Whether you use it or not, social media, such as Facebook, connects people, and sometimes in wonderful and otherwise unlikely ways. It was through Facebook and our common love of Florence, Italy, that the Diva of Divina Cucina, Judy Witts Francini, and I met. I am not sure if I have met anyone as intensely interested in most everything as Judy is. It is no wonder that people from all over the world come to take her cooking classes and her tours of Tuscany.
While I was still in Italy this past summer, Judy introduced me to the Officina della Cucina Popolare restaurant in a little town called Colle di Val d’Elsa, not far from her home in Certaldo. The drive from Florence was lovely. If you would like to see some of my snapshots along the route, visit my Facebook album about the Italian countryside.
I would have preferred to eat lunch there so that there was time to explore the medieval town, but my schedule would not allow it. Colle di Val d’Elsa is known for its lead-glass products and appears to be one long stretch of a town, running along the spine of a hill. The light on the long days here was starting to fade and I tried to get off a few images before the sun was completely gone. We parked (for free) outside of a very castle-like looking entrance all the “Porta Nova.” Not far inside is L’Officina on the right.
We sat outside to enjoy the evening air. The restaurant is very simple and therefore not overly “Italian” as more touristy places can be sometimes. The place had few visitors when we arrived on a Friday night just as they opened, but Italians eat later and the place was completely full before half-way through our dinner. The food was creatively prepared, beautifully displayed and a wonderful sensation for the taste buds.
The owners prefer a more organic way to live, serving food grown by sustainable local farmers and friends. Their menus are from recycled materials, such as these sides of wine boxes that you see in my photos. Their glasses are cut wine bottles.
I am not difficult to please when it comes to food, generally being happy if anyone but me prepares it. However, in the hands of people with passion for food, I can be completely blown away by the quality of the dining experience! This dinner was superb. I can honestly say that I never felt so … enchanted . . . with a bowl of cheese soup before. Pictured here with the fresh celery for dipping, mmm mmm mmmmmmmm
So, I apologize for not recording exactly what I ate here – sometimes it is difficult to live life and record it at the same time. The meat dish was wonderful and the one image shows Judy demonstrating to me how the traditional Italian cheese gourd-shaped ball is “unraveled” and eaten by locals.
Of the four friends who own and operate the Officina, I met Nicola Zak Bochicchio (isn’t he beautiful?) that evening as he successfully tempted us with the dessert menu. Like me, Judy prefers to order different items and then have all the table guests taste a little of each as they choose. I include three of our choices here. Please note that these are just snapshots with a flash (horrible!) and yet, these desserts still look so yummy (and they WERE)! And to top it all off, the prices were surprisingly affordable.
This last image is one I took that night as we exited through the same Porta Nova. I may not know much about food, but I have a pretty good understanding of the beauty of light. I will be returning to Colle di Val d’Elsa and definitely to the Officina, only for a longer visit next time. I hope you have a chance to experience this kind of traditional Tuscana too.
- Useful Links:
- Officina della Cucina Popolare
- Facebook page for L’Officina
- Divina Cucina’s Review of L’Officina
- Judy’s site for Divina Cucina – Everyone should try being Tuscan at least once a day