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What is Mona Lisa smiling about?

Here at Siena Ristorante Toscana, we don’t just love Tuscan cuisine and wines. We all love all things Tuscan, including its many famous Renaissance artists.

This fall, we’ve been enjoying Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the Tuscan Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci (titled simply Leonardo da Vinci).

The book reminded us of the painter’s iconic painting, which is known in English as the “Mona Lisa.”

The word mona meant madonna in Renaissance Italian, literally, my lady (mia donna).

The subject for “My Lady Lisa” is believed to have been Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. And that’s where the painting gets its other name, La gioconda, which means the jolly (or gay) lady. You might think that she’s called gioconda because of her enigmatic smile. But the name actually comes from her family name.

So what’s she smiling about anyway? And is she smiling at all?

One thing we’ve learned about Leonardo da Vinci as we read the new biography is that he, his life, and his works are a never-ending mystery.

Buon weekend a tutti! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Image via the Wikipedia entry for the Mona Lisa (Creative Commons).

“Our pasta will transport you to Tuscany in a flash!” — Chef Harvey

Pici con Ragù di Cervo (venison) is one of our new pasta dishes for the fall at Siena.

Tuscany is known for its pici pasta (above) with wild game and at Siena we spike our ragù with Chianti, sage, juniper berries, and porcini.

It will transport you to Tuscany in a flash!

—Chef Harvey

Please call (512) 349-7667 to reserve.

Prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese: A favorite for more than 17 years!

Prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese. This dish has been on the menu at Siena Ristorante Toscana for more than 17 years and it’s still one of our guests’ (and our staff’s) favorites.

Simple, big flavors.

—Chef Harvey

Please call (512) 349-7667 to reserve.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese: A gold standard for great Italian cuisine

Chef Harvey is always experimenting and testing out new recipes and ingredients in the kitchen.

But that doesn’t mean he neglects the classics, like his awesome Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, made with homemade pasta (rolled out daily) and a meat sauce that any mamma from Bologna would be proud of.

Click here for our current menus.

Please call (512) 349-7667 to reserve.

What is guazzetto? Come taste what Chef Harvey is cooking up in his kitchen and find out!

From Chef Harvey: “Sneak preview of one of our fall menu items at Siena! Escargot, garlic, parsley, pasta nest and red chili in guazzetto!”

What is a guazzetto? The word guazzetto in Italian comes from the archaic Italian guazzo, meaning literally a ford, as in a shallow place in a river. It’s akin to the English word wade.

In Italian cookery, a guazzetto is a rich sauce made using the main ingredient in the dish. In other words, the main ingredient is “wading” in its juice and its flavor.

Chef Harvey’s knowledge of classic Italian gastronomy, paired with his immense skill and creativity, is what sets his food apart from the rest!

Keep it coming, chef! We love it!

Always something new on the menu at Siena!

Orecchiette pasta with Nicoise olives, Sicilian olive oil packed Tuna, red onions, basil and cherry tomatoes. Like a Nicoise salad but better!

Food for Thought: Chef Harvey and Siena raise money for Communities in Schools

Chef Harvey and Siena Ristorante Toscana participated last week in Food for Thought, an annual fund-raising event that raises money and awareness for Communities in Schools (CIS).

Communities In Schools of Central Texas surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Communities In Schools is a dropout prevention program. Through campus-based programs and special projects, Communities In Schools creates a network of volunteers, social services, businesses, and community resources that work together to break down barriers and help students succeed.

Communities In Schools of Central Texas serves thousands of children and families every year, providing options where there once were none.

(From the CIS website.)

This year’s event raised nearly $650,000.

“I love being a part of Food for Thought because it benefits Communities in Schools and the important work they do to support students and help them graduate from high school,” said chef Harvey in an interview with the Austin Chronicle.

For the event, he prepared cold-smoked sea scallops, salted watermelon, key lime mignonette, and Marcona almonds.

Thank you, Chef Harvey, for all you do for our community.

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