Summer is not the ideal time to go around tasting truffles. Summer truffles, like summer oysters from warmer waters (say around New Orleans) often approach tastelessness, even though the cost of them remains high.
But we found Osteria da Luchino in Arezzo, and I couldn’t help myself—and darn if both courses of my lunch didn’t come with a rather generous overcoat of freshly shaved truffles. Check out the “pasta” up there on the right. Click the picture to see it large enough to cause your taste buds to stand at attention. What you’re seeing all hidden in the dense overgrowth of truffles are some gnudi resting on a dollop of pear sauce. Gnudi come from around Arezzo. They’re like ordering ravioli without the pasta part. Ricotta reigns. The menu touts them as “gnudi gratinati al forno con purea di pere e tartufo.” Gnudi could be an extension of yesterday’s discussion of Unusual Primi Piatti
They were good. Need you ask? Just look at them! And the minute the plate got 5 feet away from the table we were immersed in a cloud of sexy truffle odors.
Martha’s Pici acqua e farina al ragu biano di coniglio, eggless pici with a white rabbit sauce, looks rather threadbare, doesn’t it? But the taste! Yes, the pici had absorbed everything a rabbit and its associated vegetables could give. Fantastic!
Ok, so could our secondi piatti live up to the primi? I mean, for me we were talking more truffles, maybe an overdose of truffles, this time drifting over a saddle of roast rabbit wrapped around asparagus stalks. The rabbit was moist. So moist I had to go out and ask the cook how he did it. Did he perhaps wrap the fatless rabbit in a bit of lardo before putting it in the oven to keep it so moist? “No,” he told me. He had cooked it very slowly, “140-150 degrees Centigrade.” Even without the truffles it was some of the best rabbit I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten quite a lot of bunny in my day. But truffles never hurt any dish in my recollection. Heck, stewed sweat socks would taste good if they were heaped in shaved truffles.
So I’m thinking, “wow, this was a great meal.”
The cost was reasonable. The gnudi with the truffles ran me 13 Euros. Not cheap, but we’re talking truffles that actually had that heady taste that’s often missing from summer truffles. And the rabbit was even cheaper, at 12 Euros. Some folks charge that for rabbit that’s not half as good and lacks the generous dose of truffles.
So when I came home I looked on the web for reviews of Osteria da Luchino. I was baffled. There were as many 1 and 2 star reviews as 4 or five star reviews. Folks didn’t like the service, which when we were there was exemplary. True, the food came out as it came from the kitchen, and that often meant that each of a couple’s plates arrived at a slightly different time, but I can easily live with that.
And yes, the restaurant was full of tourists, including two tables of Italian tourists. (You can always tell because Italian tourists oddly seem to have no knowledge of the pasta shapes or types that exist outside their own region. So when an Italian says something like, “What’s pici?” then you know he’s a “foreigner,” someone who doesn’t live or hasn’t grown up in the area.)
So I’m baffled at the negative reviews, but a day later still nearly ecstatic over my truffle lunch. You don’t get this kinda thing where I come from. And I have no idea what those folks are complaining about. I guess I’ll have to try it again to see if I was imagining great food.
Osteria da Luchino
Via Beccheria 3