Siena’s culinary scene is principally dominated by traditional and much loved Tuscan cuisine. I learned that if you ask any Sienese where the best food in Italy is served, you are given the rather predictable response ‘here, in Siena, of course’. Whilst in truth, I don’t disagree with this statement in principle, what I did disagree with was that Tuscan food is the final calling point in one’s gastronomic journey across this country which is so revered for its exquisite food and blissful simplicity of coking.
The ‘iconic’ Tuscan dishes revolve around strong, bold flavours, and often a lot of salt is used in the preparation of food. It is for this reason that Tuscan bread is entirely unsalted, to enable a degree of balance. However, what I really searched for was an intimate command of those traditional Tuscan methods and dishes, but modernised in a way which captures both the original essence of the region, but in a contemporary fashion. This, I thought, really would be something very special indeed.
Look no further than Particolare di Siena for this extraordinary combination, because this is a restaurant which has quite simply ‘cracked it’. At Particolare there is a sublime respect for the local fare and the ingredients which make this region’s food so remarkable, but it is created in a way which breathes new life and, crucially, new excitement into Tuscan cuisine. The restaurant promises an ’emotional and sensory experience, to rediscover the magic of being at the dinner table’, and having dined there, I can see why such a pledge is made.
Generally speaking after a fairly sizeable traditional Tuscan meal one can feel pretty leaden. From potato tortelli to Castagnaccio, the sumptuous but weighty chestnut cake, normally it’s a bit of a struggle to rise from the table. Instead, Particolare di Siena takes you on a culinary journey which enables you to sample an exciting new take on those classics, without the downside of the feelings of lethargy after course number five.
The restaurant has opted to split its offering into three parts, three tasting menus, three distinct experiences. The ‘Tradition’ menu does what it says on the tin. It revolves around classics like handmade pici with Pienza pecorino and lampredotto and tomato salad. Meanwhile the ‘Contemporary’ brings a fresh perspective with its warm tomato, ginger and shellfish consommé and its extraordinary risotto of cuttlefish, Colonnata lard and liquorice. The third tasting menu is known simply as ‘Freehand’, it tells the career story of Particolare di Siena’s own Head Chef, Luca Tartaglia. Needless to say there is of course also the A La Carte which offers beautifully constructed dishes such as the veal tartar with green apple and seaweed, or the irresistible goat terrine, courgettes and roasted hazelnuts.
The location of the restaurant is just a short walk from the ‘centro storico’ making it an ideal stop off point for a bit of evening self indulgence after a full day’s worth of pounding the streets of Siena and marveling at its glorious antiquities and vistas. However, the restaurant is in fact a little slice of history in its own right. The lower ground floor is set deep into converted catacombs, which offsets the slick minimalism of the rest of the venue. Ask to have a little tour of the wine cellar which is even deeper towards the earth’s core.
Particolare is also loved for it’s unforgettable ‘Chef’s Table’ experience, which brings a select few diners up close and as personal as its possible to get to the epicenter of creation; the kitchen. Peer over the top of your wine glass into the heart of the operation upon advance request. The restaurant also offers cooking classes, where a day course will teach those who are keen to add their own touch of modernity to Tuscan classics.
Particolare is the perfect foil for those looking to see a new side to local gastronomy. Service is flawlessly slick and ceaselessly helpful when it comes to choosing wine pairings or learning more about each dish, it is a restaurant which will certainly give as good as it gets.
Via Baldassarre Peruzzi, 26, 53100 Siena SI, Italy