The La Torre Restaurant is in the middle of the Chianti countryside, serving not only the five-star haven Castello del Nero and its resident destination spa, ESPA, but also offers a savory escape to the dolce vita for the passing traveler. The Castello del Nero reigns over the sleepy Val di Pesa less than a half-hour drive from Florence and Siena. Staying at the castle is to experience a life of luxury out of time, with its rooms and terrace, promenades and pool, spa and restaurant.
Local ingredients form the base of the food served at La Torre. And everything that can be made in the kitchen is homemade on the premises. The result is an experience of Tuscany that comes through in every bite.
A meal at La Torre starts even before the food arrives. The setting puts you in a state of grace. By day, the dining room commands a view of the Tuscan hills in colors of green and blue and amethyst that exist nowhere else on earth. You can eat outside on the wide terrace in summer, or inside under the arched ceilings by the fire in winter.
The service is warm in the manner of the land itself, open and refined at the same time. The maitre-d’ will cut your prosciutto antipasto himself, in the thickness and amount you prefer, much as your own staff would do if this were indeed your home instead of your hotel.
The bread is made fresh in the kitchen every day and the olive oil for dipping is the estate’s own brand. I have never had olive oil that was so flavorful without being overpowering. Tasting it is like putting the essence of Tuscany on your tongue. There is a limited number of bottles sold to the public, and I bought one to take home with me. I could have made a meal of just the bread and oil and been content.
The rest of the meal was equally flavorful and perfectly balanced. My first bite of the fried shrimp appetizer will remain with me as an emblematic food moment. The coating crackled and the shrimp practically popped with moisture as my teeth closed, shooting the flavors into my mouth and melding the textures into a party of sensation.
The pumpkin-filled, handmade ravioli put just a hint of sweet in the savory blend of this pasta dish. Usually, as you eat your palate tires of a dish, but not this one. Each bite left me wanting the next just a little bit more and more. The risotto was impossible not to finish despite how rich a dish it is. Risotto is a test of attention to make perfectly, and the attention paid in this kitchen is stellar.
For dessert, paper-thin apple slices baked to a toasty crisp topped a baked apple cake a la mode in a dish that was as beautiful to look at as it was flavorful to eat. In many ways a simple dish, the flavors rose on my palate and the textures gave the mouth a treat in every way that food can please.
This restaurant would be worth a trip, if for nothing else but to enjoy the location and its view. But the quality of the kitchen and its use of such pure, local produce, makes it a gourmet's delight. Foodies and Italy lovers both have a treat in store for them when they stop here, whether for a meal or an entire vacation.
Castello Del Nero
Strada Spicciano, 7
50028 Tavarnelle Val di Pesa
+39 055 8077018