|Orazio overseeing the dinner.|
|You had to know where to look, or you would never find it!|
|Cantuccini and Vin Santo|
The Chianti region is very similar to the mountains of southwest Virginia, dipping into the foothills at its southern boundary.
As far as I could tell these people are 'living well'. They enjoy life fully. This includes the butcher, the baker and the owners of the beautiful sprawling properties that have been lovingly restored.We didn't lack for good dining, and splurged on a couple of over the top meals, but the one I enjoyed most was recommended by our hosts. They drew a map. There was no sign-not even a name. It was the restaurant of Orazio, the town baker. Our host told us it was one of the last truly authentic Tuscan dining experiences, where we would find a mix of the people in the village having lunch.We finally found the door after passing it more than once. Inside, down a little hall, up a couple of steps and we walked into what could have been the dining room of a modest home.
We had been told we would be greeted by a very stern look--and we were, but it turned into a beautiful smile. This was the daughter of Orazio. She brought water and wine and asked if we wanted pomodoro or bolognese. That was it--our only choice of the meal.
I could see into the kitchen. She began to peel potatoes and pulled out different meats from the local butcher. The meal went on for three courses when Orazio came in--90 year old Orazio--the baker of the village, dressed in his white baking coat. He reached into the bottom of a sideboard and pulled out an unlabeled bottle of Vin Santo , a very sweet dessert wine, and brought it to the table with a plate of cantuccini he had just baked. They were small biscotti to dip into the vin santo. For other diners a basket of fresh peaches was passed.
The meal couldn't have been fresher or more local, and I think you can imagine the flavor. Everyone had an air of contentment--happiness with their life. As the diners finished their meals they stepped into the kitchen to pay. No check, no cash register, just money on the counter and a grazie and ciao to the cook.
They were all 'living well'! In that moment they were contented with their lives, and so was I. There is a lesson to be learned.