Anthony Bourdain is in beautiful Tuscany, exploring this contrasting land of heaven and hell. Heaven because of its breathtaking scenery, exquisite cuisine, and kind people—hell not only because of Tuscany's famous hell-writing native, Dante, but because the trip to get there was filled with difficulties.
Anthony travels to the beautiful countryside of Tuscany to visit with family and friends and enjoy some homemade pasta that's out of this world.
Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Florence, the historical centre of Siena, the square of the Cathedral of Pisa, the historical centre of San Gimignano, the historical centre of Pienza and the Val d'Orcia. Furthermore, Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves. This makes Tuscany and Florence very popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of tourists every year. Florence itself receives an average of 10 million tourists a year, placing the city as one of the most visited in the world.
Florence lies on the River Arno; it is known for its history and its importance in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially for its art and architecture and, more generally, for its cultural heritage. A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance; it has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages.
A turbulent political history included periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, religious and republican revolution. From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. Florence is often known as the "Jewel of the Renaissance".
Florence is arguably the last preserved Renaissance city in the world and is regarded by many as the art capital of Italy. It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical figures, such as Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Catherine de' Medici, Luigi Cherubini, Antonio Meucci, Guccio Gucci, Franco Zeffirelli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, Leonardo Bruni, Coluccio Salutati, and Emilio Pucci.
Food and wine have long been an important staple of the economy. Tuscany has an unique culinary tradition, and is famous for its wines (most famous of which are Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino).
Florence is the most important city in Tuscany, one of the great wine-growing regions in the world. The Chianti region is just south of the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends.
Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine, and most of the Tuscan cuisine has peasant origins. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November.
Florentine food grows out of a tradition of peasant eating rather than rarefied high cooking. The majority of dishes are based on meat. The whole animal was traditionally eaten; tripe, (trippa) and (lampredotto) were once regularly on the menu and still are sold at the food carts stationed throughout the city.
High-quality beef, used for the traditional Florentine steak, come from the Chianina cattle breed of the Chiana Valley and the Maremmana from Maremma. Pork is also produced. The region is well-known also for its rich game, especially wild boars, hares, fallow deers, roe deers and pheasant that often are used to prepare pappardelle dishes.
Regional desserts include panforte (prepared with honey, fruits and nuts), ricciarelli (biscuits made using an almond base with sugar, honey and egg white), and cavallucci (cookies made with almonds, candied fruits, coriander, flour, honey). Other well-known regional wines include Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Parrina, Sassicaia, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
After three nearly continuous years of making No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain and his crew rent a villa in the Chianti area of Tuscany, and hope for an idyllic week filming this episode. There would be fantastic regional food, the simplicity and integrity of plainly prepared meats and cheeses, and the seasonal specialties for which the region is famous. It was a good plan. Unfortunately, there were clouds on the horizon: Italian auteur director Vincenzo Tripodo whose creative vision for the episode is influenced by Dante's Inferno.
Fattoria Casaloste: Anthony and his wife Olivia visit Fattoria Casaloste, a small neighboring family-run vineyard that has recently won international awards for its wine. Fattoria Casaloste produce a Chianti Classico wine. After a tour of the vineyard and some wine-tasting, Anthony buys as much wine as he can get his hands on.
Chianti Classico wines that are medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic aromas with the wines expressing more notes on the mid-palate and finish than at the front of the mouth.
Fattoria Corzano e Paterno: Anthony visits the Fattoria Corzano e Paterno to buy some cheese. They make artisanal cheese from sheep's milk. After a brief tour of their farm, Anthony samples several of their cheese: Ambro, Blu, and Buccia di Rospo.
Artisan cheese is manufactured by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheesemakers. As a result, the cheeses are often more complex in taste and variety. Many are aged and ripened to achieve certain aesthetics. This contrasts with the more mild flavors of mass produced cheeses produced in large scale operations, often shipped and sold right away.
Part of the artisan cheese making process is aging and ripening of the cheeses to develop flavor and textural characteristics. One type of artisan cheese is known as farmstead cheese, made traditionally with milk from the producer's own herds of cows, sheep, and goats.
Chef Bourdain's Italian Début: After consulting one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, Anthony prepares his take on spaghetti carbonara, adding meatballs of fresh sausage to the pancetta in this creamy, cheesy classic, and substituting linguine for the spaghetti. He also makes eggplant caponata and a fennel-orange salad. Neither his wife Olivia nor director Vincenzo, both native Italians, are impressed with the results. Realizing he really knows nothing about Italian cuisine, Anthony invites his good friend and celebrity chef Cesare Casella to fly from NYC to help with the episode.
Authentic Italian Ranch: Anthony and Cesare visit a ranch in Maremma worked by real butteri. Unfortunately, they quickly discover that this centuries-old tradition of ranching is a dying art. Still, they're able to witness some remnants of the culture.
Maremma was traditionally populated by the butteri. A buttero is an Italian cowboy and tends livestock, especially cattle and sheep. The buttero's attire consists of coarse cotton pants, leggings, a velvet jacket and a black hat. He protects himself from the rain with a large mantle called the pastràno and carries the mazzarella, a stick employed for herding.
While touring Europe in 1890, Buffalo Bill took his Wild West show to Rome to display cowboy skills. Unimpressed, the butteri challenged Buffalo Bill and his show to a contest of skill. The butteri proved far more experienced than the Buffalo Bill troupe and the national moment of glory for the butteri was savored for many years.
Ristorante Uccellina: On the way back to Chianti, Cesare recommends that they stop at Ristorante Uccellina, the Italian equivalent of a roadside truck stop. After an appetizer of cured meat, sausage and bruschetta, they enjoy a pasta course of papardelle with wild boar ragù. Over the meal, Anthony drills Cesare about some common misconceptions about Italian food. Cesare's advice is simple: with Italian cooking, if you have great ingredients, there's no need to do too much else. Then the next course arrives: wild boar (cinghiale) with olives, cooked in umido—a sauce in which a food is cooked and served made from the food's own juices.
Larderia Mafalda: One of Anthony's most favorite things in life is lardo. So Anthony travels to Colonnata to visit Larderia Mafalda, owned and operated by Roberta and her son Carlo. Colonnata is an ancient village situated in the Apuan Alps where Dante went to write. It is known worldwide for the pork fat delicacy—Lardo di Colonnata—and for its marble quarries where Michelangelo got his materials.
Lardo is a type of Italian charcuterie made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes. The most famous lardo is from the Tuscan hamlet of Colonnata, where lardo has been made since Roman times.
Private Cooking Lesson: Roberta visits Anthony at his villa to personally give him a lesson in making fresh pasta from scratch. Roberta starts with teaching Anthony how to make tagliolini and tagliatelle. Then she moves on to showing him how to make lasagna. She ends with demonstrating how to make ravioli. Anthony proves to be an adept student.
Individual pieces of tagliatelle are long, flat ribbons that are similar in shape to fettuccine and are typically about 0.25 to 0.375 inches wide. Tagliatelle can be served with a variety of sauces, though the classic is a meat sauce or Bolognese sauce. Tagliolini is another variety of tagliatelle that is long and cylindrical in shape, not long and flat. Lasagna is a very wide, flat pasta (sometimes with wavy edges). It is typically served in alternating layers with cheese, a sauce, and often other ingredients such as ground beef, sausage, or spinach. Ravioli—a type of filled pasta composed of a filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta dough.
Home-cooked Italian Meal: Anthony visits his friend Mico who is home for his birthday visiting family in the sleepy seaside resort of Marina di Pisa. After a shopping trip in town for some squid, anchovies and cicale di mare, Mico's family prepares a feast of dishes heavily influenced by the Mediterranean sea, such as wild pigeon braised with olives and squid; penne con cicale di mare; acciughe alla povera (Poor Man's Anchovies)—layers on layers of anchovies, onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil; and seppie in umido.
Antica Macelleria Cecchini: Anthony and Cesare travel to the small hilltop village of Panzano in Chianti to visit Dario Cecchini, who is regarded by many as the greatest and most respected butcher in Italy. Dario descends from a long line of butchers, and has recreated an antique-style macelleria (butcher shop)—Antica Macelleria Cecchini—on the site of the family shop which was destroyed during the World War II. He's also a showman and something of an expert on that most famous of Tuscans—Dante Alighieri. Anthony buys crostinis with lardo, finocchiona salami, a slice of pork, a fresh cut of pork, wild fennel flower pollen, and wine for his dinner party. Then Anthony joins the hordes of tourists visiting the shop for a soirée and samples the wine, salami and polpéttas (balls of mincemeat) eaten on crostinis provided by their generous host.
Chef Bourdain's Encore Performance: Anthony is determined to exonerate himself and redeem his honor and reputation as a chef after his earlier diastrous début performance. This time Cesare has his back. They serve farro salad, cannellini beans, fresh-made pasta with lardo, zucchini flowers, lightly seared Tuscan tartare, artisan cheese served over asparagus, and a large black truffle. This time the meal is a success.
As Dario recites, in his baritone voice, verses from Dante's Inferno, the constant nonsensical references to Dante throughout the episode, as well as Vincenzo's obsessive attempt at his own Inferno allegory, all finally begin to make some sense.