It was one of those winter days, crisp and bright, with a determined sun piercing through the mist. After wandering the streets of nearby Castiglione del Lago, we decided to head toward the Hostaria La Tufa, located in the town of Ossaia, near Cortona. Inside, a pleasant warmth welcomed us, not just from the wood-burning hearth, but also from the greeting we received from Emanuela, the owner and chef at this quaint hostaria, opened thirty years ago by her parents. After purchasing the 18th century farm structure, Serafino, her father, converted it one room at a time into dining space. The old stone and brick walls of what were once the old wine cellars now enclose three dining rooms where tables are covered in rustic linens and the walls are adorned with old farm implements. The granary above became their living space. And creating delectable dishes and welcoming guests to their dining rooms became their life.
Emanuela has worked side by side with her parents from the beginning. Her mother, Angellina, exercised her culinary imagination daily, and although she has passed on, her recipes are still cherished and draw people to come back again and again. We especially enjoyed her Rosetto dell’amore, flat pieces of pasta coiled like a rose, filled with a béchamel sauce of cheese and ham, then baked in the oven. A second course of roasted duck for me, and stewed rabbit for my husband, proved hearty and most satisfying for a winter lunch. Their sweet, crunchy tozzetti are made in house, and when dipped in vin santo, soften to a melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
Pizza is a popular offering in the evenings and draws a large crowd, to dine inside or on their panoramic terrace, weather-permitting. I imagine just about anything one selects on the menu would please one’s taste buds, but to make it easier for their foreign guests to make a choice, Emanuela has produced a menu with photographs of their various offerings. Then again, here at La Tufa, choosing is the challenge. Eating is the easy part!