It’s especially nice to have a good meal on the last evening of a holiday. Sometimes I go back to a place I’ve been to early on and liked a lot, but when you’re only staying somewhere for 4 nights that’s not so practical. And anyway, from my long list of possible places to eat, it seemed I definitely had to try one more new one.
Ristorante Grotta Santa Caterina da Bagoga was recommended by my B&B and in a Pocket Lonely Planet so it was worth a look, especially as it was very close to where I’m staying. I’ve talked of the steep streets in Siena but via Macina was exceptionally steep and I had to take it very carefully as I made my way down. It was however pretty and a nice quiet setting. The address for the restaurant is actually via Della Galluzza, which runs across the bottom, but Macina was my direct route and the entrance.
It was early in the day, too early even for lunch, but I looked in and called to someone that I’d like to book a table for the evening. Two or three people appeared and all were very friendly. And what was nice was that although they clearly speak English (confirmed this evening) they didn’t interrupt my slow Italian and answered me in Italian. It’s so nice when people show the patience to do this.
Now one of the interesting things about da Bagoga – apart from its traditional Senese food – is that the owner-chef was once a famous Palio jockey and thus the restaurant celebrates this with many photos and memorabilia from Siena’s famous horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo twice a year (next Monday, 2 July, being the first this year; the second on 16 August).
I arrived just before 7.30 and quite a few tables were taken but there were still many empty ones. However, a half an hour or so later the restaurant was full so booking seems essential.
It’s a very traditional Tuscan setting and cosy for it. The waiters were as friendly as earlier and I was made to feel welcome.
There was a good set menu for €40 of Senese dishes but I didn’t think I could manage so many courses. I instead chose Ribollita to begin from the main menu, a classic Tuscan soup made from bread, beans and whatever vegetables are in season. It’s really more of a winter dish but it was what I fancied! And good it was too; very thick, the bread soft and silky within it. The Tuscans make the most delicious bread but it doesn’t stay fresh long. They have therefore come up with some wonderful ways of using up the stale bread.
I considered one of the Mains but opted instead for another Primi. I’m snacking more in day than usual – though am also walking a lot off; 10km today) so don’t always feel like a big meal. And I did feel like having a ‘pici’ dish again. So I chose Pici al Cinghiale – pici pasta with wild boar ragu.
You see lots of pici dishes in all the restaurants in Siena and packets piled high in food shops. Pici is a kind of very thick spaghetti made by hand and quite special. The dish was gorgeous. In true Italian style a fairly small amount of sauce is carefully mixed into the cooked pasta. The sauce was gorgeous; very tasty and I was glad I’d chosen it.
There was quite a big choice of desserts and I chose ‘Il Misti di dolce Senesi con il Vin Santo’. I thought it would be a mix of desserts and the woman at a nearby table seemed to have that, but in fact it was a mix of Siena’s famous biscuits: panforte, cantuccini and ricciarelli.
I didn’t mind, it was nice to try them all, especially with the small glass of vin santo. They were delicious but I couldn’t finish them – I would have happily shared!
I ordered an espresso to finish.
My bill took me back to the Palio! What a great ‘bill’ it was and my own Palio souvenir.
I paid just €35 for food and drink (a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva and water).
It was a really nice place, good food, nice atmosphere and a great way to finish my trip to Siena.