“Tuscan” as an adjective is one of the most widely misused in the world of food and restaurant advertising and, possibly even less forgivably, food writing. Beginning in the early 1980s, likely with the opening of Il Cantinori in lower Manhattan that built on the success of the celebrity haunt Da Silvano, the Tuscan trattoria and Tuscan dishes it served eventually became hot and widely emulated around the country.
With a strikingly beautiful landscape, seemingly countless picturesque hill towns, an amazing art-filled history, and a resulting popularity with English-speaking tourists, “Tuscan” was ripe for exploitation by marketers. What is actual Tuscan food? There is no one answer and the cuisine changes throughout the region, especially going from the coast inland, as with most of Italy. It is basically hardy and more meat-driven than other regional Italian cuisines and maybe a little less exciting. Among other things, the typical bread is salt-free, and blander, the cheeses less grand or interesting, there are more soups than pastas, the olive oil is excellent and ubiquitous, and the region is the home of Italy’s most traditional, and best, steak dish, the fiorentina. And, the red wine, necessarily for nearly every meal, is not too bad, either.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to the region several times over the past dozen or so years. The associated list contains ten dishes I had on trip in late November to the area in southern Tuscany around Montalcino. It is not meant to be comprehensive, and it reflects the late autumn season, so fewer greens, but it includes dishes I have had on past trips.