On a recent trip to Florence we booked our final nights dinner at the 1 Michelin star restaurant, Ora d’Aria. Ora d’Aria (meaning ‘hour of air’) first took its name from when the restaurant opened, at a previous location, opposite a prison. Guests dined whilst the inmates took advantage of their daily exercise hour. New location and new meaning, we are told ’hour of air’ now focuses on their patrons time spent at the restaurant…they want to ensure each guest is exposed to tradition, innovation and elegance created by one of Italy’s leading chefs, Marco Stabile.
What we love about Stabile is that he is from Tuscany, and whilst he has developed his skills in some of Italy’s finest kitchens, he has remained in Tuscany and allowed us, the punters, to experience some of the most amazing Italian cuisine to have passed our lips.
On a recent Tuscan break we discovered on a menu, Spaghetti Ubriachi, literally translated as “drunken spaghetti” but actually being spaghetti cooked in red wine. We came across it in a wonderful family run trattoria high on the hills of Montecatini Alto, where, in broken English, the waiter promised us it was made by mamma in the kitchen in the same way she has been making it for years.
A few nights later we tried it elsewhere, and a few nights after that somewhere else, but none could compare to that original dish which was rich in red wine, perfectly balanced with salt from the pancetta with the sweetness of the caramelised onions. Itching to replicate the dish we scoured the web for the recipe, finding versions of drunken spaghetti and versions of spaghetti with pancetta and red onions, but none that combined the two. Taking the best of all of these we’ve come up with a dish, which we think, is as close as we’re going to get to that Tuscan original:
TERRIFIC TROGLODYTE TRIP!
Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita – it’s a hotel in a 9,000 year old cave in the ancient city of Matera. That pretty much sums up the hotel but it doesn’t really do it justice…it’s a little bit more than just a cave hotel as it’s also a project in ecology and sympathetic restoration and an exciting adventure for its guests.
We first came across Matera, in Puglia, southern Italy (near the boot heel) when we learnt of the Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita hotel (a stunning cave hotel which we quickly added to our bucket list and just as quickly planned a visit to). I had mentioned to my Italian hairdresser (from Naples) that Elldrew were heading there for 4 days and all he asked was “Why?” I explained to him about the hotel and he seemed a little bemused, whilst having heard of the city he hadn’t realised that it had, in fact, reached international tourist status. After some rather extensive research prior to booking the hotel (we didn’t want to be stuck in a place that couldn’t keep us amused for days, especially when our travel dates were dictated by a very limited flight schedule), we actually began to look forward to exploring the delights of this ancient city.