A Charming and Scrumptious Restaurant in Siena
Ristorante Grotta di Santa Caterina is a stellar spot run by a wonderful father and son team. The son, Francesco, manages this charming restaurant that is rich with culinary and equestrian history. Chef Bagoga was a famous jockey that decided after his retirement to cook professionally and has become an award winning chef. This delicious little restaurant is under an arched brick roof that is decorated with Bagoga’s awards, photos and paraphernalia from both his life as a jockey and a chef. In addition to their tasty food they also produce their own delightful wine and commissioned a famous artist named Daniele Cestari to create their beautiful wine labels.
Our first dish was a sensational Savory Cheese Tart with Warm Walnut Cream. It was a splendid mix of Italy’s most famous trio of cheeses: Ricotta, Pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano that blended together phenomenally. It was like an addictive, cone shaped cheese blintz that was much lighter and had a fantastic crisp golden crust. The walnut cream was very unique and complemented the tart scrumptiously. One of these treats was simply not enough.
Our next dish left our mouths swimming in deep and extraordinary flavor. We were monumentally impressed with the time and diligence imbued into the taste of their Slow Cooked Lentil Soup with Pheasant. This Soup was the epitome of comfort food. The minute it came out, the mere scent wafting from it made the photography-addicted Shedonist want to put her face straight into the scalding bowl. She even almost forgot to take a picture before diving in!!! The flavor was just as rich and profound as its aroma. You can taste, smell and feel the TLC (time, love and care) that was poured into nurturing this congenial soup. It was cooked in the oven for 9 hours with a lentil and pheasant base. The pheasant was soft and had an almost meat like superb taste. It was a spectacular soup that we wish we had the talent and patience to replicate.
The Handmade Pasta with Ragu and a Beef Pork Meat Mix was so delectable. It contained thick bountiful pasta that was ever so satisfying. This is a plate of spaghetti that the “Lady and the Tramp” love stricken dogs would fight to the death over, instead of romantically slurping in tandem. Just the meat mix on its own packed a tremendous flavor. The Hedonist lathered it with fresh-grated Parmesano-Reggiano because Parma makes almost all food better.
The final dish on this palate shattering meal was a magnificent Cinta Senese. This is a two-colored ancient Tuscan breed,which is in between a pig and a wild boar. The CInta Senese has a DPO status, so it is only bred in Siena. It was cooked to juicy perfection and served with a beautiful thin Carpaccio style layer of lard stretched over it. At first blush, it looked like a thin slice of melted cheese draped over the top but it was so much more. It felt as if they put a special type of seasoned salt underneath the lard. The meat had a nice tasty char on it. It was well done on the outside but still warm and bursting with intoxicating red juices on the inside. The combination of the marvelously seasoned swine and lard made for a remarkably potent taste and texture.
Ristorante Grotta di Santa Caterina is a MUST if you are in Siena. The cuisine is spectacular and so reasonably priced. The food is made with meticulous love and care and the ambiance is adorable. We are so grateful that we were fortunate enough to partake in it.