La Cantina de La Porta in Monticchiello, Italy is one of two restaurants owned by Daria Cappelli, the other being Osteria La Porta and you can find both within the medieval hilltop walled Tuscan village. There’s also accommodation so check out their website.
I adore Italy and we’ve been many times. We were holidaying this year in May and stayed a few nights in a very small village of San Sano in the Classico Chianti region where we’ve stayed three times now and is where one of our favourite restaurants is, La Grotta della Rana – the frog in the fountain’. We then moved onto the Val d’Orcia region where we stayed at an excellent B&B Pogio Tobruk owned by two brothers Marco and Federico, not far from Pienza. If you’re ever down that way I thoroughly recommend it, they were both lovely guys and it was very peaceful there.
Anyway, back to the la Porta/Cantina review. La Porta was full the evening we wanted but we did manage to get into their sister restaurant La Cantina, about a 3 minute walk away. We did pop into La Porta to ask for directions and also to book for the following evening which we were lucky as it was packed and buzzing.
La Cantina is completely different to the other restaurant. It has a modern feel, lighter and more airy with clear plastic chairs, raw brickwork walls, arched ceilings and lilac plastered walls. On one wall it looked like purple painted egg boxes and funnily enough on close inspection that’s exactly what they were, they were quite effective. Old black and white photos hung upon the walls of Monticciello’s village life from years ago. Lots of bottles of wine were on display too and we spotted a couple of our favourites including one from Ricasoli in Gaiole in Chianti.
Clockwise from top L-R: Antipasti menu; bread with rosemary crackers; amuse bouche; dessert menu; chocolate mousse
We were greeted by friendly staff and were given complementary glasses of bubbly, a basket of fresh bread and the most delicious rosemary crackers.
Amuse bouche was a very light and creamy whipped ricotta with blobs of berry sauce.
The antipasti (or starter) was divine! We were going to have just a main and a dessert as we’d eaten a lot that week, but we just couldn’t resist the sound of the liver mousse with onion jam and thank goodness we didn’t as it was superb. A slice of (similar to) French toast but a lot lighter topped with the smooth and creamy chicken liver mousse.
For the main our only gripe was that the mashed potato was on the chilly side (in fact the whole dish wasn’t that hot) and had they asked us if everything was ok then we probably would have mentioned it but no one did (that’s two gripes actually). However, I enjoyed the tender beef cheeks in red wine. We paid extra for a side dish of fagoili cannellini – white beans.
Inside La Cantina we were a little chilly which must be lovely in the hot summer months but this was May and the weather very much like it was back home, rather unsettled going from extremely hot one day to cold the next. Luckily we came prepared with a cardigan and light jumper between us.
Dessert was chocolate mousse with extra virgin olive oil raspberry sauce which was ok, not the best dessert I’ve tasted and could have been a bit lighter. Desserts are served with a sweet dessert wine, this one a cherry kind of flavour which went very well. Only I had a dessert but they very kindly gave Geoff a glass too which was great as he was driving and so I got to have two glasses 😉 . Throughout our meal we shared a half carafe of their house white.
La Porta is just inside the main entrance to Monticchiello so you can’t miss it. We were seated upstairs on a balcony with two other tables (next to a couple who were Trump supporters) where we could overlook all the other diners which was great, I love to people watch and see what others have ordered. We spotted a few people who we’d seen the previous night at La Cantina.
Free bubbly again and bread sticks. We ordered a bottle of Capitone Riserva because we’d cycled to that particular vineyard that very afternoon – not far from Pienza – and were shown around by Angelo and tasted the three wines which they produce. Unfortunately as we were cycling we had nowhere to put any bottles so we asked if there was anywhere locally which sold it and funnily enough it just happened to be at La Porta where we had the booking for that evening. It was a lovely wine and knowing exactly where it came from made it special and it wasn’t expensive.
Amuse Bouche was a bread salad which tasted just what it sounds like, salad-like. Very tasty and beautifully presented.
Antipasti was ravioli del giorno – ravioli of the day – with I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. It was fabulous though with purple coloured meat in the centre and a reduction of gravy with wafer thin slices of Parmesan cheese. Very tasty.
The piglet was delicious. One piece was ribs, another formed piece of chopped pork which was very nice but the best, not surprisingly, was the slow cooked belly with crackling. Apple purée on the side with small roast potatoes which were also very nice. We had a side dish of green vegetables which we shared.
Geoff had the lamb cutlets which he said were very nice too but I think the piglet won. I really enjoyed it.
Dessert for me was chocolate tart, similar to a brownie with a custard sauce. Again, the desserts were served with a dessert wine, a rather delicious cherry & cinnamon which is obviously what I’d been given at La Cantina, so I guessed correctly – apart from the cinnamon but that was quite subtle.
Geoff had his favourite dessert, panna cotta which was smooth and creamy and “the best he’d had in a long while, and this holiday in fact”.
Coffee was good old Illy with a Majani chocolate on the side. Oh boy I love it when I get a free choccy with my coffee.
La Porta was more of a traditional Italian restaurant/osteria, darkish inside, cosy and vibrant. We preferred old and rustic La Porta for dinner and perhaps the modern La Cantina for lunch.
Living life, loving Italy!