Arnolfo **

The restaurant Arnolfo opened in 1982, by the hands of the Trovato family, it pays tribute to Arnolfo Di Cambio, a known Renaissance architect who was born in Colle di Val D’Elsa and was responsible for some of the most emblematic Florentine works of art, such as Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Croce’s Church. Headed by two brothers: Gaetano (the chef) and Giovanni (maître d’ and Master Sommelier), the little restaurant and hotel Relais & Chateaux (constituted by 4 bedrooms) serves as visiting card to the medieval town Colle di Val D’Elsa.

We were greeted at the entrance by Giovanni, the cicerone, to that which would be the best moment of our last trip to Italy. Simple but refined decoration, with minimalist details and contemporary art, wide and correctly spaced tables, with big lightening and an unflagging view.

Amuse Bouche

Already settled, we started our meal with high quality homemade breads, bread with tomato and onion (the favorite), bread with ricotta and bread with Gergelim. A toast of Pommery Noir to go with the Amuse Bouche, or Amuse Bouches, and the first sign that the architecture didn’t just serve to name the restaurant but also to the cuisine of Gaetano Trovato. Melon with crunchy Prosciutto, Sea Bass with dried tomato, Pigeon pâté, leek omelet and a flawless rabbit croquette which, as well as the the pâté, stood out from the other elements; all of them elaborated with great technical precision.

Tuna, Cauliflower and onion
On spot tuna, over cauliflower broken in small chips and purée, and a bittersweet onion. Altogether it worked fine, highlight to the onion, with unique flavor and texture due to its cooking technique.

Scampi, Red Shrimp, Saffron, fennel and anchovy
The scampi form the Italian coast is, as we came to know, Gaetano’s favorite ingredient; here slightly worked with fennel in two textures, cooked in saffron, red shrimp, anchovy and a fine herb sauce. A very interesting game of flavors and textures from the sea, with the delicate scampi proving to be amazing in a combination which salty balance is brought by the anchovy, as well as the connection with the saffron foam proved essential.

Scallop, yellow pumpkin, yogurt, oranges and herring caviar
Velvety and flavorful pumpkin cream, with a perfectly cooked scallop. The yogurt and orange working well in the sweetness and the acidity of the dish. A good combination in which only the ”caviar” would be dispensable.

Turbot, tupinambur, Coffee and foie gras
Tupinambur in two textures, an almost signature of the chef, using the ingredient in different forms in the same dish, Turbot loin, a kind of “rocher” of foie gras with sesame seeds and a thick and delicate coffee sauce. A complex combination, as complex as strange, that could easily go the wrong way, or not. Gaetano manages brilliantly that his sauce doesn’t overlap the other components and that the flavors and textures work well, whether individually or altogether.

Lasagnetta, Blue Lobster, Lentils from Castelluccio and clams
The chef is a master in combining the Earth and the sea, as demonstrated along the tasting. Here, a creamy lentil cream working well as sauce for the blue lobster and its thin pasta. Delicate flavors, again with an always surprising set of textures.

The fish and shellfish dishes where combined with a white Vernaccia of San Gimignano, Panizzi Vigna Santa Margherita 2011, fresh with citrus and a good mineral touch.

Mezze Maniche Mancini, Cinta Senese sausage and Sorana beans
This dish is a proof of the respect for ingredients and tradition of the Tuscany cuisine. Pasta Mancini, a premium brand, responsible for some of the best Italian pastas, which production process goes from the cultivation of the wheat to the product finalization. As filling to the pasta was an interesting fresh sausage from Cinta Senese, a breed of pig typical from Tuscany and a cream made with white bean from Sorana. This dish is the essence of Tuscany, luxury ingredients, enough worked and of course, in this case, enhanced and very well presented.

Pigeon, Foie gras, Chestnuts and grapes
A real dish of the season, breathing autumn, with the game, the grapes and the chestnuts making a presence. The pigeon breast cooked to perfection, succulent and full of flavor, the breaded leg crunchy outside and moist on the inside.  The combination with the elegant grape sauce and chestnut purée is a true ace, whether as the inclusion of the Foie, it’s a strong and intense dish which reveals great mastery.

To accompany, a Chianti Classico 2004 of Poggio Bonelli, a traditional chianti that without being brilliant worked well with the dishes.

Pre sobremesa

It could be considered as a desert by itself: fig, sangiovese grape ice cream, strawberry sauce and anise cookie. An interesting combination that served its purpose well.

Millefeuille, Pear, yougur, cardamom and gianduja
Crunchy millefeuille, a light sweet and well matched with a great yogurt ice cream.

Zuccotto, Cantuccini, Vin santo and spices
This is a dish where the Tuscan tradition is evident. Zuccotto is a traditional sweet in the shape of a Duomo, with a base made of sponge cake, liquor and ice cream. Here served covered in chocolate, with an amazing spices ice cream and a silky cream sabayon style, with Vin Santo, the traditional dessert wine, so appreciated by Tuscan to eat their Cantuccini biscuits. Very well connected elements in an accurate set.

Apple Trio, Annurca, Stark and Granny Smith
A trio of well distinguished apples, with fresh elements and sweetness to taste, cinnamon crumble and an exquisite beignet, reveals itself as one of the best desserts of the meal.

Chocolat cake, chestnuts and ginger
Without a lush presentation, but with great technique, the cake, with a very thin and crispy base and creamy and warm inside, played well with the ginger ice cream and the marron glacé. An excellent dessert.

To go with the desserts, a Torcolato di Breganze Firmino Motti  2001, of golden color and dry ending, that went well with most of the desserts.

The wine list is extensive and specialized in Italian and French wines, doesn’t lack the presence of exclusive and iconic producers, as well as small producers of great quality.

The Service is excellent, with nothing is left to chance, from the presentation of the dishes to the costumer follow-up, the team headed by Giovanni Trovato has the gift of making any client feel like a king or queen.

petit fours

From the hands of Gaetano arise dishes of architectural inspiration with special focus on the game of colors and textures, with an unusual respect for the ingredients, worked with mastery and an excellent balance between Italian tradition and the most contemporary techniques, making him, probably, the best Tuscan chef nowadays.

Final Remarks
Arnolfo is one of those places that we hardly forget after a visit, the environment of the little town along the sympathy and passion demonstrated by Giovanni and the captivating cuisine of Gaetano. The cuisine, more than illusions transmits us truth, love and comforting sensations. It is not an everyday space, but is a space of celebration to which no one will be indifferent. For more than 30 years Arnolfo and its charismatic helmsmen always knew how to keep up in the front line, where the path certainly passes through the 3rd star in the red guide.

Via XX Settembre, 50/52, Colle di Val d’Elsa
0039 0577 920549

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 25, 2013 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    I like your writing very much. And I wish you Merry Christmas!

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