It is not uncommon for Italians to start discussing what they are going to eat at the next meal moments after they finish that last one. We decided to eat Christmas lunch with Chiara Latini near Certaldo the day after we had Thanksgiving dinner with her parents at Osteria di Giovanni in Florence. And we did so – along with over a hundred other holiday celebrants, including a couple of surprise visitors from North Carolina.
Chiara follows in the footsteps of her father Giovanni and her grandfather Narciso by managing the family restaurant, Ristorante Latini, outside of Boccaccio’s birthplace Certaldo on the road to San Gimignano, the famed “Manhattan of Tuscany” .
Pranzo di Natale at Ristorante Latini was a classic experience of an Italian family festive lunch. Unlike an American celebration that can go from soup to nuts in 45 minutes, Italians take their time – a three hour meal is short. There is always time to take a quick refreshing walk (it was a gorgeous sunny day) between courses, or to make the obligatory “Auguri” phone calls, or even to rearrange the seating arrangements at the table so everyone gets a chance to catch up with an aunt or cousin who’s been out of touch for a week or two.
The menu was classic. Latini’s own production of thin-sliced prosciutto, creamy ricotta, and crostini with herb-infused lardo and liver paté made a promising start, followed by two pastas, one in brodo and the other with a spicy venison meat sauce. The main dishes were served family-style, so there was a choice of one or all of guinea hen with an onion sauce, beef roasted with a red wine sauce, or crispy roast duck. Roasted potatoes cooked with garlic and rosemary was the classic contorno.
I have a major sweet tooth so the highlight to me was the apple cake. But the dolci didn’t stop there. Chiara was also serving almond or chocolate biscotti, chocolate truffles, panforte with figs, and ricciarelli (soft almond cookies).
I’ve been wating for Chiara to start her own line of chocolate cantucci (biscotti) studded big chocolate chunks – Chiara’s Chocolatey Chocolate Chunk Cantucci. It has a ring to it, right?
Now we have a week to recover before the New Year’s breakfast – probably American pancakes, bacon and eggs, orange juice and champagne. As I mentioned, Italians are forward looking when it comes to food.
Via dei Plantani 1,
Loc. La Steccata, San Gimignano
Tel: 0577 945 091