Restaurant & Wine Review: La Taverna del Pittore in Bolgheri

by Ian D’Agata

The dishes

Chianina beef tartare with Paolo Parisi egg (Battuta di Chianina con l’uovo di Paolo Parisi)

Franca’s topini pasta with guttus blue cheese, pears and toasted nuts (I topini della Franca al guttus, pere e noci tostate)

Carlo Giusti’s pigeon in casserole (Il piccione di Carlo Giusti in casseruola)

Grilled rosa di maremma pecorino sheep cheese (Il pecorino “rosa di maremma”  passato al grill)

The wines

Levii 2019 Metodo Classico Exra Brut Trentodoc       91    

The Taverna del Pittore is a pretty, even romantic restaurant in the heart of Bolgheri, a very small charming town that boasts many restaurants but this is clearly one of the two best the little town has to offer. That statement refers to the ambiance and the ingredients, because there are other wine lists in town that are much more impressive. Still, there is a good selection of Bolgheri reliable to be had and moist of the famous names are present, so you won’t risk going thirsty.

The food is well-prepared, but the real trump card here is the quality of the ingredients. The eggs are from Italy’s best source, Paoloi Parisi, who raises the very high quality gallina livornese (Livorno chicken) by feeding them a mix of high-quality grains and goat milk, resulting in a more elastic egg content that can englobe air better making for a tastier, fluffier egg. The Chianina beef is from the Falaschi family in San Miniato that boasts four generations of raising that famous breed of Italian cattle. And the salumi are sourced from Carlo Giusti Lajatico and the Salumificio Patrone, two more guarantees in high-quality meats. My favourite dish of the night was the topini pasta with guttus, pears and toasted nuts, a take on the blue cheese and sweet pear combination that works so well at so many different latitudes and in so many different concoctions. Topini is the equivalent word used in Livorno (Leghorn, in English) to say gnocchi: topini are in fact small potato gnocchi the shape of which makes them look like small mice, hence the name. The guttus is instead a very delicate blue cheese that doesn’t completely over power the dish like many other blue cheeses might, and the juxtaposition between its peppery-saltiness and the sweet pears is absolute nirvana (the nuts provide crunchy texture and a hint of smoke for added complexity). Also outstanding was the pigeon, cooked to perfection, but the other dishes didn’t lag far behind.

Given I had been visiting wineries all day tasting the latest vintage, on this night I understandably opted for one wine only and a bubbly at that (given that Bolgheri is mostly a haven of full-bodied red wines). The Levii 2019 Metodo Classico Exra Brut Trentodoc is not particularly complex, but it offers very good balance of fruit and acidity, with an ample, broad mouthfeel and a nice mouthcoating texture that lasts and lasts on the long savoury finish. Levii is a name derived from a local term in dialect meaning “the vines”) and their bubblies are worth looking for: here the high altitude Chardonnay provides lift to the overall blend. If you like and know Champagne, think of this Trento doc as a French bubbly that has a good dose of Pinot Meunier in the blend (giving it that ripe, mellow mouthfeel and broad expanse) but with the noteworthy acidity of a good Blanc de Blancs.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata