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The Anatomy of an Italian Meal

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Above: Chef Harvey’s classic Tuscan pappardelle with wild boar ragù, a guest favorite and a great pairing for hearty Tuscan red wines.

Although there are a few but very rare exceptions, the sequence of the Italian meal is nearly always as follows:

1) Antipasto

The term antipasto means literally before the meal and consists of can consist of a wide variety of ingredients. If the meal is seafood-based, the antipasto might include cured or smoked fish. If the meal is landfood-based, prosciutto or other types of charcuterie are classic antipasti (the plural of antipasto).

2) Primo Piatto

Next comes the primo piatto or first course [dish]. This is generally a starch-based dish: rice or pasta or soup (often cooked with rice or pasta).

3) Secondo Piatto

Then comes the secondo piatto or entrée (literally, the second dish). This is a meat or fish dish, depending on the dinner, accompanied by contorni (plural of contorno, literally, side dish).

Italians generally eat their salad after the secondo piatto, the idea being that the vinegar and oil in the dressing cleanse the palate after heavier courses are consumed.

4) Formaggi

The cheese course can be accompanied by sweet, dried-grape wines or by aged tannic wines, like Brunello di Montalcino.

5) Dolce

No Italian meal is complete without dessert, which can be accompanied by coffee (remember: Italians never drink cappuccino after 11 a.m.!)

6) Digestivo

To help the digestion after a complete meal, many Italians will offer their guests a grappa (grape pomace distillate) or amaro, a digestive liqueur.

Buon appetito!

USA TODAY: Siena “TOP 10 ITALIAN” in Austin!

We are very proud of the fact that Siena was named one of the TOP 10 ITALIAN RESTAURANTS IN AUSTIN by USA TODAY!

Congratulations, Chef Harvey, it’s so great to see your work be recognized at a national level. You and your super food deserve it!

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“Constructed to closely resemble an Italian Tuscan villa,” wrote Krissy Mayse for USA TODAY, “Siena begins with amazing ambiance and a serving staff that truly KNOWS what they are doing. Customers consistently comment on the quality of service received during their dining experience. Siena offers a wine selection worth talking about and for those that prefer wine by the glass, they have at least 20 different options to choose from. Prefer unique entrees? Try Coniglio alla Cacciatora, a mouth watering concoction of young rabbit braised in Chianti with pancetta, potatoes, fresh sage,thyme, porcini and stewed tomatoes. Some of us prefer a meatless dish and Siena doesn’ disappoint. One excellent suggestion is the Ravioli Ripieni con Spinaci e Carciofi. This is a tantalizing recipe that features fresh pasta stuffed with artichokes, spinach and goat cheese in a fresh basil, roasted tomato butter sauce. Delizioso! They say that cooking in Italy is a passion. Siena embodies this passion!”

Siena brings home WINE SPECTATOR AWARD of EXCELLENCE!

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We couldn’t be more proud to share the news that the Siena wine list and our wine director (and general manager) Rina De Guzman have been selected by the editors of Wine Spectator magazine as a winner of the WINE SPECTATOR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE.

According to the editors, “Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.”

“These wine lists feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Whether compact or extensive, focused or diverse, these lists deliver sufficient choice to satisfy discerning wine lovers.”

Congratulations to Siena and to Rina for this much deserved and prestigious award!

Click here for the Siena entry on the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards website.

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“Hidden gem of gourmet Italian food… Particularly good choice for upscale business lunches and romantic dates.”

Here are just a handful of the 5-star reviews we’ve received on Google in the last month!

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Siena always offers the best Italian cuisine, the pictures only share so much; the taste is beyond imagination. Upon hearing it was out anniversary, our server Greg offered the most romantic, balcony seating and made accommodations without hesitation. Absolutely, pleased with the service as much as the delicious food.

Beverly A.

The food is amazing. The atmosphere is inviting and cozy. The hosts and hostesses are professional, charming, and wonderful. Perfect for a romantic dinner.

Cody B.

A fancy, hidden gem of gourmet Italian food, desserts, drinks, and atmosphere. Food is expensive, but good. Particularly good choice for upscale business lunches and romantic dates.

Drew B.

Friendly and professional service paired with authentic, delicious Italian cuisine.

Jason V.

Pappardelle with wild boar ragù, the quintessential Tuscan dish!

wild boar ragu recipe best austin texas

There’s probably no dish more “Tuscan” than pappardelle with wild boar ragù: Long, broad homemade pasta tossed in chunks of wild boar that has been braised in red wine and rich stock for hours and hours until it becomes flakey and tender.

Chef Harvey, an expert on Italian gastronomy, is constantly experimenting with new dishes inspired by his beloved Italy and his home state of Texas.

But he always stays true to the classics of Tuscan cuisine like the pappardelle with wild boar.

It’s one of our guests’ all-time favorites and its the perfect pairing for the many Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscan wines that we offer on our wine list.

Please call (512) 349-7667 to reserve your table now!

“One of the best Italian restaurants outside of Italy.”

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Above: Italian winemaker Cinzia Travaglini (right) with Siena Ristorante Toscana general manager Rina De Guzman. Cinzia hosted a wine dinner at Siena earlier this year and was duly impressed by Chef Harvey’s authentic Italian cooking.

Every year, Siena Ristorante Toscana hosts a wine dinner series with some of the top winemakers in the world, mostly from Italy and California (the next dinner with Steve Burgess is scheduled for Thursday, January 19).

Over and over, when Italian winemakers and winery owners visit Siena, the first they say is, “wow, this looks like an authentic Italian farmhouse. It looks like Italy!”

But then, when they taste Chef Harvey’s cooking for the first time, that’s when their eyes really start to light up.

Over and over, they tell him: “This is one of the best Italian restaurants outside of Italy!” No joke…

And that’s exactly what happened when legacy winemaker Cinzia Travaglini (above) hosted a wine dinner at Siena this fall. She just couldn’t stop talking about how authentic the food was and how well Chef Harvey’s thoughtful menu paired with her family’s wines (some of Italy’s most famous expressions of the noble Nebbiolo grape).

So the next time you are planning a special occasion dinner or you just want an authentic plate of housemade pasta (the way they do it in Italy), come join us at Chef Harvey’s tables for every Italian winemaker’s favorite “Italian restaurant” outside of Italy!

Happy holidays, everyone!

“A Chianti that will knock your socks off!” Chef Harvey on Chianti Classico and Tuscan wines at Siena

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