I navigated my way through the old town of Colle di Val D’Elsa near Siena in Tuscany to find my chosen place for lunch, and as I jostled up the final hill in a small Fiat 500, with the road becoming increasingly narrow and the walls increasingly closer, I couldn't help but notice the rather steep drop down to the bottom of the hill with every turn...
Finally, there was a gap in the road and this beautiful view of a typical hill of Tuscany revealed itself and with it, the restaurant Arnolfo where I would be visiting the two Michelin-starred chef Gaetano Trovato for lunch.
Signor Gaetano Trovato invited me to lunch to showcase his Territory and Research menu that would allow me to understand the flavours, colours and techniques of high standard Tuscan cooking, which is often considered more of a rustic cuisine around the world.
Gaetano Trovato is one of Tuscany’s culinary masters. Born in Sicily on 25 January 1960, Gaetano was brought up in a large family. His mother Concetta was a housewife and loving cook while his father was a farmer. From an early age he was surrounded by fresh, organic produce and Mediterranean family recipes. When you ask him about this family connection with food, he will say: 'Love comes to good food'.
Family is also very important to Gaetano and he works with his brother Giovanni at Arnolfo, with Giovanni leading at the front of the restaurant and he was there to greet me as I puffed and panted after the rather adventurous journey to the top. I was greeted like family, as if I had just come back home for lunch.
We were sat in the peaceful dining room with a library of cookery books, bright art and a view of beautiful Tuscan hills outside the windows. We started right away, not with food but with a short catch up with Giovanni and Gaetano. 'Are you ready?' they said mischievously, but I had a good idea this was going to be a fun, educational and enjoyable lunch.
I was impressed with the amount of dishes on offer, with a team of eight in the kitchen, Gaetano was offering up to forty dishes across the various tasting menus; 'The Essence', 'Vegetarian', 'Territory and Research', and the á la carte, as well as his World Gourmet Society Festival 2015 menu, which looked delicious. However, staying on course I was keen to understand Gaetano’s influences and his version of Tuscan cooking with the 'Territory and Research' menu.
I’m going to tell you a little secret, Gaetano and his kitchen brigade love to use the first course, 'A welcome to the cuisine' (the appetisers), as a taste of things to come. Eventually these smaller dishes will evolve into larger dishes for future menus and I thought this was a beautiful way to work. Inspired by this, I helped myself to all three smaller dishes of lightly battered Gambero Rosso (red prawn) from the coast of Tuscany, Scallops with passion fruit and Tartare of Chianinia veal.