We love traditional Tuscan dishes prepared in the traditional manner, but we are also impressed with the lightened preparations served at La Solita Zuppa, a small and popular Chiusi spot run by the Gallicly puckish (but Italian, we believe) Roberto and Luana Pacchieri. The day’s unwritten menu is recited with great enthusiasm by Roberto, in English if you prefer; they especially try to make non-Italians comfortable here.
La Solita Zuppa means The Usual Soup, and if we understood Roberto correctly the restaurant’s name comes from a local Tuscan saying and is not meant to imply that soups are a specialty of the house. Nonetheless, the first courses lovingly described by Roberto included a good many interesting-sounding soups, and we ordered a tomato soup with farro (a type of whole-berry wheat that regularly appears in Tuscan bean soups). Excellent!
We also had some gnocchi in green sauce; the little dumplings were chewier than our homemade attempts at gnocchi, which is to say quite chewy, but the sauce and cheese did their best to compensate.
Roberto suggested we try some summer ribollita as an antipasto. Unlike the typically thick, wintry-tasting cabbage/bread porridge, this version was more like a bread salad, served cool, with bits of crisp raw onion and sweet bursts of currants laced throughout. If you permit him, Roberto will orchestrate your meal with a glass of wine to complement a dish here, a little bit of a specialty there, most of which you will pay for. Prices are very reasonable, and his suggestions are spot-on, so we suggest you go along for the ride.
We had some wild boar cooked in Montepulciano (the wine, made a few miles north) and baccala in tomato along with a very decent house red from Montalcino (also a few miles away), and Roberto brought some contorni of mixed cold oiled beans (white beans, ceci, and lentils), fried potato chunks, and cabbage. Desserts of a sour cherry tart with a glass of vin santo and a coffee panna cotta with caramel sauce accompanied by a glass of sweet sparkling wine rounded out our meal. Other than the dense gnocchi, all was terrific.
La Solita Zuppa doesn’t represent Tuscan cuisine at its most typical, perhaps, and it is no secret to discerning tourists, but the thoughtfully prepared dishes and welcoming spirit make it well worth a visit, perhaps especially so as a first Tuscan meal for the those who want to ease their way into Italian life slowly (although, in fact, it was our final meal in Tuscany).Via Porsenna, 21 53043, Chiusi, Tuscany Italy 0578 21006 La Solita Zuppa’s Website La Solita Zuppa on Facebook