Working Up an Appetite at Mercato Albinelli

Traveling alone definitely has its pros and cons. I am really enjoying doing what I want to do when I want to do it, taking no one else’s taste or energy level into consideration. I do miss sharing something delicious (“Taste this!”) or sharing a laugh at something ridiculous.

Italy is such a romantic, picturesque country. I watch lovers kiss in the piazzas and I’ll admit it, my heart tugs a little. I head first to Mercato Albinelli, a great food hall filled with stalls of fresh produce, meats, fish, salamis and baked goods. I photograph everything from artfully arranged artichokes to sea scallops still in their shells. The colors, the smells, the chat is such a glorious sensory experience. I walk the entire market place several times. I nibbled on a croissant, saving the rest of my appetite for lunch at Franceschetta 58.

If Osteria Franchescana had a funky, cool teenage daughter, it would be Franceschetta 58. I loved the mixed up china plates hanging on the wall, the teapots filled with assorted flatware, the mix of unmatched china and glassware and the flower arrangement in odd glass vessels.

There was so much to take in. I loved it all. I was seated at the end of the communal table with a great view of the entire restaurant, which was filled with every kind of diner, from a tattooed couple from the United States to a chic gaggle of girlfriends from Paris. Every age and ethnic combination filled this small, eclectic space with warm, efficient women running the front of the house.

The menu consisted of a few tasting menu options, the traditional, three course and a house special tasting menu, which I opted for. Two and a half hours of sumptuous dining, featuring everything from Chef Bottura’s famous burger in a cardboard box to a chicken breast floating on pureed lemon potatoes and a dessert that literally melted in my mouth, I completed my lunch feeling sated and utterly seduced by the spirit and the reputation of Chef Bottura.

No dinner tonight. Just going to pack, digest my stellar lunch and get ready to head to Montefollonico tomorrow.