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Mix it up: look out on menus for Panzanella, a traditional Tuscan salad
Food & WineLifestyle

Don’t feel like cooking tonight?
Here’s where to eat out in Tuscany

By Andrea Giusti

Another night, another meal to prepare. Yet, even a chef like me needs to break free from the kitchen from time to time. No problem, Tuscany is one of the best places in Italy for dining out. But where should you go? Here are some of my favourite places to eat …

Ristorante Cateni

Via dei Pratini 19, Orgia. Tel +39 0577-342028 Web: dalcateniaorgia.it

The second generation of the Cateni family run this friendly restaurant in the village of Orgia, south west of Siena. Every dish on the menu is homemade and the flavours are authentically Tuscan – try the Boar in sweet and sour sauce with cannellini beans. The desserts are particularly good and if you can’t make up your mind there’s always the option of The Taste, a trio of whatever tempts you on the menu. This restaurant opened with just a few tables, now there is large covered terrace. But its increasing popularity means you’d be advised to book if you want to eat here in summer.

Dario Cecchini

Via XX July 11, Panzano in Chianti. Tel: +39 055 852020 Web: dariocecchini.com

Dario Cecchini, the eighth generation to run a renowned family butchers in Panzano, in the heart of Chianti, doesn’t just sell meat to take home and cook, he’s also opened up his “kitchen” to diners. And he’s gaining a great reputation for his nose-to-tail cooking on an open fire. Dario also features vegetarian options on the menu – but veggies should expect to share a joke or two with this friendly carnivore. Indeed, there’s a convivial atmosphere about this relaxed restaurant; some of the tables are communal, so you might make some new friends as you dine. Whatever time of year, you’ll need to book. It’s a bit pricey but worth the money.

Butcher Dario Ceccini serves prime cuts. Photo: Hermes Jankone/Alamy

Ristorante La Speranza

Strada Provinciale 541, Localita La Speranza. Tel: +39 0577 929696

Follow in the footsteps of the locals, who love this simple, old-fashioned and typically Tuscan restaurant near Casole d’Elsa, west of Siena. (Though that also means you should book before you go.) My favourite dish is the signature Fiorentina steak, but I’d recommend any of the beef on the menu because the meat here is among the tastiest I’ve tried in Tuscany. Next door is a little bar-café that sells good sandwiches – a great place for a quick lunch stop or to stock up for a picnic.

Osteria del Gatto

Via San Marco 8, Siena. Tel: +39 0577 287133

Let me tell you a secret. Tucked away in a back street in Siena is a small, simple osteria that serves superb traditional Tuscan fare. If you happen to visit when fish is on the menu you’re in for a treat – to my mind, this is the best place to eat fish in the city. But what I really like is the way they constantly change the menu, almost weekly, according to the season and what produce is available. However, don’t make the mistake of asking for a cappuccino after dinner, such odd foreign habits won’t be well received – here you must eat like an Italian.

Try the local Fiorentina steak. Photo: Richard Coulstock/Alamy

Ceppo

Via Cassia Nord 3. Tel: +39 0577 593387

This casual restaurant on the road from Siena to Monteriggioni packs a punch with its Tuscan flavours. Choose from the various prepared dishes on display to assemble a quick lunch (breakfast is also served) – meat, cheese, pasta, they even serve tripe here. This is a real local haunt, so you might have trouble getting a table at the weekend. Only open for lunch.

Also try…

Osteria Mangiafoco in Piombino (Via Francisco Ferrer 10, +39 0565 880980) for the octopus. Liberamente Osteria on the Piazza del Campo 27 (+39 0577 274733, no good English), liberamenteosteria.it) for a large aperitivo in a fantastic location. In Tuscany, an aperitivo isn’t just a drink, it comes with snacks – indulge in the generous version served here and you might find you’re too full for dinner.

Andrea Giusti is the owner of Il Fiasco, a private chef service based in Siena. To book, contact il_fiasco@hotmail.com.

To Tuscany has a fantastic range of villas across the region.

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