Let's say that the reader remembers La Cucina di Edgardo in Montalcino, and has the good fortune to meet Mario Machetti. Those who have done both can stop reading. I suggest everyone else perk up their ears. In the 80s La Cucina di edgardo was one of the best places to eat in Tuscany. Edgardo was unique, and to give an example it was he who came up with the Gioco del piacere that so many members then of Arcigola and now Slowfood know well. But who cooked for Edgardo? We're coming to that.
Let's turn to Mario Machetti: not young, but blessed with a first-rate sense of wine, Mario had the best private cellar in Montalcino. I say had because in 1995 his private cellar became public, and is at the disposition of the patrons of Il Giglio. The same patrons, who in addition to selecting among wines they can usually only dream of (at "private cellar" prices) can enjoy the dishes Anna Machetti, who cooked for Edgardo, prepares for them.
To sum up: Anna cooked at La Cucina di Edgardo, while Mario loved wines, and, let's admit it, talking about wine. In 1995 they took the big step, taking over one of the oldest places in Montalcino, Il Giglio. There are records of Il Giglio dating th the early 1900s, but in the early 90s the then let things go. Anna and Mario managed the return the restaurant (which also has 12 rooms) to its former glory thanks to a cuisine based on first rate ingredients, flavorful dishes that one simply doesn't forget, and dishes that follow tradition while winking at modern balance.
Now forget all this (lest you loose the joy of making discoveries...) and imagine yourself in Montalcino, say near Palazzo Pretorio (the one with the plaques for the Brunello vintages). It's just a few short steps the the intersection where you'll find Il Giglio. The entrance leads to a small, welcoming hall with a large fireplace almost hidden by historic wine bottles. The tables, elegantly set, are to the right or in another hall to the left. I suggest you sit near a window to be able to enjoy the panorama, so beautiful it might steal your appetite as well as your breath.
You'll need your eyes for more important things, however, for example the menu. You could begin with the classic dark Tuscan crostini, or the baccalà mousse with orange salad, or the involtini made from Cinta Senese lard and faro, but I suggest you try the anchovy filets in pesto sauce, so good they'd justify swimming from Sydney to Montalcino.
Among the first courses, I'd say Pici with crumbs, cannelloni stuffed with goat's milk cheese and sauced with pigeon ragu, and tortellini stuffed with cints cenese arista. But I can't forget the faro, chickpea and mushroom zuppa, nor the classic home made tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms.
Among the seconds, don't miss the pan-cooked pigeon, or the fried rabbit, unless you go for beef braised in Brunello or lamb chops.
And then? A pause, because I imagine you full but satisfied. And at this point I'll step in for Mario, who with his son Michele is the Maitre, and perhaps exchange a few words, which may be about wines and a visit to the cellar. A cellar 9and a wine list) capable of satisfying any request, even the most unusual, when it comes to Brunello, and also features other great non-standard Italian and foreign bottles. A list by a wine lover, one who has traveled the world to taste and learn, and to enjoy the happiness of the clientele. And after the conversation, we can finish the meal. If you're like me, not a sweet tooth, the obvious choice is a selection of first rate Tuscan goat and sheep's milk cheeses. I realize many people have sweet teeth, and therefore suggest pears in Brunello, chocolate cake, or peach Bavarian cream.
You'll have a hard time getting up, not because you're weighed down, but rather because you'll want to continue to enjoy the warm hospitality, Mario's words, and perhaps Anna's smiles, as she always steps into the hall towards the end of the evening.
A brief walk in the quiet Montalcino "By Night" (the restaurant is open only evenings), will be just the thing before returning to the Giglio and climbing the stairs to one of the 12 rooms. You'll fall asleep thinking that come breakfast you'll fins Anna's cakes, and have the sweetest of dreams.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.