Diane, my sophomore year roommate, has been staying in Arezzo with her family for the past week. We decided to meet up in Chiusi, a short 1.5 hour train ride from Rome. It was lunchtime when I arrived (the second best time of day after dinnertime) and I gently prodded them in the direction of Città della Pieve, site of one of my favourite places to eat, Bistrot del Duca. We had a terrific time there, eating and catching up.
But first, Città della Pieve is a small city of fewer than 8000 inhabitants, just over the Tuscan border in Umbria. It is notable for several things. There are some Etruscan tombs around the place if you like that sort of thing (which I do, having written my senior thesis on the subject). It is a medieval city in a country dominated by the Renaissance and is mostly constructed from laterizio, the golden brick that is characteristic of the region. Very pretty and glowy in the sunset hour. And it was the birthplace of the Renaissance painter Pietro Vannucci, who took his nickname from the provincial capital to become Perugino. He taught Rafael and various of his artworks are strewn around town, apparently. But no time for that today. It’s on to the Bistrot del Duca!
I discovered this place a few years ago when I rented a small place in nearby Porto for a couple of months over the summer. I came up most weekends and spent August there, the plan being to work on the novel. But enough about that.
The Bistrot del Duca is a lovely small place on the outskirts of town, a bit hidden behind greenery so it’s easy to miss. I’d advise you to persevere. There are a few tables outside under a pergola and about five tables inside for the winter months. The menu is hand-written on a little board and changes daily. Christian, the owner, has some sort of jazz association as I recall, and there is music in the evenings. The food is lovely. Fresh and inventive and all local.
I started with a hot carrot soup with cinnamon. It was tasty, although I would have preferred to have it cold, given the burning heat of summer.
Then I had a delicious veal chop stuffed with a tiny bit of provolone and sage, sort of like an inside-out saltimbocca, with cheese instead of ham.
Diane also had the veal preceded by a fantastic lamb speck – imagine a lamb flavoured prosciutto crudo, salt-cured and smoked – with goat cheese.
And there was a carpaccio of (raw) swordfish with a lemony yoghurt and almonds. Sounds weird but it worked.
There were also tortelli (i.e. big tortellini) with ricotta and truffles. I didn’t taste these but they smelled fantastic. I (heart) truffles.
For dessert, we had home-made almond biscuits, a fruit tart and a flourless chocolate cake, which was nearly gone by the time I managed to aim the camera.
Afterwards we headed over to nearby Lago di Trasimeno. It’s a pretty spot and the town of Castiglione del Lago, which overlooks the lake, is definitely worth a gander. But the lake is very shallow and muddy. So not really a swimming kind of place. Plus it discriminates against dogs. Much better to go here.
Bistrot del Duca, Via po’ di mezzo 3, Citta della Pieve, Italy. Tel: 0578298008