The Ristorante La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: What’s On the Plate

Armando, my Roman friend who made us Pajata and Coda alla Vaccinara, is close friends with the folks who run the Ristorante La Speranza, and we therefore found ourselves headed off towards Colle Val D’Elsa with his family and Cousin Claudia’s, both to celebrate her birthday and to enjoy a bistecca alla fiorentina, the specialty of the house.

It’s a frankly homey place, in the open countryside on the road from Colle towards Follonica (the exact location is a hamlet called La Speranza), and is the sort of place that truckers and sales reps, two classes of people who know value when it comes to eating on the road, stop at en masse during the week. On weekends it’s families, mostly local, and business is again brisk. Little wonder; the people are friendly, the service courteous, and as I said, the atmosphere is decidedly like home.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto

We began with an antipasto misto, or mixed appetizer.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Crostini

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Crostini

Breaking it down, here we have crostini, slices of bread that are sometimes toasted (or even fried in butter) and then topped with a spread. Going from top to bottom, the spreads are: bell pepper in a creamy sauce, chicken liver, and tuna, which is again creamy.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: A Frittatina

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: A Frittatina

And this is a frittatina, or flan, with herbs. Frittate are common in roman antipasti, but less so in Tuscany, and it was a nice touch.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Finocchiona

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Finocchiona

No Tuscan antipasto would be complete without cold cuts, and here we have finocchiona, a fennel-laced salami that is said to have been invented (discovered?) in the city of Prato, when a thief took a salami from a stand at a fair, and when the merchant began to holler hid it the grass off from the fair grounds. The grass turned out to have wild fennel growing in it, whose aromas penetrated the salami, and the result was so good that people began to make finocchiona. There are two kinds, one that is relatively firm (and we have here), and another that is quite crumbly, and therefore called sbriciolona — it can only be cut in thick slices, and if you like fattier cold cuts is a delightful treat.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Prosciutto

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Prosciutto

This is instead prosciutto toscano, which is also known as prosciutto casalingo, and is saltier than the prosciutti made towards Parma or in San Daniele. Saltiness is a characteristic of Tuscan cold cuts, and some say the added salt in the cure is a way of offsetting the total lack of salt in Tuscan bread, which non-Tuscans often find insipid. Makes sense to me.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Salame Toscano

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Salame Toscano

And here we have salame toscano, which has fairly large pieces of fat in it, and is again quite flavorful.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Giardiniera

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Giardiniera

The final item in our antipasto misto is giardiniera, mixed pickled vegetables. Tasty, and they provide a pleasant contrast to the meats and crostini.

La Speranza's Antipasto Tagliatelle Sul Capriolo

La Speranza’s Antipasto Tagliatelle Sul Capriolo

After the antipasto a couple of people opted for lasagne alla bolognese, with béchamel sauce and meat sauce, but our waiter mentioned fettuccine sul capriolo, fettuccine with a venison sauce, and since venison is much rarer than wild boar, I opted for it. And it was good!

La Speranza's Roast Lamb

La Speranza’s Roast Lamb

Then came the meats, and as I have said before, when I find lamb on the menu I am invariably tempted because neither of our kids particularly enjoy it, and we therefore rarely have it at home. This roast lamb, from a larger animal, was quite tasty.

La Speranza's Antipasto Misto: Bistecca

La Speranza’s Antipasto Misto: Bistecca

And then there was the bistecca la Speranza is famed for. I’m not sure why it came with a deep cut above the fillet — I didn’t go into the kitchen — but it was both flavorful and quite tender, and definitely worth the trip.

Peperonata, Stewed Peppers

Peperonata, Stewed Peppers

There were also pork spare ribs that I didn’t photograph, and salads, french fries, and peperonata, bell peppers stewed with a fair amount of tomato, which I found quite tasty.

Dessert was a birthday cake — a lemony bavarese, or Bavarian Cream, and since it came from a pastry shop, and not La Speranza’s kitchen, I didn’t take a picture.

Bottom line: If you want to enjoy traditional Tuscan home cooking, La Speranza is difficult to beat, and worth driving out to. For that matter, it’s also nicely located, mid-way between San Galgano and San Gimignano, and would therefore be a good place to stop if you’re taking a day trip through the Tuscan countryside.

Ristorante La Speranza, Località la Speranza, on the road from Colle Val D’Elsa to Follonica, tel 0577 929 696. Open daily except for Monday nights and Tuesdays.


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Categories: Illustrated Recipes And More

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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