Every visit to Italy that I make requires careful planning to be sure I’m able to dine at all of my tried and true favorite restaurants. Still, I always enjoy finding a new place to add to my list and on a recent trip to Tuscany I had one of the best dining experiences ever at a restaurant called Pane, Vino & Zucchero, which means Bread, Wine and Sugar. That sounded like a winning combination to me, and I am so glad I discovered this place!
Located in the hill town of Montepulciano called and rated #1 out of over 80 restaurants in the city according to tripadvisor.com, the restaurant is tucked away on a quiet pedestrian street near the center. I arrived shortly after the restaurant opened, and though there were not many other diners at that time, within a half an hour the place was completely full. Note to self: be sure to make a reservation next time, just in case.
I started with a typical antipasto of meats and cheeses, with garnishes of fresh mandarin oranges, kiwi fruit and olives, and accompanied by delicious Tuscan bread. And of course I had to have a glass of the famous red Montepulciano wine. The pasta course came next, and I have to say that it was one of the most unique dishes I have ever tasted in Italy. It was a pici pasta, a hand-rolled Tuscan specialty that resembles very thick spaghetti. It was topped with a ragu of fennel sausage and bits of dried apricot. I would kill to know how to make it – it was a wonderful combination of salty and sweet, and there is simply nothing like freshly made pasta. I could dine of this dish several times a week! Fantastico! I also tried a side dish of a savory, baked flan made with parmesan cheese that was also wonderful.
Finally there was dessert. To be honest, I often skip desserts in Italian restaurants in favor of stopping for gelato after dinner, but one of the offerings on the menu got my attention: pear-cinnamon cake served warm, topped with a sauce made from white chocolate and orange, and garnished by slices of Sicilian blood oranges and little chunks of dark chocolate. Mamma mia! After almost having gotten emotional over my pasta, I started eating this exquisite dessert and made my waiter laugh out loud when I said in Italian, “I just want to LIVE here in your restaurant!”
I would drive 100 kilometers out of my way to dine here again, but thankfully, I’m planning a trip to the Montepulciano area again in June, so if you’re in the area, you know you’ll find me back at Pane, Vino & Zucchero. But take my word for it, this is a place you do not want to miss!