Throughout our travels to every region in Italy (except one), I have
found some towns to be immediately captivating.
And within minutes of our first visit, maybe 20 years ago, Cortona
captured my heart. It’s a place where
ancient meets modern and blends in a most enchanting way. The people here and the comune rightly
cherish their centuries of history but they aren’t bound by it to the point
they live “calcified” in the past–like many small, dying Italian towns or ones
overwhelmed by tourists crowding out the town’s heart & soul. Cortona
thrives I think because it welcomes and embraces new ideas, new people and even
new cuisine, yet it retains the traditions, life and rhythms of a true Italian
Nowhere is this “blending” as apparent as at a local restaurant called
Organika. Just a few steps outside the
city walls, it is part of a spectacular ancient property, now named Fonte al
Vento, that was once the monastery and stables for Santa Maria Nuova church. Once you step inside the centuries’ old doorway
of Organika, you immediately know this is not the traditional Tuscan trattoria
you might expect in such a location! The
interior is modern, light, airy and chic.
The kitchen is sparkling and, through glass, visible to guests to see
the creativity and effort behind every dish.
The photos and art on the walls aren’t modern but instead showcase the
blend of old and new by honoring the parents and grandparents of the two
visionaries who created this amazing addition to the local dining scene.
This seamless blending of old and new was created from the shared vision
of Francesco Bucaletti and Silvia Pescatori, both born and raised Cortonesi and
the guiding force for all aspects of the restaurant–the design, the top-notch
service, the menu, the wine and drink pairings, even the dishes and
cutlery. From the minute you arrive, you
are surrounded by their well-executed dream that has come alive to the delight
of everyone I know who has eaten there.
Their vision helped them recruit a fabulous team that includes Riccardo,
a 23 year old (not a typo) chef that several “foodie” friends agree is clearly
an upcoming Michelin star candidate which isn’t surprising given his experience
at 2 other Michelin star restaurants, including one in Palermo.
The Organika menu is always changing and dependent on what is seasonal,
so it’s hard to describe beyond a choice of a 5 or 10 course tasting menu, with
or without wine pairings. I always suggest the wine pairing with your meal, all
of which perfectly complement the food.
The team spends their weekly days-off personally visiting small, unique
wineries to learn more about their approach to creating their wines, ensuring
guests will be tasting wines that are extraordinarily unique. For the non-wine lovers, Organika also has an
extensive bar with many types of inventive cocktail options, mixed expertly by
Claudio, the maitre and sommelier. The range of international liquors and
liqueurs offered is astonishing.
Regardless of what’s on the daily menu, guests can be assured that
Organika takes the Italian concept of 0 KM to the next level in that much of
the produce comes directly from the gardens on the property, lovingly
cultivated for decades by Francesco’s parents. Organika showcases elevated
cuisine with inventive mixes like dried porcini mushrooms and pomegranate
sorbet. A quick look at Organikaristorante Instagram page showcases some of
Riccardo’s creations better than my photos over the years.
Of course, given the seasonal and “bespoke” nature of the menu, the
small number of tables and the time that goes into the creation of the dining
experience, reservations are a must. During our recent visit, the staff was
able to expertly accommodate 3 different food allergies/preferences for just
our table. When the weather allows, guests are treated to open air tables on
the panoramic terrace with unbelievable views over the Valdichiana. And guests at any time of the year, inside or
out, will be treated to some of the most magnificent sunsets I’ve ever seen.
The number of sunset photos from the property taking up space on my husband’s
camera roll is a testament to the sheer beauty of the view.
The experience of that view, the same for centuries, combined with the
modern, elevated cuisine of Organika is yet another example of the perfect but
unexpected “blend” that makes Cortona such a special place. And one that we are
now finally blessed to call home almost twenty years after my first visit.