Etruscan Coast’s Poggio ai Santi Restaurant Review – Unique Food Adventure

 

Order a mojito at their cocktail bar and watch as the mint for your drink is taken from the garden before you…

 

 

Sit at the restaurant’s table knowing that the extraordinary chef, Timothy Magee, had found many of the ingredients on your plate by sensing which of the wild plants on Poggio ai Santi’s grounds were ready for harvesting that morning.

 

 

Turn your head in any direction, and the views are breathtaking--starting with the manicured garden in the foreground, stretching beyond to the acres of orchards and gardens below.

 

You are off the grid.  Not far from you clean white water is being made the natural way, using plants to scrub the water clear.  Out of sight there are also chickens roaming free range.  In summer and fall, the bounty from the gardens will also be part of the feast.

 

You may be one of the hotel guests at Poggio ai Santi’s 12 suites and 11 apartments. 

 

 

Or, like us, you may have taken the scenic drive to reach Poggio ai Santi for a meal.   To say that it’s worth a drive to if you are in Tuscany is perhaps an understatement.  For adventurous foodies, Poggio ai Santi is worth a drive from Rome, or even a reason for the most diehard to go to Italy in the first place. 

 

Hyperbolic as this all may sound, a meal at Poggio ai Santi is truly a gourmet experience that makes many a fine dining meal you’ve had previously compare as relative pablum.   

 

There is a unique synergy at work here.  First is the energy, enthusiasm for nature, and attention to organic farming details that comes from Poggio ai Santi’s founder Francesca Vierucci. 

 

 

21 years ago she had been a young divorcee mother of two boys considering her life’s next steps and her surrounds on what had been the family’s country hunting lodge.  Her son Julio describes his mother’s love of nature as being the driving force for creating Poggio ai Santi, and the reason why the farm came to cultivate so many wild plants native to the area.

 

Add to Francesca’s passion that of Chef Timothy Magee, the son of a woman from Lucca, Italy who grew up in Reno, Nevada. 

 

 

Before coming to Poggio ai Santi, one of his peak chef experiences had been working in high-end Scandinavian restaurants that pioneered foraging as part of creating seasonal menus.

 

 

 

Timothy explains, “Francesca was very ahead of her time, investing in organic farming more than ten years ago…Today’s menu was typical.  I first go to the gardens to see what is there.  Or, for example, the other day I found some kale that had grown wild into trees.  I tasted the flowers and they were like broccoli flowers.  I decided to make that into a dish with bacalau (cod fish).  You can’t get these things from a grocery store.  It’s more effort to cook like this but you learn how to make it work. 

 

 

“The first rule is to follow the seasons. 

 

 

"For example we made a gelato from fig leaves and there were only two weeks when we could find leaves that were suitable.  It takes a while to figure out what can be used and when, and this is not very typical unless you have experience as I do in cooking with foraged food.  We have many wild greens here—some are bitter and some are sweet—and we also have more traditional organic farm produce in certain seasons.  Francesca does the garden and I react to it.  For example, carrots don’t really like to grow here but we have ample supplies of beets, tomatoes, and Swiss chard.”

 

 

A very pleasant and seemingly humble man, you begin to sense Timothy’s excited mad scientist side as he tells you of the experiments he’s been able to do with Poggio ai Santi’s bounty. 

 

 

He says, “Last year I started experimenting with making vinegars and liqueur from wild herbs.  I also made infused oils.  This winter I experimented with some of the fruits of ancient trees that Francesca has cultivated on the farm.  Often the fruits of these trees are terrible, but they make for delicious vinegars.  Many of the plates we serve have these unique oils and vinegars…Every day it’s experiments and a tasting menu.  If I do my job right, you’ll be asking me ‘What’s that flavor?’”

 

 

In Tuscany, where you can put more of the food in your mouth that is 0 KM organic than probably anywhere else on the planet, Poggio ai Santi stands out as taking you even closer to nature.  You too may have difficulty figuring out if your pleasure is coming more from the beautiful surrounds or what is on your plate. 

 

 

Then again, do you really care?

 

Tip:  Ask Francesca's son, Julio Neri, for a tour of the farm before you sit down for wine and a meal.

 

Poggio ai Santi is closed yearly from November through March, for ongoing renovations of its hotel, grounds and farm.

 

Visit the Poggio ai Santi website for more information.

 

Poggio ai Santi, Toscana

Strada di San Bartolo, 100

57027 San Vincenzo

Livorno, Italy

 

(+39) 0565 798 032

 


 

 

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