More than a Snack, this “Ciancino”

March 12, 2015 / Food & Wine
San Macario in Piano, Tuscany

West of Lucca in this nondescript village, you’ll note a rotund wine cask on the right with vino sfuso (wine by the liter) – “f” missing – painted  on it. A white sign over the cask – with the daily specials on it – confirms you’ve found Osteria Il Ciancino.

CIANCINO, DEC 2011

A macelleria is left of the entryway – the origin of the inn – and chef/owner, Andrea, is a butcher (third-generation), too: a guarantee of top quality meats at il Ciancino.  

Macelleria Ciancino

For Lucchesi, “il ciancino” was a light meal – a hearty soup or bread, cheese and prosciutto – enjoyed with the house wine. This ciancino, too, offers good hearty fare in a no-frills setting. Paper-covered tables fill with hungry workers and businessmen here for good food at €10 for a prezzo fisso menu with rapid service.

Orange-suited workers feast

Young waitresses agilely dodge each other as they zip between tables and the swinging kitchen doors, dishes piled up and down their arms, delivering tortellini, lasagne, gnocchi, huge Florentine steaks and stews to diners.

Bistecca alla fiorentina is the crowing glory

Server Silvia – at the enormous steel cisterns holding three local wines – uses a hose attached to the cistern spigot to fill up pitchers. Prices of the wines – sold also by the liter for home use – match any pocket: €1.8/liter for vino rosso da tavola, €1.6 for vino bianco and rosso tavola superiore, a whopping €2.8 euro/liter…!

Server, Silvia, fills up wine pitchers with the hose
Vino sfuso in cisterns

“Butcher-chef” Andrea hustled in the kitchen with mamma Laura when we were there – “on break” from the burners – setting rapidly-cleared tables.

Signora Laura takes a break from cooking

“Il piatto miglore?” I asked her. “Every dish is best because we cook come una volta (‘as long ago)”. Laura learned from her mother and grandmother, both with una grande passione for food, for the kitchen. She explained, “I had to learn all I could: I just have to eat well! I can’t help it. Sono un buongustaio (‘a good-taster’, i.e. a  gourmet).”

Using his elbows to push open the kitchen doors, Andrea came out, balancing a huge raw bistecca alla fiorentina on brown butcher paper and heading to a diner:  “The customer has to see it before grilling”. Silvia, showed massive bistecche to a table of four men, advising two steaks, not one. She was right.

Andrea presents with pride a bistecca all fiorentina
Silvia thinks 2 bistecche are needed for 4 signori
Silvia suggests 2 steaks for a table of 4 signori

Menus are laminated plastic cards listing the full array of Ciancino goodness, though not all dishes are served daily. Black magic marker rings encircle dishes offered. Picchiante was il piatto del giorno so I ordered it. “Mi dispiace, tutto finito“, our server apologized. “It’s a favorite.” But when she described this “stufato molto saporito” (very tasty stew) of organ meats, fine with me for the “finito!” So I opted instead for tasty rosticciana in umido (ribs in spicy tomato sauce with local black olives) while Pino chose boiled meats: beef and tongue served with pickled red onions and a caper/anchovy sauce.

Ciancino menu -plates of the day circled
Serena serves Pino
Rosticciane with spinach on the side
Boiled beef, pickled onions green caper sauce

Enticing desserts are in the glass case at the bar where Andrea’s wife Francesca pours espressi and digestivi with one hand, tallying up bills with another.

CIANCINO SWEETS ENTICE
Francesca offers grappa to a happy client

At Osteria Il Ciancino, Andrea, Laura, Francesca and staff keep their slogan alive: “From mother to daughter… from daughter to son, until you can top tradition and reach the apex of culinary traditions.”

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

13 Responses to “More than a Snack, this “Ciancino””

  1. mary jane

    Annie, you have struck the right cord again: good down to earth place with local home cooked food and anti-crisi prices.
    Grazie.

    Reply
  2. Anne, we have enjoyed local wine from the steel cisterns in a number of places across Italy and never had one we did not enjoy! Thank you for this insight into every day life there.

    Reply
  3. Anna Retsker

    Anne, you described it with such an appetite that I’ve wanted to go there right away… thank you!

    Reply
  4. Gian Banchero

    Hmmm, just wondering if they deliver to California?????????

    Reply
  5. Susie Caskey

    Wow, I want to visit this restaurant when Don and I are in Umbria! I did not know about wine by the liter… and reasonably priced! I agree with Gian Banchero that I wish they had that in CA. Thank you for your great pictures and description.

    Reply
  6. Lucy Smith

    Everything you write, Annie–this article included–makes me feel like I am there! The photos are so up-close & personal, and your description of both the food and the people is vivid! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  7. Cindy Tanner

    Anne, you are always so descriptive and the pictures make me feel like I am there! I’ll put this restaurant on my list for the next time we are in Italy.

    Reply
  8. Sam Moss

    This reminds us of some of the great tours we took with you when we lived in Assisi for a year. Keep up the great reporting of the awesome places to go and things to do in Umbria. We love it!

    Reply
  9. Wow. Why can’t we seem to have these unpretentious places with really good food here. Another excuse–as if I needed one–to go back to Tuscany and Umbria.

    Reply
  10. Kay Thiels

    Anne, I love the way you describe rural Umbria and the wonderful food. As I read, I felt like I was there eating the delicious food and tasting the wine! It is great to hear that the tradition of good food and wine is carried on by each tradition. I want to experience Umbria again!

    Reply
  11. Suzanne and Jack

    Anne, I knew this note was from you as soon as I opened the page. Your capacity to describe the settings and the food complete with photographs and stories of the people is an art. You always give the sociological and historical impacts the place they deserve when you write about the places you visit. We loved Lucca when we were in Italy last and now, having read your article, have another reason to go back. Thank you.

    Reply

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