Osteria La Magona—Super Tuscan par excellence
Bolgheri is exactly the kind of little Italian town that we all have in our dreams; it oozes ease and style and is redolent of that feeling of dolce vita we all hunger (or thirst) for. An inebriating sense of the past envelops you as you walk the cobbled streets lined with seductively colorful ice cream parlors, atmospheric restaurants, and all kinds of cute shops offering prodotti tipici. You know what I mean—it is exactly what we go to Italy for.
To bore you for a second with numbers, Bolgheri is a town with around 600 inhabitants that turns into a major touristic hub in the summertime. Exactly because of this seasonal onslaught it is just the kind of little Italian town that we have in our nightmares when it comes to the mission impossible of parking our cars upon arrival. Just so did we circle around outside the city walls (cars not welcome inside) for a good forty-five minutes before we decided on a ditch of sorts a good kilometer out of town that proved to be the closest feasible parking option not only to us, but to another few dozen glitzy cars from all over the world; besides Americans driving in cognito in rental cars, you can see German, Dutch, English, Swiss, and the odd Polish or Czech—or, in our case, Hungarian—license plates on cars conveying families who are yearly drawn to the mecca of the aptly-named Super Tuscan wines like Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Being on vacation with dear friends who are personal friends of Isabella Zwack, the offspring of the famous Hungarian Zwack dynasty who actually grew up in Bolgheri and still lives and works there, we had received trusty advice as to where we should consume culinary marvels of the region and imbibe some of the most superb of Super Tuscan reds.
This is how we got to Osteria La Magona; an unpretentious enough place with its rustic décor and no-nonsense menu. Just to give you an idea, there is the Degustazione di Tartara, Arrosticini e Bocconcini (beef tartare, little bites of rosemary infused roast beef) to share, a plate of the famous Culatello di Zibello (ham from Parma), or heavenly stuffed zucchini flowers. Then you may opt for a pasta dish (as we did) and will be more than impressed by their homemade Maltagliato all’uovo con Ragú di Chianina (traditional meat ragout made of special Tuscan Chianina white cattle). As a culinary climax, you definitely have to order a cut of beef called Panzanese grilled to perfection that is the size of a grown man’s thigh and can feed a large Ethiopian family for a week. More precisely, we ordered a piece of beef weighing a kilo and a half for the four of us. The challenge was on. As to side dishes, you may get roast potatoes, grilled zucchini or a mixed salad. Nothing on the menu, in a word, that you couldn’t have seen time and again on other menus before.
But when I say that simple pleasures are the greatest pleasures in life (sorry about the cliché, but they tend to be true!), the food in this place is a perfect proof of that statement. You may have had roast potatoes and roast beef a zillion times before you get here, but I assure you that this will be on a different level. It testifies to the Italian maxim that prime ingredients and a cooking method that brings out the best in them by way of concentrating on their essence instead of trying to complicate them with fancy methods and combinations and sauces is a key to the best food; simple honest unique and even wholesome and environmentally conscious. The best local ingredients in season are at the heart of this kind of cuisine and they are a perfect accompaniment to the best Super Tuscan wines that bring visitors to Bolgheri in the first place.
We started out with a rose spumante (Castello di Cacchiano), which was perfectly chilled and its dry crisp flavor proved to be an ideal accompaniment to our antipasti misti; the ricotta foam inside the stuffed zucchini flowers tasted even better when washed down with a gulp of this lovely sparkling wine.
To accompany our pasta dishes and the formidable quantity of beef and roast potatoes and zucchini, our trusty friend chose Le Pergole Torte 2010 (Montevertine, Sangiovese grape variety), which is claimed to be the “first ever Super Tuscan wine—though Antinori may dispute that claim” (http://www.wine-pages.com/organise/pergole-torte.htm).
What can I say? The meal was heaven; food, wine, service, atmosphere—everything was perfect about our Bolgheri experience. Even the price: for four adults and two little children, with a bottle of bubbly and a bottle of Super T. red, two-three courses each, we paid 220 Euros with tip.
And the moonlit walk back to our cars was actually very pleasant.
Osteria La Magona (Cucina Mediterranea)
Piazza Ugo 2/3
57022 Bolgheri (U)
Tel.: 0565 762173