Le Logge, a perennial best restaurant in Tuscany, a great white from De Batté, and jazz in Siena

mackarel ceviche recipeLooking back on some of the great meals of 2014 that haven’t yet found there way into my feed, the one that really resonates and reverberates in my mind was a late fall supper at Osteria Le Logge, Laura Brunelli’s amazing restaurant in the heart of Siena’s historic center.

It’s a wonderful place to visit for classic Tuscan cookery (ribollita, fiorentina, etc.).

But the main attraction, at least for me, is Chef Nico Atrigna’s creative cuisine. That’s his mackerel “ceviche,” above.

Chef Nico has cooked so many of my “best” meals in Italy over the last few years. And my visit in early November 2014 didn’t disappoint.

puntarelle roman recipe bestHis dishes are never overly complex. He culls from the mediterranean bounty of materiae primae and masterfully accentuates their aromas and flavors.

This puntarelle salad, above, with citrus was a wonderful study in sweetness, acidity, and astringency.

best lobster pasta recipeBut the plat de résistance was the spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino with spiny lobster.

I can’t imagine a more humble dish more nobly executed. It was one of the best things I ate all year last.

de batte altroveMirco, Le Logge’s wine director, recommended the 2009 Altrove by revered Ligurian winemaker Walter De Batté.

According to an interview I found on the AIS (Italian Sommelier Association) Liguria site, it’s a blend of “Bosco, Vermentino, Rossese bianco, and Marsanne,” but “primarily Roussanne,” in Walter’s words, a grape that the nineteenth-century Italian ampelographer “Gallesio had identified as ‘Nizzardo.'”

The word altrove means elsewhere in Italian. I loved Walter’s post-modern explanation for the wine’s name, which can be found on the back label.

“In the Mediterranean,” he writes, “infinite elsewheres are hidden in every where.”

Notes of thyme played against this macerated wine’s rich minerality and breadth of stone fruit flavors. An extraordinary wine (at a great price).

Mirco, who knows my palate well after all these years, never misses a beat (ask for him when choosing your wine at Le Logge).

best music club sienaDulcis in fundo (Latinists among us will get the paronomasia), Laura has finally opened her subterranean music venue and wine bar called “Un Tubo” (Italophones will get the irony).

The night I was there, a classic rock cover band was seriously rocking out the house.

But from what I glean on the club’s website, jazz is the genre best represented there.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time in Siena knows that the dining and nightlife options there are next to nihil.

Laura has done an amazing and single-handed job of changing that. Beyond the extraordinary daytime sight-seeing there, the trip to Siena is worth it just to eat at her restaurant and drink a glass (or two) of Franciacorta at her super fun music joint.

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