Tracie P’s pici

In the wake of a comment on this blog by Tracie P (while I was in Tuscany) sharing her yen for some Tuscan pici (long noodles made with only flour and water), my good friend Federico aka Fred (export director for one of my favorite Montalcino wineries, Le Presi) appeared one day with two bags of dried pici by Panarese for me to take home.

Last night for dinner, Tracie P defrosted some of her excellent ragù and used it to dress a few nidi (nests) of the pici (also called pinci).

On the back of the label, the only ingredients listed are durum wheat flour and water. There’s something about pici, even when dried (and not freshly rolled out), that makes them ideal for meat sauces (or mushrooms). For all of their humility, the purity of the saltless flour and the texture of the noodles create a sublime pairing with the richness of the sauce. Simply delicious. We paired with a grapey, bretty, easygoing Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that was remarkably fresh and bouncy for an 06. A perfect Tuesday night dinner, catching up on the TV shows we missed (Tracie P sacrificed herself and did NOT watch the season finales of True Blood and Mad Men so that we could watch them together… THAT’S how much she loves me, she says).

How did I manage to get the pasta back without any breakage?

I used my cowboy hat, of course! I packed the bags of noodles on either side of the “crown” of the hat in my carry-on. It worked like a charm! That’s me, btw, above, outside the famous Osteria al Cappello in Udine, where hundreds of hats (cappelli) hang from the ceiling. (Photo by Joe Campanale.) The owner asked me if I’d give her my hat for her restaurant. “Un bel cappello,” she said. “A fine hat.”

“Naw,” I told her. “This hat will be riding home with the San Diego Kid back to Austin.” I’ll post more on the AMAZING MEAL I had at Osteria al Cappello in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, we’re sending lots of love to Pam and Melvin Croaker today. Melvin, you may remember, gave me my cowboy hat late last year.

Italy meal 1: Trattoria il Pozzo, Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino)

Just like people, restaurants have “good days” and “bad days.” The night we went to Trattoria il Pozzo in Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino), it was one of those off-the-charts good days (and not every meal we had in Italy was worth writing home about, believe me). I’ve been going there since 1989 when I first began to “frequent” Montalcino (the fons origo of my passion for Italian wine). Paola (in the kitchen) and Franca (front of the house) Binarelli have owned and run Trattoria il Pozzo since 2001 and honestly, the food there has never been better. It was just one of those magical culinary nights, when everything came together just perfectly. I’ll let Tracie P’s superb photos do the talking…

tuscan cuisine

Salt-less bread crostini topped with liver and spleen (the chestnut-colored spread, classic Tuscan), chopped mushrooms, and tomato (not so traditional but now part of the pan-Italian culinary lexicon).

tuscan cuisine

Salt-less bread soup, drizzled (rigorously) with extra-virgin olive oil by Il Poggione (more on Il Poggione later).

tuscan cuisine

Pici (long, hand-rolled noodles) with sausage, mushroom, and tomato (this was UNBELIEVABLY good).

tuscan cuisine

Pici with wild boar ragù (the boar meat was so tender and flavorful and the combination of textures and flavors was sublime).

tuscan cuisine

We had to sneak a peak in the kitchen since they were still rolling out the pici that evening.

tuscan cuisine

One of the sine qua non elements of the bistecca fiorentina is that it must be charred on top — to heat the meat on the bone without cooking it through.

tuscan cuisine

Need I say more? To look at the meat you’d think it was over cooked. But the secret is that the beast is slaughtered young. Older than a calf but still relatively young and so the meat has a pink rather than blood-red color.

tuscan cuisine

Fried artichokes. Franca told me that Italian celebrity chef Gianfranco Vissani once complained that they had served these with lemon wedges. So no more lemon wedges!

tuscan cuisine

The chicory was at once bitter like Tuscan dirt and sweet like Tuscan heaven.

gianni brunelli

The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino by the dearly departed Gianni Brunelli, one of the great Tuscan restaurateurs of our lifetime. Beautiful acidity, gorgeous fruit, and man, the combination of the red fruit flavors of the wine and its acidity against the fat and flesh of the steak was better than… well, actually, it wasn’t better than… it was our honeymoon after all! ;-)

Ristorante Il Pozzo
53024 Montalcino (SI) – Piazza Del Pozzo, 2
tel: 0577 844015

closed Tuesdays

You shall learn how salt is the taste/of another man’s bread… Cacciaguida to Dante, Paradiso 17, 58-9.