Vibe! Atmosphere! Presence!
Il Santino via Santo Spirito is a great place to be for drinks, brunch, a snack or dinner.
I think I just got lucky. I sat at the bar in an Italian restaurant for my entire meal! The Italians really don't want you sitting at the bar in the main dining room. They just don't. They do everything to persuade you that a table would be more comfortable. If this were a wine bar, then you're going to stand (most bars have no chairs to sit in) at their bar. At an Italian restaurant, table service is an expectation.
Call me a stubborn American for this one point. I like eating at the bar when I'm by myself. Honestly, the restaurant should like the fact I'm not taking up real estate at a table. I watched, for over 2 hours, people come in and be turned away from the bar immediately. Like I said, lucky.
To start, chestnut tagliatelle with oxtail and "dolce forte" sauce with sliced radish. The aroma, the scent takes you first; there is sweetness in the air. You approach carefully, finding just the right spot to make your move, longing for that the pasta to touch your lips. Then it comes, the first bite, the buttery nature or near sweet flavor of the dolce forte sauce is a deliberate, premeditated tease to keep luring you in. The demanding flavors of braised oxtail are next. Flavorful, rich, the passionate deep kiss of the sauce, oxtail and pasta are coming together. Enter the radish.The radish, a bitterness, near the end, just to remind you that it can't be bold, sweet and sexy all the time. You have to take everything on the plate together, not just the piece you want.
This chestnut tagliatelle dish is best described as Monica Bellucci in the Matrix. Sexy. Risk taker. Bitter. Passionate. Single minded. Ruthless. Practical. Wise. Complicated. Simple. Carries a pistol. Willing to fool around in a bathroom. And she has a crazy boyfriend who speaks French. The whole package or nothing at all.
Roasted veal rib chop with pomme purée and Calvados poached pear purée. I couldn't get enough of the pear. I ate all the pear and half the potatoes. The potato was super smooth and creamy and well seasoned, but that pear just hit. The veal chop couldn't have gotten any better. Great color, seasoning and cut. Again, no one asked me how I wanted my veal chop cooked, there's only one way, medium rare. Great cut of meat.
I had the folks behind the bar put together a trio of sheep milk cheeses to finish along with a grappa. The sheep's milk cheeses all came from Sardinia and were each a different age, roughly 3 months, 9 months and what was probably over a year. I favored the fresh and oldest cheeses. The middle one just didn't have the extremes of flavor.
The grappa was made from Cabernet Sauvignon and one of the bigger grappas I've had since I've been here.
A great night and a great walk back home down the Arno.