed at the back. I cannot even begin to describe the spectacular views they enjoy from their windows. Best of all is the Selvapiana cantina, which is where visitors can taste the wine in style. Dating back to the sixteenth century, it is full of historical furniture and artwork, including a fresco painted by the Ghirlandaio school.
Since Saturday was my last tour with Taste Florence for the season, and my husband and I are leaving for Brazil in less than ten days, we were invited for lunch yesterday at Selvapiana (another perfect Sunday in Tuscany!). There were nine of us in total, so a long, elegant table was set up in the cantina. It looked like something out of a high-end travel or gourmet magazine, but without any of the snobby pretentiousness. Toni had made crostini with two different toppings: one was a winter pesto made with cavolo nero (black kale) instead of basil, and the other was a sundried tomato, creamy cheese and pine nut concoction that was very delicious. She selected a fragrant Franciacorta (Italian sparkling wine from Brescia) to accompany these tasty treats.
First course consisted of pasta with Ragu di Anatra (duck ragu) made by (drum roll, please...) Pasqualina! The ragu was simply amazing- savory with a slight hint of orange. For the second course, Gionni (and my husband, Douglas) grilled meats outside in an open flame barbecue. I guess cooking meat with big fire is definitely a "man thing" all over the world. We had steak, pork ribs and chicken, accompanied with Brazilian potato salad (made by a Brazilian guest) and fresh greens. Wines to wash all this down were a 2006 Pinot Noir and a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were very good.
Dessert was a surprise. I had made chestnut cream and gave a jar to Toni, who in turn made a chestnut cheesecake with it. Very clever and very yummy. In honor of our imminent departure, she even topped the cake with our initials (how sweet). Another guest brought Ricciarelli (traditional Sienese biscotti) and a Sciacchetra (fine dessert wine) to make our sugar high complete.
Of course, everyone was stuffed when the meal was over, myself included. I looked at all of our friends and felt a pang of sadness that I was leaving. I allowed my eyes to wander around the room and it fell on the almost life-size painting of one of the villa's sixteenth century ancestors- a dark haired woman. I wondered if she, too, had dined in that same room with her friends and family, and if she, too, had to leave the wonderful villa when she got married.
"What's so funny?" my husband asked as he caught me smiling.
"Nothing," I replied. Everything, I thought.
I am really going to miss Italy while we are away. I am already looking forward to our return!
Thanks for reading.
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