Dining at Da Nada: A hilltop restaurant in Maremma, Tuscany
“Eat there,” Carla said in her charming Italian-accented French, pointing to Da Nada restaurant typed out amongst a list of local restaurants in a giant welcome binder. After a seven-hour road trip from Milan — which included a very-out-of-the-way detour to Eataly World outside Bologna — Adam and I had arrived at our agriturismo. Carla and her family have owned Fattoria di Peruzzo for decades, welcoming people from all over the world to stay on their farm in one of four repurposed barns and outbuildings and we were welcomed with barking dogs, that giant welcome binder, hot espresso and a broken conversation about where we should be eating in and around Roccatederighi.
Three days later, we had settled into a life of routine on the farm as if we lived there. Mornings with fresh fruit and coffee on our little terrazzo overlooking the plains of Maremma, shopping at a different farmer’s market every day, exploring churches and castles of the neighbouring western Tuscan towns and spending hours reading by the pool had taken years of stress off our shoulders. But we were ready for a real rural Tuscan dining experience.
As the sun disappeared over the stone buildings of the fattoria, Adam pushed our little Fiat 500 rental to the brink of overexertion as we plowed up the darkening hillside to the town of Roccatederighi, a ten-minute drive up a curvy road from Fattoria di Peruzzo. Roccatederighi’s dimly lit orange and terra cotta buildings felt deserted as we parked the car outside Da Nada restaurant. Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed with the exterior.
Adam had called earlier in the day and made a reservation at Da Nada restaurant for 10 pm but I started questioning Carla’s recommendation when we walked in the door. Three men sat along the wall of a dimly lit bar chatting animatedly with a thin women in a chef’s hat decorated with a rainbow of cartoon skulls.
The woman introduced herself as Laura and guided us through a French door to a bright yellow dining room. A sigh of relief escaped both Adam and I as we were seated amongst the wooden and wicker chairs, rainbow glassware and white tablecloths, red light fixtures and funky artwork. The darkened windows across one wall would reveal a magnificent view of Maremma had it been daylight but for our dinner, the shadows of Montemassi castle were a magical view.
Even though there was a stack of menus on the cluttered mantle, Laura listed off choices for primo (first course or appetizer), secondo (main entree) and contorno (sides). We made our selection and then came the wine. Laura clumsily opened the 2016 Acquanera from her friend’s nearby winery Quercia Grossa in between bouts of questions and chatter with us and the only other couple in the restaurant and slowly poured the lush ruby wine into big goblets. She told us she worked for years at Da Nada as the daughter-in-law of the owners Nada and Rodolfo and was married to their only son Fabrizio. A family affair in the kitchen and the dining room I know was going to guarantee a delicious meal.
Adam and I both started with the Pappardelle al Cinghiale, a wild boar pasta. The lush ruby wine paired perfectly with the pungent but light pasta sauce covering the velvety pappardelle. That was one of the first times I tasted food grown and made within walking distance paired with a wine. They tasted like each other. They tasted like the hot Tuscan sun, the grassy fields and the earthy paths we walked on each day. Taste of place took on a whole new meaning to me. I’ve never been the same.
Coniglio and trippa at Da Nada restaurant
For the main course, I went with coniglio (rabbit) and Adam chose trippa (tripe). The braised rabbit was slow roasted with garlic, onion and lemon and then tossed with a splash of cream at the last second. I chose the rabbit haphazardly, surprising myself because I typically don’t like rabbit but man I’m glad I did! It was juicy and flavourful and that hit of cream added the perfect creaminess without being too rich or heavy — the perfectly weighed main.
Adam’s tripe was on par in the delicious department. Tripe (an offal dish consisting of the inner stomach of an animal, in this case, cow) can be tricky if cooked improperly and those who are new to it could be put off. But at Da Nada it was faultlessly tender, bathed in a rich tomato sauce. Our contorno was a big fresh salad, lightly dressed with olive oil and local balsamico. The wine continued to sing along with our meal.
Full, but not too full for famous desserts
Dessert was a no-brainer. Da Nada is famous for their Tiramisu so we knew we had to share even though we were full — honestly, we had no option because Laura was bringing it to the table regardless. Dripping with cream and soaked in espresso, the tiramisu was huge and delicious with the signature Da Nada scrawled across the platter (yes platter, it was that huge) in chocolate sauce.
After our meal, we waddled back to the Fiat and drove back down the hill to our agriturismo. The twisty road was dark and quiet and I struggled not to fall asleep after the most amazing Tuscan meal. Perfetto.