Just south of Florence, at the beginning of the road that meanders through the Chianti region of Tuscany, we pass through Impruneta, a town renowned for its terracotta production that goes back centuries. It was here that Brunelleschi had the tiles made for the cupola of the famous Duomo in Florence. We have chosen to stop for lunch at Ristorante Montebuoni, known for its remarkable cuisine and for the expansive views of the valley. On this mid-September day, a veil of mist hangs suspended over the countryside, but all the sunshine we need is to be found in the restaurant’s interior.
A welcome glass of prosecco, chilled and sparkling, warms our spirits as we lunch in the large airy dining room where each table is graced with a delightful fresh flower arrangement, each one unique. A second dining area is cozy – its wall crowned with rich wooden cabinets displaying an immense assortment of select wines – a place that beckons one to linger.
After an antipasto of assorted warm crostini and salumi, we enjoy two Tuscan specialties that one should have when traveling in these parts – one is the Tagliata, that delectable beefsteak sliced and served au jus with olive oil and peppercorns and the other, Peposo, a hearty beef stew, simmered ever so slowly in Chianti wine. This is a dish that was made famous, in fact, by Brunelleschi who would have this stew prepared and slowly cooking in the same ovens as the terracotta bricks, ready at the end of the day for his workers. Emilio explains that the Peposo made today differs from the original recipe as it includes the added ingredient of tomato concentrate. Tomatoes were introduced to Italy only after the discovery of America! Our accompanying wine, of course, is a classic Chianti, ruby red in color with a hint of berries in its robust flavor.
Although there are many desserts to choose from, we find two citrus choices to be the perfect ending to this totally satisfying meal – an orange parfait and a lemon tart, both light and creamy. Fati, our waiter, has treated us to the sunshine of his smile while Emilio, the chef, has made us forget the somewhat gloomy weather. We look out the panoramic windows and notice that a landscape dressed in pearly gray can still show off its finery. It has been a beautiful afternoon.