Tuscany: Friends, Food and Fine Wine at La Chiusa

Outside of La Chiusa i i

hide captionThe family-run La Chiusa offers locally grown products and an unbeatable view of the Tuscan countryside.

Loren Jenkins
Outside of La Chiusa

The family-run La Chiusa offers locally grown products and an unbeatable view of the Tuscan countryside.

Loren Jenkins
La Chiusa chef Dania Luccherini and her husband Umberto i i

hide captionLa Chiusa chef Dania Luccherini and her husband Umberto have owned the restaurant for more than 30 years.

Loren Jenkins, NPR
La Chiusa chef Dania Luccherini and her husband Umberto

La Chiusa chef Dania Luccherini and her husband Umberto have owned the restaurant for more than 30 years.

Loren Jenkins, NPR
Dining room i i

hide captionThe dining room of La Chiusa.

Loren Jenkins, NPR
Dining room

The dining room of La Chiusa.

Loren Jenkins, NPR

When I first came across La Chiusa some 30 or more years ago, it had just opened on a small private estate of olive groves and rolling wheat fields adjacent to the one-church, Tuscan hill town of Montefollonico.

A young couple, Umberto and Dania Luccherini, ran the restaurant, located in a resplendent and gracious farmhouse. The pioneering Luccherinis were already using the bounty of local farms: The olive oil came from their olives, the bread from their wheat, and at the time, the wine from local growers.

On one of my first visits to La Chiusa, my son Nicholas fell into an old well by the parking lot as friends and I were just finishing our desserts and grappa. Though only 6 at the time, he already knew how to swim — and how to yell for help in Italian.

By the time I discovered my errant son's misfortune, a farmer from a neighboring field had gone down a lowered rope and rescued him. I found him in the Luccherinis' upstairs apartment bathroom, naked in a bathtub of hot water while a gaggle of emotional Italian women tried to warm him up by pouring him shots of whiskey per que e un Americano!

Needless to say, the Luccherinis and I became fast friends for life. That was fortuitous: Today, La Chiusa, still presided over by the Luccherinis, is one of the finest country restaurants in all of Italy. Though it is expensive, it is a must-go for anyone looking for a special treat in Tuscany.

The initial fare — basic Tuscan contadini, or peasant, food — has morphed over the years into an elegant and refined nuova cucina Italiana. Dania, with her touch of genius on the stove, still presides over the kitchen while Umberto, the over-loquacious host, presides over the dining room.

My recommendations are to order the assaggi — a sampling or tasting — menu. Pastas of every kind come out like tapas, one at a time on separate plates, followed by soups, grilled rabbit and lamb, and a fabulous selection of desserts. It is a feast well worth trying: The food is divine, and the selections of wine offered to complement it, outstanding.

A word of advice: Plan to stay the night at one of La Chiusa's gorgeous rooms in an adjacent, remodeled stable. The comfort is unbeatable, and the views over the Tuscan countryside from the breakfast terrace are unrivaled.

La Chiusa — Montefollonico (1 hour south of Siena, near Montepulciano). Telephone: 39-577-669668. Web site: http://www.ristorantelachiusa.it/.

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