Stuffed tomatoes or seasoned pork to start? Or how about a fresh goats cheese salad or some bruschette? Life is full of difficult choices. By the time you reach the pasta course it’s a real dilemma. The rabbit and vegetable sauce seems an obvious choice, but the wild boar doesn’t look bad either. There’s also that seafood lasagna that isn’t on the menu to consider.
If you’ve ridden all day and can manage a second course, the Fiorentina steak is a perennial favourite. But depending on the time of year there will be lamb chops, stuffed veal, wild boar stew or the ever-enticing peposo – a Tuscan speciality of beef slow-cooked with tomatoes, some wine and a lot of pepper – to bring out your appetite’s capriciousness.
At least choosing dessert is easy, because everyone knows that the panna cotta here is one of the best you’ll find in Italy. Wait, you didn’t know that they baked the cantucci themselves?
This being Chianti, there’s obviously a heady array of wine in the cantina. We haven’t quite tried all of the 300 labels on offer – we’re trying our best, honestly – but whether you’re after a simple house wine, a local star, a hidden gem or a renowned vintage, there’s something on the card to suit.
The only thing that’s easy to agree upon is that Osteria Le Panzanelle is an unmissable treat when you’re in Chianti. Hidden away on an unassuming country road in Lucarelli, not far from Radda in Chianti, this little restaurant is a treasure, loved by locals and tourists alike. The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial, the staff are always smiling and the décor is as clean and unfussy as the menu, which changes according to the season.
In spring, we’re there to catch up with our friends in the pro peloton after the Strade Bianche. In summer, we share long evenings full of clinking glasses warm conversation with our guests, and in autumn, when our time in Tuscany comes to a end with L’Eroica, you’ll find us unwinding in the courtyard or by the large open windows inside, watching the world go by with a glass of well-earned Chianti Classico, reflecting on another year in the saddle.
Like a favourite road or a classic climb, it’s one of those special places of which we never tire. It’s familiar and yet it changes every time. And we love it for that.