Antica Osteria di Meati

Sometimes you find a great restaurant in the most unlikely place. Such is the Osteria di Meati it a tiny hamlet just outside of Lucca. The village of Meati is so small as to be almost non-existent; It’s on a tiny, obscure road that you would likely be driving only because you had gotten lost; and the restaurant itself is totally unassuming, looking rather like a neighborhood bar. Only the large number of cars parked outside hint at the treats waiting within.

Osteria di Meati

Inside is a rather ordinary bar with a few tables; a reservation will get you a table in simple, but pleasant, dining room in the rear—crowded with happy, well dressed, hungry locals. And why not? The food is fantastic, and unbelievably cheap! About half the short menu consists of daily or weekly specials, all composed of fresh seasonal ingredients and house-made pastas.

It’s difficult to make a plate of tuscan beans with slices of lard sound as good as it is, but this is a must have antipasto. The Tuscan crostini with chicken livers is among the best versions I’ve had of this Tuscan classic. Grilled vegetables are also very nicely done. The risottos and pastas are consistently excellent, particularly the daily specials, which might feature wild game, wild mushrooms or fresh herbs. The segundo tend to feature rabbit, duck, eel or tripe as specials, though there is always roast chicken or sliced steak. The meat dishes are perfectly prepared and seasoned, evidencing an un-fussy, yet sophisticated hand in the kitchen. The rabbit and duck were both delicious, and Cinghiale, a classic Tuscan stew of wild boar and olives that is too often lackluster, was perfection. Desserts are pleasant and the house wine decent.

I’m not sure who is in the kitchen, turning out this fantastic food, but the owner and his teenaged son run the dining room, with a friendly welcome and great enthusiasm.

And Unbelievably—four courses, house wine, coffee will set you back little more than €20 ($20) per person. If you can find it, I enthusiastically reccomend a meal—or several—at the Osteria di Meati.—Clay Doyle

Antica Osteria di Meati

Meati is about 3 kilometers west of Lucca

Follow the signs to Meati from the old road SS12

Telephone (39) 0583-510-373

Reservations advised

Originally posted November 2002. I revisited the Osteria di Meati several times in October of 2006 and found it better than ever. Sunday lunch on the lawn with big bistecca Friorentino is a special treat.—Clay

Tuscan Grapes

Marfield’s Smokehouse

Marfield's Smokehouse and Pub

Leavenworth, Kansas, northeast of Kansas City, and known primarily as the home of a Federal Penitentiary and a Military Prison, could be considered “off the beaten track”. Though it was once, in the mid 19th century, the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, today it has a decidedly sleepy, small town atmosphere. There aren’t too many places worth eating if you find yourself in Leavenworth—but there is one tiny place that is terrific—perhaps even worth a special trip.

Marfield’s is a small Bar-B-Que joint in downtown Leavenworth—in a part of the country famous for Bar-B-Que and steaks. It was recommended to me by the proprietress of a local giftshop, the wife of a retired army officer who had lived for many years in Europe, and seemed to have a great appreciation for good food.

I Didn’t know what to expect really, as it’s a very unassuming sort of dust colored stucco shack on an empty block—with not even a sign outside. But once you step through the door it is a real surprise—very nicely done up in a manner that is both friendly yet stylish. There are nice wooden booths with really nice copper clad tables and pale spare walls. The place is quite small, but divided by a low wall into two rooms—one with six small booths and the other with a long bar and a few tall tables. The building was once a carriage house, and had been a bar and restaurant for a long time after that. It had been closed for a while when David Spangler, proprietor and chef, acquired it. After extensive interior renovation, he opened Marfield’s in January 2002.

We arrived for lunch a bit after two, rather late for lunch—especially in the midwest—and as we were the only customers at that hour, we had a long conversation with David. He had previously owned a larger restaurant, but wanted to get away from the problems of management, and have a small place where he could fully indulge his passion for good food. He did all the renovations himself—including inlaying the bar top with a collection of vintage souvenirs—and during our visit served as both chef and waiter. And the food was excellent. I had the BBQ ribs—they are falling off the bone tender, with a fine smoky crust and accompanied by David’s own-recipe sauce for dipping. (This is his Dixie sauce—vinegary and complex; he offers a sweeter, more conventional BBQ sauce as well, in response to local demand). Of course I had to order all the side dishes as well—a fine potato salad, crunchy fresh-tasting coleslaw, and a special concoction of baked beans that are perhaps the finest I have ever had. The menu is limited—ribs and steaks; a few large salads; a hamburger, and some sandwiches at lunch. There’s a nice assortment of beer on tap, and a full bar as well.

This is truly Travel Tip material—a real find. It’s delicious, it’s new, the owner is great, there are not so many good places to eat in Leavenworth—and it is not a place you’d be likely to wander into on your own.

David did say he was having a sign made, however!—Clay Doyle

Marfield’s Smokehouse & Pub

312 North 2nd Street, Leavenworth, Kansas

Telephone: 913.651.4401

Tuesday-Saturday 11am-9pm

Cafe des Federations

federations

While it may be France’s second-largest city, any Frenchmen will tell that Lyon is its country’s gastronomic capital.

No where else (in the world maybe) can you find such an appreciation for eating in such a grand, hearty, deliberate style as in Lyon. Vegetarians won’t find much to woo them on a traditional Lyonnaise menu. It’s all about meat; and much of it is all about organ meat—tripe, and the famous andouillette and Rosette and Jesus sausages (made from the intestinal bits of the hog)—which will be found in every eatery. Even the salads may come served with bacon and a poached egg on top (the classic salade Lyonnaise). But if you’re game for trying these local favorites, you won’t be sorry. They’re delicious!

The most traditional of Lyonnaise restaurants is the “bouchon”—a unique regional sort of bistro. You can’t leave Lyon without eating in at least one. Many vie for the title of the most perfectly typical, but the winner may be the splendid Cafe des Federations, a lively local institution that can’t have been redecorated since the ’50s. As soon as you arrive (and it’s a good idea to book ahead) the staff with begin filling your table with starters like the classic salade Lyonnaise, deep-fried pork skins, potatoes with bits of herring, a tray of cold-cut sliced sausage meats, and more. Wash it all down with a pot (a uniquely Lyonnaise unit of measure—about 2/3 the size of a usual wine bottle) of the local Beaujolais or Cote du Rhone. Then the jovial waiter will rattle off the evenings main course specials, all of which will be classics, like fish quennelles (a local dish, much like a large dumpling) or battered tripe. Be bold, ask your server for his recommendation, and prepare to be delighted. Then sit back, enjoy your wine and the festive atmosphere. English is spoken—sort of—but having some elementary grasp of French wouldn’t hurt. Expect a fun, festive night of it, surrounded by cheery locals.

www.lesfedeslyon.com