It’s not easy to put together a best restaurant guide to the Maremma. The Maremma is huge. In terms of land mass, it makes up a third of Tuscany and despite my VERY best efforts, I haven’t been to every restaurant in the area. But! I have been to a lot of them and I can’t wait to share all my fav.
I get so many emails from people asking for restaurant recommendations, often for restaurants as far as Livorno and Siena, which is definitely out of my area of expertise. While most Maremman restaurants are very good, they tend to fall into a bit of a cliche, sticking to a handful of dishes that they prepare all year round, regardless of season or produce availability. If there is one thing that drives me absolutely nuts, it’s seeing wild boar on a menu when it’s not hunting season. It sounds ridiculous, but you’re a lot more forgiving of restaurants in high tourist traffic areas. You don’t expect every restaurant in Florence to be good. But when you come to somewhere off the beaten tourist track, you hope to eat good authentic local fare. So my number one tip is never order something that is not in season. If you can, run, run as far as you can away from any restaurant that is serving wild boar in summer, porcini mushrooms in any month but September-October and pici in any season. I despise pici. They are worm noodles that are always undercooked and it’s like chewing on pasta dough, but that’s just one woman’s opinion. Feel free to ignore that last point. But not the other two. The other two are golden!
The Maremma has a really rich and diverse culinary history that is nothing like what you expect in Tuscany. No Bistecce Fiorentine here! So put on your favourite stretchy pants, be prepared to eat your pets (seriously, they love a good rabbit in the Maremma) and always save room for dessert.
This is my guide to the best restaurants in the Maremma. They are in no particular order. Just my personal favourites scattered all over the Maremma.
I love, love, love Da Caino. I am always recommending this restaurant. It’s the area’s most famous restaurant headed by one of Italy’s premier chefs, the self-taught one woman wonder that is Valeria Piccini. She’s appeared on Italian Masterchef and runs another famous restaurant in Florence. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), it also has two Michelin stars, which means it is VERY expensive. Think €150 a head without wine for three courses.
Valeria is a Montemerano native and actually inherited the restaurant from her husband’s family. It used to be your local trattoria. My parents-in-law have fond memories of going there for baptisms and birthdays. When Valeria took over, she combined classic Maremman flavours with modern cooking techniques. She’s a real nonna Heston Blumenthal, if you will. Her husband retired to the wine cellars, where he collects what is possibly Italy’s most impressive collection of local and imported wines.
The menu is strictly seasonal and incredibly elaborate with dishes like lacquered eel, yogurt, lemon and salicornia or risotto with slipper lobster, grapefruit and coffee. I remember looking at the menu and rolling my eyes, but it was incredible.
If you can’t swing Da Caino – and don’t stress, my visit was a one off – the family is working on a pop up eatery that captures the flavours of the Michelin starred restaurant, but without the price tag.
When anyone, anyone at all, asks me for a restaurant recommendation. I always tell them to go to Da Paolino. It is the place to go if you want traditional Maremman food that is actually good. Da Paolino keeps things seasonal and classic. None of that molecular gastronomy here. The portions are huge, the pasta is homemade and Da Paolino has a THING for game meat.
If you want to eat wild boar – and who doesn’t? – you want to come to Da Paolino in (and this is very important) THE WINTER. The classic Maremman dish is pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale. That’s basically a thick long noodle with a wild boar meat and tomato sauce. It’s flavoured with cinnamon and bay leaves and it’s delicious as long as you are eating it in the hunting season… otherwise it comes out of a can.
Da Paolino does a lot of other great traditional Maremman dishes. They do a mean acquacotta vegetable soup, fantastic polenta and a very good coniglio in porchetta, which is stuffed and rolled roast rabbit.
Price wise, it’s middle of the range. A little more expensive than a truly local trattoria, but still pretty reasonable.
Aiuole isn’t actually in Arcidosso. It’s actually in Aiuole, a tiny suburb just outside of Arcidosso that is little more than a road, a couple of houses and this restaurant. Aiuole, the restaurant, looks like a ski lodge, which is excellent fun. The owner has this bushy curly moustache and is utterly charming and every table comes with a bottle of house red wine whether you like it or not. Seriously, if you don’t want it, tell them because they will charge you for it.
Aiuole captures everything I love about Monte Amiata. This is chestnut territory and their chestnut polenta is incredible. Monte Amiata leans heavily into Northern Italian mountain fare, so really heavy and hearty dishes that you won’t find inland or coast side. It’s best to visit Aiuole in Autumn/Winter and order the wild boar in chocolate sauce. It’s their signature dish.
There is no menu at Aiuole, just a lovely waiter reeling off about 20 dishes from memory. The pasta is good, but not memorable. Like I said, they excel at all things chestnut, so if it’s on the menu, order it.
Aiuole isn’t cheap and since you don’t get a menu, you can’t actually tally up how much you’re spending until it’s time to pay the bill. That’s frustrating, so if you’re on a budget, ask the waiter how much each dish is. From memory, I think pasta dishes start at €15.
Again, Vivo is not in Capalbio. It’s near Capalbio. This restaurant is the Maremma’s rising star and it’s the place to go if you want seafood. I have loved Vivo since it opened. It was better when it first opened frankly, but it’s still pretty good. The restaurant is run by local fishermen and they change the menu daily, depending on the catch. Vivo excels at its raw seafood and oysters, so if you love either of those things, I strongly recommend to just stick to their incredible raw platters and not bother with the other dishes.
Of course, that’s just my opinion. I find their antipasti, starters and mains a little disappointing, but Giulio loves them. While the menu changes daily, the prices stay the same, so it’s €9 for starters, €10 for pasta dishes and €11 for mains, which is insane in itself because fish restaurants are usually really expensive. Nothing on the menu is going to blow your mind, but it’s really good seafood cooked competently. Like I said, I go to Vivo for the raw seafood. Anything else is an after thought!
Keeping things pretty local, I know, but Circo Pizza is the Maremma’s pizzeria and I’ve eaten at enough of them to know that no other pizzeria comes close. Ignore the very strange name and very strange decor – the owners have a thing for clowns and a thing is a real understatement. It looks like a kids’ bedroom in a horror movie so if you are afraid of clowns, get over it because you can’t miss out on this pizza.
Circo Pizza serves really thin pizzas and tends to undercook them because they are churning out hundreds in a night. If either of those things irks you, ask your waiter to make the dough thicker/cook it longer. Circo Pizza has a huge list of traditional pizzas, but it stands out for its gourmet pies. The signature pizza is La Briaca, designed by no other than Da Caino’s Valeria Piccini if you believe the rumours. La Briaca has red wine poached pears, guttus, a local type of gorgonzola, pecorino and ricotta. It’s won awards and is the most expensive pizza on the menu because everyone orders it. Then owners are experimenting with a few more gourmet pizzas. They’re hit and miss, but worth it if you feel like something a little more adventurous.
Circo Pizza is more expensive than your average pizzeria, selling their pies for about €10. You have to book because in the high season they are always full.
Taverna del Vecchio Borgo
Massa Marittima has the Maremma’s other two Michelin starred restaurant, Bracali. I’ve never been but it sounds amazing. Taverna del Vecchio Borgo also scored a mention in the latest Michelin guide. I’ve been there and it was pretty good. Classic Tuscan fare prepared with skill and passion. Since Massa Marittima is pretty far up north, you won’t get those powerfully Maremman dishes like wild boar and hare. Things here a lot more similar to Siena and Florence. In fact, they are famous for their Bistecca Fiorentina, which is a dish you would never see on a Maremman menu further south.
I love the spaghetti with fresh porcini mushrooms when you can get it and they have a great cheese platter, although I’d usually recommend just going to a cheese shop if you feel like some pecorino. It’s cheaper. Try the tortelli too. They’re like big ravioli, usually stuffed with ricotta and spinach.
Taverna del Vecchio Borgo is mid range.
If I’m going for a gelato anywhere in Maremma, I’m going to 0564. I am obsessed with this place. Not really sure why. I just really like their chocolate chilli ice cream. They make some great fruit gelatos too. Plus they’re in a really nice location, under the porticos in the main piazza, so you can enjoy your gelato while watching the people pass by. They will ask you if you want whipped cream on your gelato – it’s a Maremman quirk – get it if you want. It’s free.
A few of my other favourites that don’t really deserve their own section.
La Imperiale, Manciano – It’s hard to overstate just how popular this place is. It used to be a butcher shop. Then the owner transformed it into a barbecue joint and has never looked back. They make killer burgers, sausages and grilled meats for a price that is ridiculous. You couldn’t buy the actual piece of meat and fry it yourself for less!
I Pescatori, Orbetello – Similar to Vivo, il Pescatore is a group of local fishermen that use their day’s catch to fill their restaurant menu. Orbetello is famous for its bottarga, fish roe, and eel, so if either of those things are on the menu, order them.
Castel diVino, Montemerano – A lovely little aperitivo and wine bar in Montemerano’s most iconic piazza. You can easily pass a couple of hours here enjoying great wine and nibbles.