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X-Planations: Yonkers' Chef Peter X. Kelly Talks Tuscany

Peter X. Kelly chats about visiting the hills of Tuscany.
Enjoying a meal in Tuscany. Photo Credit: Peter X. Kelly
Dylan and Rica in Tuscany. Photo Credit: Peter X. Kelly

YONKERS, N.Y. -- A few years ago my wife and I, along with Dylan, who was 15 at the time, took a trip to Florence and Tuscany. Of course all of our traveling revolves around food and wine and this trip was no different.

We landed in Florence and spent a few days touring around. I've been before -- as had Rica - but this was Dylan’s first trip to Italy and it was fun to see the city through his eyes.

Florence is an amazing place culturally and architecturally from the Duomo to the Pitti Palace and all the artwork that adorns the museums and churches. It’s a lot to take in but because it's so compact, you feel as if you know it after just a day or two.

And, of course, the food is amazing.

Now I know Florence isn't celebrated for its pizza but there are a few really great places to try. One pizzeria near the Pointe Vecchio I’Pizzacchierre is terrific, but my favorite is La Busussola which is also a wine bar. For more relaxed dining I recommend Cibrreo & Giostra.

I must confess: Florence is really just a pit stop for me when I visit Italy because my heart lies in the Tusan hills. My first stop is in Grevi, a beautiful village in the heart of Chianti.

The Landini family of Vittichio Vineyards has been making great wines for many years now. My first visit here was in 1985 and Lucio Landini, then nearly 80-years-young, introduced me to the beauty of this area.

Spending a few days here allowed me to take in the countryside and attempt to teach Dylan how to drive stick. I figured if he could learn to manually shift gears in these hills he could drive a stick anywhere.

The trip from Grevi to Panzano is straight uphill and about a 15 minute drive. Panzano is home to the world’s most unusual - and fun -- butcher shop. Dario Cecchini opens the door to his tiny shop in the center of town where it seems like there's a constant party. There's AC/DC in the background, free food and wine set out for all to sample, and a genuine conviviality you won't find anywhere else.

But there's more: Pass through a hidden door in the back, follow a rickety staircase up a flight, then sit down to a memorable Tuscan feast. It's one reason I love Italy so much and derive such inspiration and joy from my visits.

And, of course, the entire Kelly family was quite proud when Dylan mastered the stick shift in just two days. More food and wine and reason to celebrate!

Next week: "A Taste of Spring"

This column is a continuing series by Chef Peter X. Kelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group which runs every Thursday. Go here for last week's story.

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