Here is the rather unassuming entrance to Mariano’s Ristorante in our adopted hometown of Arezzo, Italy. Walk toward Piazza Grande, turn right past the ancient – and still trickling – fountain, up the narrow cobbled street and it’s about half-way along the path on your right. Voila! Er, I mean Ecco!
The couple who owns this small eatery, Gianfranco and Chef – and namesake – Mariano – go out of their way to make you feel more like you walked into a good friend’s home, rather than a formal dining room.
Just last week when I popped in with a couple of girlfriends for a quick holiday cocktail, Gianfranco set down an assortment of cute little appetizers with our bubbly prosecco flutes that were delicious, unexpected and – Merry Christmas! – FREE!
Dinner here is always an original twist on traditional Tuscan. And, like the upside- down decorated Christmas trees hanging now from the rafters, these pleasant surprises are what always make me want to come back!
Bravi, gentlemen, and see you again soon!
And for the rest of you out there – where’s your favorite holiday hang-out?