At a Pisa Lunch, an Italian TV Star and Bistecca Fiorentina
There’s no doubt that most people head to Il Ristoro for the succulent organic meats – and not only – but now I wonder if a few diners had booked the restaurant hoping to see the owner, Italian TV/film star, Roberto Farnesi.
When there recently, cards we picked up at the entryway featured Farnesi with his film-star smile aimed at the camera, not at the bistecca fiorentina in front of him.
…and photos of him decorate the restaurant walls here and there, backdropping diners slicing into juicy steaks:
Our own seating was perfect: our table was steps away from the open counters where a variety of artistically-arranged colorful antipasti, enticing pasta dishes and sizzling meats on slate slabs were swiftly set out by the chefs and kitchen staff, then swept off by servers in the adjacent dining area:
Meats were on display in a glass case below the counter top, for selection by customers:
If a bistecca fiorentina was the choice, the cut was weighed….
….and then presented to the customer by the server for approval before chef Marco would slide it onto the grill:
As starters, Pino had chosen an antipasto of batter-fried zucchini flowers (organic – as are most of the vegetables) stuffed with burrata cheese and anchovies…..
….and I’d decided on a HALF(!)-portion – wanting to save room for un secondo – of a primo piatto of ravioli stuffed with squash in a pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) fondue and sprinkled with crushed walnuts. (Served on a slab of slate, a feast for the eye as well as the palate).
…and then our secondi were on the food counter, ready to be picked up…..
….by smiling server, Corrado:
For Pino, a selection of grilled meats with roasted potatoes on the side, while I had ordered hamburger vegetariano in fonduta di pecorino:
Appealing desserts appeared on the kitchen counter top right behind us but …who had room?
We even skipped the sorbetto al limone!
Before we left, I wandered the restaurant rooms a bit, taking photos of satisfied diners..
….and forlorn, well-behaved dogs on leashes under the tables of their owners slicing into enticing bistecche just above the tips of their pets’ noses:
And then Roberto Farnesi dropped in and fans approached him for autographs:
When Corrado told him that I would be writing a blog note on Il Ristoro, Farnesi took me on a short tour, showing me the wood oven where all the bread and pizzas (on the evening menu) are made and introducing me to his pizza chef from Albania, there with his family for lunch.
A bearded, beaming big fellow, he held his son in one arm, proudly showing me a loaf of the bread he made with his other hand.
I complimented Farnesi on the variety of nationalities Il Ristoro employed. Kitchen and wait staff hail from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Santo Domingo, the Philippines and Peru.
I wish I could send each the photos I took, for they had posed so proudly:
Chef Luca (from Pisa) told me with a twinkle in his eye, “Even our grill chef, Marco, is a foreigner: he’s from Lucca!”
Standing before his grill in black tunic and black chef’s hat, bearded Marco just smiled….
Roberto Farnesi stars on Italian television but at Il Ristoro, Marco, Luca and all the staff deserve an Emmy. A culinary one.
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