This time Carlo Macchi takes the Stand:
Every time I go to the Pesce D'Oro, on the shore of Chiusi's disquieting but beautiful lake, I wonder, "Why?"
Why is a place with wonderful food, an ample bright welcoming hall, exacting service, a wine list to die for (especially considering the low prices), and most of all with classic local cuisine, not in all of the restaurant guides, especially Slowfood's Guida Osterie?
Every time I ask myself the same question, and every time I can't come up with an answer. Perhaps we can together.
To begin, the location, next to a lake that looks like it formed due to a meteor that came straight down, burning the vegetation on the banks, and was then removed by a giant hand. Lake Chiusi is like this, as you can see for yourself if you drive five minutes from the Chiusi-Chianciano exit on the highway.
Around the lake there are several embarcaderos, one directly in front of the Pesce D'Oro, a restaurant that has been there forever, and is now in the hands of Simone Agostinelli, the last of a glorious line that has satisfied generations of famished. These would arrive on Sundays for the classic "three antipasti, three first courses, three main courses with sides, fruit, dessert, coffee, and coffee killer (a stiff digestivo)" meal. Now the clientele has reduced its expectations but the restaurant has not yet (thank Heavens) lost its love of substantial portions, big enough to satisfy even those like me.
Before being satisfied, however, we must enter. The hall is large, brightly lit, and though it may seem slightly impersonal upon entering one forgets that when looking at the perfectly laid out, nicely spaced tables with their checked tablecloths. As soon as you sit, you are provided with a menu revolving around lake fish and other Tuscan specialties.
If you want to overdose on tradition you can start with Brustico (small lake fish cooked over an open flame, if possible obtained from the bamboo growing along the shore). Or you could start with prawn tails with fennel cream, or black bass tartare (those who have not tried to land a black bass using a bamboo rod do not know what it is to fight a fish) with sour cream and crostini.
Among the first courses are royal Pandora, faro with zucchini and pike, and I recently had excellent tortelli stuffed with the meat from the tails of cinta senese pigs served with a ribollita sauce. The classic lake-based main course is tegamaccio, a mixture of lake fish very slowly stewed. This is one of the few places where you can order fish, secure in the knowledge that you won't be served anything from far, far away. If you want something substantial, I suggest Chiusi-style tripe (stewed with tomatoes), or fried lake fish. If you want something more refines, carp fillets on a bed of creamed eggplant with balsamic vinegar.
In short, those who like lake fish will certainly find food for thought here, while those who like other things will be happy too.
And now the wines: Simone has long been a sommelier, and has assembled a truly unique wine list. It's not too long, but covers all of Italy, with wines that are not standard, but to the contrary in many cases unknown, but first rate, and with markups lower than those practiced by very honest wine shops. A wine list that is a perfect example of how people can propose, at modest prices, a great variety of very good wines.
And the bill will be modest too: for antipasto, first course, amin course, and dessert (assuming you have the space for the portions) you'll spend 35-40 Euros per person, not including wine (not to worry, there are 10-12 euro bottles on the list).
In summary: An unusual setting, a beautiful hall, ABSOLUTELY local cuisine, good dishes, nice wine list, low prices.... Why? Why? Whyyyy?
Ristorante Pesce d'Oro
Lago di Chiusi, Via Sbarchino 36, 53043 Chiusi (SI)
Tel/fax 0578 21403
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
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