Eating in Tuscany’s Mugello Valley: Una Poesia
Our last trip to the northern Tuscany Mugello Valley was on a gray day but the sun comes out as you enter the Ristorante Sergio in Dicomano, bustling with activity, huge bistecche alla fiorentina spitting on the grill in the open fireplace. Gianni flips the bistecche – and sizzling pork chops or lamb chops – with a fork and in the pass-through window to your right, you’ll see his sister Gabriela and beloved helper (“like family”) Elena, topping bruschetta with wild mushrooms or ladling wild boar sauce onto fettuccine.
Giulio (“like family”) retired a few years ago “dopo trenta anni”, he grinned proudly, holding up three fingers to indicate his work years (one per decade). Giulio has had a stroke but comes in to help “whenever they need me,” he smiled, setting out baskets of crusty bread, sliced by Gianni’s nephew, young Matteo.
When I asked Matteo if I could take photos, “Vai!” he replied with a smile, giving me the Tuscan expression of consent. “…e, Anna, guarda queste!” he exclaimed, extending plates of homemade lasagne mounded with meat sauce, just passed through by Elena.
I ask beaming Elena if she’s tired after twenty-five years in the kitchen. “Certo!” she exclaims and gives the same answer – smiling radiantly – when asked if she enjoys cooking for all the Ristorante’s clients. Many are long-time fans: the tribute poem to Ristorante da Sergio on the wall is testament.
Matteo introduced me to the “poet”, Carlo, feasting with a group of friends. Born in Dicomano, he moved to Florence for work but since retirement recently, Carlo drives daily “home” to Dicomano – nearly an hour – for lunch with his old buddies at Ristorante da Sergio (he’s back to Florence by 7 pm for dinner with his wife).
Each eats a course or two at a “prezzo fisso” accorded with Gianni. Builder Robert often opts for lamb, car mechanic Giuseppe chooses the roast chicken and retired city employee Luigi relishes the roast pork with fennel and rosemary. Carlo, Nino, Salvatore, join in the feasting, too.
As he dished up enticing desserts, Matteo joked that the group has one vice: “Mangiano poco, bevono molto.” (“..but not really,” he told me later).
Noting me taking photos, Marcella – living in Genoa but born in Dicomano – and daughter Federica came to our table to chat. Home to visit family, Marcella can’t imagine eating anywhere else: “solo qui si mangia la vera bistecca!”
Although we didn’t have “la vera bistecca” that day – and we don’t head to Mugello daily for lunch – we understand why Carlo does. And he’s right: Ristorante da Sergio certainly does “merita una poesia.”