I remember clearly the first time we ate at the Trattoria Albana, in Mazzolla. It must have been 1989. It was winter and my husband and I were house hunting in what we consider one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. We reached Mazzolla, a tiny, beautiful medieval village facing a wide and green valley where wild boars and hares run free. 48 inhabitants (at the time), a church, and a bunch of houses. And, of course, the trattoria. Finding such an excellent restaurant hidden in the sweet Tuscany hills was a great surprise: the food was delicious, the frame charming, and the prices reasonable. We went back so many times since then, first when I was pregnant, then when the children were small, with friends, family…Trattoria Albana was always an amazing experience.
In the course of the years we have seen so many managers come and go. When we first discovered it, it was run by a Tuscan family, whose mother was one of the best cooks I have ever met. They ensured that the best tradition of the Tuscan cuisine was respected and presented with love. For a brief period, the trattoria was in the hands of someone who tried to turn it into a fancy nouvelle cuisine place, turning the inside into something modern, and presenting dishes that had little to do with the warm Tuscan atmosphere, and were not even particularly tasty. We stopped going for a while, but always kept our eyes on the place, which we missed badly. At one point, someone told us that the management had changed again, and our glorious dinners at the trattoria resumed. Diego and his wife, helped at first by Lucia, the original cook of the trattoria, managed to bring the place back to its original glory. With a sprinkle of youth (we saw their son being born, and growing between the tables of the restaurant and the square of Mazzolla), and a professional cooking touch, Trattoria Albana was again one of our favourites, especially during our international parties, when we booked the whole inner room, and rejoiced seeing our guests delighted with the tasty Tuscan dishes.
Then it was the turn of Giuseppe and his wife Mery. We approached them with the usual suspicion one reserves to all changes, when they mean to stop something you liked. Giuseppe, from Sicily, and Mery, from the Philippines, are a vibrant pair, though, and it did not take them long to introduce new dishes and give the trattoria their personal touch, which has turned it into a worldwide known restaurant (see the BBC movie).
The place is simple, homely and cosy. There is a small terrace outside, where it is very nice to dine during summer. The inside, with a big fireplace in the main room, and the vaulted ceiling in the dining room, is welcoming, ideal for a warm meal during winter.
Giuseppe (I don’t know how he does) manages to improve the quality of his recipes every year, and to introduce something new. Something he likes to create mixing the most ancient Tuscan tradition (not to miss his fabulous Peposo or the Fagiano alla Senese, Siena Pheasant), fresh ingredients and his personal touch, coming from years of experience as a cook in the Philippines and in Switzerland.
The wild boar is obviously the king, and Giuseppe’s Pappardelle al Cinghiale (Wild Boar Pappardelle), are the best of the area. But also Cinghiale in Dolceforte, a Renaissance recipe that cooks wild boar with chocolate, candied fruit, raisins and pine nuts. My absolute favourite are Ravioli alla Faraona (Ravioli with Guinea Fowl), fresh-made ravioli with a filling of Guinea Fowl and leeks, and a sauce of almonds, butter and cheese.
This is a typical recipe of Impruneta, the area of the Florentine hills, well known fo its “Impruneta earth” (a clay containing sand, calcium carbonate and iron oxide, which gives pottery its distinctive reddish color), used to produce pottery, bricks and other materials.
The recipe was created by the workers who baked bricks in the city furnaces (the Fornacini): They put all the ingredients in a terracotta pot, covered them with wine, and baked them in the kiln for five hours.
The long cooking, pepper and Chianti wine, prompted the workers to eat lot of bread and to drink profusely, while eating the Peposo.
Peposo – The recipe
The peposo can be prepared in different ways and everyone has its own favourite addings. This is the basic, traditional recipe.
1 kg of Chianina muscle*
1 lt. Chianti wine
20 grains of black pepper
5 unpeeled garlic cloves
Slices of Tuscan bread
A bunch of sage and rosemary
In a large crock pot, place the muscle cut into average size cubes. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves, salt, pepper and the erbs bouquet. Cover with the wine and cook over moderate heat, in the oven or on the stove, until the meat is very soft.
Toast the slices of bread in the oven or on the grill, pour the peposo over them, and serve immediately.
Text Claudia Admin