Updated on October 1st 2023
Eat like a King at Lake Chiusi
Lake Fish Cooked to Perfection using the Old Ways, here in Ancient Chiusi; welcome to another Kilby secret on where to eat in Italy.
My cup of wine may be your cup of poison and recommending any hotel or restaurant to a traveller is fraught with concern, particularly here in Italy where the quality of the service can change from one day to the next. As such, I normally don’t do what I’m about to do here and that is to write about a simple place to eat at and I hope like I have on several occasions, enjoy a fabulous meal. By the way, I do so with complete peace of mind as I never, I’ll repeat that word, never accept a commission, which gives me the freedom to write about anything I find interesting and that I think you might enjoy.
Ristorante da Gino is such a place, located next to an idle piece of water called Lake Chiusi, an ancient puddle that is most likely the spill over from Lake Trasimeno. Would you believe this place was once a water pumping station for the Italian State Railways for the old steam engines that shunted in the nearby Chiusi Railway Station and the property, run by the sister and brother team of Manuela and Claudio Giulietti, is still rented from the railways. Their mother started cooking the local lake fish here many years ago and taught the daughter her secrets of cooking dishes that have with the passage of time mostly been forgotten about.
Dishes like Brustico, with its origins that go back to the local Etruscan people. A very hot fire with high flames made from the reeds that grow along the water’s edge of the lake and a collection of small lake fish that includes pike, perch and black bass are barbecued over those flames for approximately 30 minutes. The ‘charred’ fish are then removed and the burnt scales are scrapped off with a knife, then filleted and placed on a plate and served to you warm, never hot, drizzled with a delicious local virgin olive oil, pepper, salt, squeezed lemon and fresh parsley. Simple, but absolutely delicious.
The ‘real’ home made pici, the typical pasta you find south of Siena and looks like a fat spaghetti, is served here with a mixed fish sauce and carp eggs which I can tell you is special and adored by the locals in these parts. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then ask for the pici with their duck sauce and watch yourself smile!
If dining in this ancient country means dining on ancient dishes and for me that is a real part of the magic of visiting Italy then you might try the Tegamaccio here, because nobody else that I know is making it in this traditional way anymore. This is the local fish stew that is slowly cooked over a few hours in a terracotta pot and includes several types of local fresh water fish and eel in a stupendous and rich tomato sauce. It’s about at this moment of the meal, helped of course by several glasses of the very good local red wine that you start feeling like a King! Yes, red wine, which in this quiet corner of southern Tuscany, is light and fruity and is a perfect companion to these simple, traditional dishes.
As I walked away from my table and wandered out by the waters edge, having eaten my way through all of the above, I thought of George Miller’s comment, “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again!” and promised myself that next time around I wouldn’t order the Brustico, or perhaps I could leave out the pici; I could not forgo the Tegamaccio though; but I really do like the Brustico. That’s it, I’ll leave out the salad – enjoy.
Usually Gino’s is closed on Wednesday, but it’s worth calling on 0578.21408 to double-check when they are open for either lunch or dinner. Thursday for lunch or dinner is an excellent time in the week to visit when everything is just out of the water and fresh into their kitchen.
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Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who lived and worked in Italy from 1987 to 2018. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of Italian art and history closer to you and in a way that is entertaining and informative; together with great travel tips. Getting off the beaten track in Italy is always an adventure and he invites you to join him in discovering an Italy that will surprise and amaze you.