It was an ordinary Sunday afternoon, but lunch at this restaurant left us feeling like we had just celebrated a grand occasion. Owner/Chef Emiliano takes ordinary ingredients and transforms them into extraordinary dishes.
A youthful, energetic, well-trained chef, Emiliano made the leap to open his own restaurant in 1994 - a move that was wholly justified. The enthusiastic guests that fill the three dining rooms are proof - families, couples, groups of friends are all gathered for a leisurely Sunday lunch of his Tuscan fare, served by an attentive wait staff, in rooms that whisper of a long-ago past. The 16th century building has a warm and inviting atmosphere, each room with a particular charm and patina of old-world hospitality. The heady aromas that filter in from the kitchen only whet the appetite for Emiliano’s offerings of Tuscan specialties revisited with flair and a deep respect for and knowledge of the seasonal ingredients he uses.
We started with an antipasto of a baked zucchini flower, stuffed with ricotta and bathed in a creamy zucchini sauce delicately flavored with fresh mint. A second antipasto was a lovely arrangement of Chianina beef carpaccio accompanied by a Millefoglie of eggplant, Parmesan cheese, and tomato, drizzled with pesto. Emiliano showed off his fanciful twist on a very traditional Tuscan dish – pappa al pomodoro, a thick tomato bread soup, by using it as a very flavorful stuffing for his ravioli, then bathing them a buttery, basil-infused olive oil. Poof! With the magic wand of his imagination he turned a typical poor man’s dish into a rich and elegant first course. And so his magic continued throughout our slowly paced afternoon meal, leaving us to linger between each savory course, relishing the incomparable food and wine of Tuscany.
In Cortona, where there is a constellation of fine restaurants, Osteria del Teatro is surely one of this Tuscan city’s shining stars. Bravissimo!