Where to Dine
It is often said that it's impossible to dine badly in Italy, and as a general rule that's true. There are enough customers to make the restaurant business a real profession—even a calling—and intense local pride focuses attention on regional recipes. Those customers are used to good home cooking, and so they make the same demands when they go out—and almost always find satisfaction. From humble, roadside eateries to the finest tables in top cities, there is good reason for the tendency of travelers returning from Italy to regale listeners first and foremost about "the food."
Montalcino Dining Information
Italian cuisine as a whole is based on the simple and careful cooking of perfect ingredients rather than elaborate sauces and complicated preparation. This is what's known as "la cucina povera," peasant cooking based on ingredients that are home-grown, such as salad greens, fresh vegetables, and farm-raised meat, or gathered in the wild, such as porcini mushrooms, asparagus, and game. This is especially true of the restaurants in Montalcino and elsewhere in southern Tuscany, as opposed to the more cosmopolitan area immediately surrounding Florence.
In keeping with this unspoiled approach, there's a welcome informality to dining in and around Montalcino: table cloths there may be, but stuffiness, no. Most restaurants are family-owned and family-operated; when staff must be hired, the owners consult friends and family, not employment agencies.Most Italians take their full meal at lunchtime, and dine on lighter fare later in the evening, but a full dinner is not unusual these days, either. Because most restaurants are small, it's best to reserve ahead. Phone or, if near by, drop in earlier. The latter is more fun: when you return you'll be greeted like a friend. Most restaurants serve lunch from about noon to 2:00 or 3:00, then take a midday break and serve dinner from 7:30 (considered early) to as late as 10:00 or 10:30. The menu notation "Lo chef consiglia" introduces the daily specials. Smoking is permitted in most restaurants, few of which have no-smoking areas.