On Tuesday in Tuscany, the Seattle folks visited Volterra and San Gimignano, and Michael and I drove to serene Badia a Passignano to have lunch at Osteria di Passignano, which is owned by the Antinori wine family. The restaurant is located in one of the buildings of an ancient monastery that was established in 395 AD. Other parts of the monastery are still inhabited by monks of the Vallombrosian Order, a reformed branch of the Benedictines that specialized in forestry and growing grapes. The Antinoris, who have been making wine since 1395 and are famous for their Tignanello and Solaia, grow the grapes near the village and use the old wine cellars of the abbey to age Badia a Passignano wine.
We were escorted into the cool and beautiful restaurant and were lucky to be seated in the middle dining room, which was my favorite, probably because of the framed dried flowers and herbs hanging on the yellow walls.
You won’t be surprised to learn that we each ordered one of the two tasting menus with wine pairings. One of the things that impressed me the most about the restaurant was the impeccable service—friendly and knowledgeable waiters who were never intrusive but always there when we needed something. We expected to enjoy the Antinori wine pairings, and we did. At the end of the meal we each bought a glass of Solaia, which we had never tasted and which was sublime!
The amuse bouche was a trio of small bites, the most memorable of which was a panzanella foam (panzanella is a Tuscan salad made from day-old bread, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil), which was refreshing and playful. I especially loved the crunchy breadcrumbs at the bottom of the cup, although I still wonder how the chef kept them from getting soggy!
For my first course, I had a deconstructed fish soup, which was a small bowl of fish soup and a cone of fried fish—the same types of fish that were in the soup. So clever! Michael had a foam of something green that we can’t remember. It was accompanied by dried pears and bread stuffed with pear, which we clearly remember and which were great.
For my second course, I had tortelli pasta, which was delicious. I have no idea what was in it because unfortunately for Michael, he had duck cannelloni, which was so stunning that I refused to give the plate back. So he ate my ravioli and I ate his cannelloni! (I did give him a bite of cannelloni!) YUM!!!
For my third course, I had a lovely breadcrumb-crusted veal with basil cream, and Michael had pigeon, which had a perfectly crisped skin and was juicy and delicious.
We then shared our desserts. His was six cheeses served with honey and dried fruit bread. Mine was something chocolately with ice cream, but I forgot to take a picture of it and I can no longer remember what it was. Since it was chocolate, it must have been good!
Our experience reminded us of many meals with wine pairings at Palladio at the Barboursville Winery near Charlottesville, Virginia. In Badia a Passignano we ate wonderful food and had a wonderful afternoon, and then we went home and took a nap. If you’re in Tuscany and can get a reservation, don’t miss this restaurant!