11 September 2016

2015 ITALY Colle di Valle d-Elsa, Sienna 31 - Elegant

We proceeded on to Colle di Valle d-Elsa about 30 minutes away. The destination was Arnolfo (http://www.arnolfo.com/en/), a Michelin 2-star ristorante. It was originally a home built in the 1600s and still lovely in every manner. I am not an "elegant" person, but here I felt elegant from the moment we arrived.
The ambiance was spectacular. The attention to every detail was meticulous. Set up with just three tables today to accommodate our group, it can seat up to 30 among its four stories. Tables were dressed in white linen, poppy dinnerware, and pale yellow flowers. A Juliette balcony offer a pastoral view of the green Tuscan hills and dales. The Murano glass chandelier sparkled like diamonds above us.
On the lower level was a private dining area and outdoor seating. We might have sat there, if not for the warm fall rain trickling down. The restrooms where located on this floor also and had the softest toilette papier ever.

We were warmly greeted by co-owner Giovanni Trovato--a debonaire, interesting, and fun person. He runs front of house, while his brother Gaetano is the very creative chef. The colorful art throughout the establishment was thoughtfully chosen by Giovanni and was highlighted against white walls. He advised each piece was carefully chosen by him and showed us a book illustrating one of his favorite hangings. Somehow the modern art worked perfectly in this age old setting.

After introductions, we chose from an autumn menu of three fixed meals. There were also a la carte options, but most chose the seafood fixed price. There were additional mini courses between as palate cleansers or just treats. The attention to detail of each course surpassed the course before. No words to say how wonderful it was.

Also fascinating was the dinnerware. Each plate or bowl was a surprise in itself. I have never seen anything like it. Most was produced by Hering Berlin. See lots of photos below. Notice the yummy food AND the piece it is served on--both works of art.

Check Google Translate to translate the menu.

The last dessert was served on a clear acrylic cube with the restaurant logo engraved. Wish I would have asked why Arnolfo was printed backwards. It's that way on their website, too.

We also loved our hip Asian sommelier. He also occasionally came by with a little sweeper to pick up our crumbs. Wish I could remember his name.

Brother/ Chef Gaetano came to introduce himself and to see if we approved of his fare. We gave a hearty "Bravo" and an applause. Yes, we approved!!!
If I absolutely had to pick (very hard because every meal was wonderful and unique in its own way), I would say this was my favorite meal on the trip. Fabuloso!!! Michelin may have giving it two stars, but it was a 5-star experience in our book.

On the way home we were to stop at the town of San Gimignano for a walking tour, one I was looking forward to. But by then it was raining so hard, we would have been soaked if we had. We were all so stuffed, so we didn't really mind.


An aside: What makes a Michelin star restaurant?

The term is a hallmark of fine dining quality. It initially was started by the Michelin tire company to encourage people to travel to restaurants and in the process use their tires. The first Michelin Guide was published in 1900 to encourage road tripping in France.

Ratings are given based on a full-time staff of anonymous restaurant reviewers. "About Travel" says these reviewers are "very passionate about food, have a good eye for detail, and have a great taste memory to recall and compare food types."

Reviewers go to restaurants and later compare notes with other reviewers to rate the establishments. There is no customer feedback like on Yelp or Zagat ratings.

Michelin stars are defined here:
  • One star: A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
  • Two stars: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality
  • Three stars: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

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