Via dei Cavalleggeri Nord, 27
57020 Marina di Bibbona
+39 0586 600016
baked in salt crust
judge a book by its cover. That is the old saying, and nowhere is that more
true than at La Pineta. Located just a few miles from some of the most
prestigious wineries in Bolgheri, La Pineta and its charismatic owner Luciano
Zazzeri are local legends. The simple, rustic building looks like a clam shack out
of a 1950s beach movie. Inside, though, guests will find some of the best fish
and seafood in Italy.
Pineta sits right on the Maremma coast. Diners are literally on the ocean, with
the waves and sunbathers just a few yards away. The retro Italian beach scene harkens
back to a simpler, more innocent time long gone by. Its clear things haven’t
changed much here over the years. Fisherman-turned-restaurateur Luciano Zazzeri
is a celebrity for the quality of his raw materials, and rightly so, as the
seafood served at La Pineta is impeccable. Locals and a faithful crowd of cognoscenti keep La Pineta’s few tables
booked pretty much year-round. Reservations are essential.
crudo antipasto is delicious. Everything is simply pristine. The pastas are
offered in half and full portions, but I can’t imagine skimping on the
spaghetti with octopus, a La Pineta signature. What a dish! The flavors
literally jump off the plate with the exuberance of summer. Our orata, baked in
a salt crust, captures the genius of the Italian kitchen. The simplest things
are the hardest to do well, and this is where La Pineta truly excels.
Pineta’s wine list is extensive. How the bottles have been stored is another
question. Vincent Laval is one of my favorite growers in Champagne. His wines
are superb, but very difficult to find, so I never miss an opportunity to drink
them. As soon as the cork is popped on a bottle of the 2004 Brut Nature Cumières Premier Cru Les Chênes I know we are in
trouble. The wine has no mousse, no complexity, no finish and nothing much to
speak of. The trademark focus of Cumières and the 2004 vintage are sadly nowhere
to be seen. Next up is Charles
Heidsieck’s 1995 Brut
Blanc des Millenaires, which
sadly fares no better. Where are the trademark citrus, lemon zest, smoke and
gunflint notes? Long-gone after who knows how much time of neglect. Two off
bottles aren’t enough to make a reliable assessment as to the condition of an
entire cellar, but it is clear these Champagnes have not been stored properly.
advice? Book a table by one of the large windows. Enjoy the breathtaking ocean
view, and indulge in La Pineta’s beautifully prepared seafood and fish, which
are among the best anywhere in Italy. Make sure to have at least one of the
pastas. As for wine, I suggest ordering the least expensive quaffing white
available. Anything else simply isn’t the worth the risk.