The Locanda Demetra is the brainchild of five young entrepreneurs, who bought an abandoned farmhouse and renovated it by the sweat of their own brows while working other jobs. Now, it is a rustic chic, organic farm-to-table restaurant with a permaculture garden (pictured here), a cooking school, and rooms upstairs for overnight stays.
There is nothing else like it in the hill town of Montalcino, famous for its Brunello wine. The Demetra offers a unique combination of vivacity and joy, a sense of family, respect for Nature and the land, local authenticity, creativity…and all of this presented within very high standards of international cuisine.
“When we bought it,” Alessandro Paris told me, “the driveway was so grown over, you couldn’t see the house.”
In this video, he talks about buying the property with his partner Emanuela Bruzzone, his brother Giovanni, (all from the north–Lombardia and Liguria) and another couple from south of Naples, Imma Cordella (the chef) and Francesco Pasquale (assistant chef). They met in a bar in Montalcino, became fast friends, and began working together. For six years, they did catering out of their homes before buying and renovating Demetra themselves.
Alessandro showed me past the outdoor tables, ideal for warm weather…
And into the coziness of the reception area.
Alessandro left Italy for the UK in 2010 and found a job as a bus boy at the 45 Park Lane Hotel, part of the 5-star Dorchester Collection. In a success story that reminded me of a male version of “My Fair Lady”, he learned English and worked his way up to becoming a full waiter. He was assigned twice to serve the Queen, once for her 97th birthday and once for afternoon tea at the Ascot Races.
I found Imma, the chef, rolling out pasta…
In the large kitchen that was once the stall for the animals.
This big marble table is the epicenter of the Demetra Cooking School where small groups can come for the morning. They learn to make various types of pasta as well as other seasonal, local dishes.
Alessandro talks about the school in this video:
This was the cooking school menu on the day that I visited:
Antipasto: Flan made with pecorino cheese
Primo: Hand made pasta
Secondo: Cinta Senese (slices of ham from a breed of domestic pig with DOP status that dates back to the 1300s in Tuscany)
The restaurant has an intimate feel with only about 10 tables. (Reservations are necessary weeks in advance during the high season.)
The windows and outdoor tables look out on the valley.
I was there in the late fall so the antipasto featured autumnal items like a squash purée with nuts and cinta senese.
I chose a combination pasta dish with gnocchi with sesame seeds (the violet color derives from Jerusalem artichoke or topinambur) and tagliatelle with wild boar.
All of the wine at Demetra is made organically and most within a few kilometers of the restaurant. Alessandro suggested the Il Cocco Rosso di Montalcino, 100% Sangiovese Grosso (no international varieties mixed in) and aged one year in large, wooden barrels. The result is a refreshing, vivacious wine. Demetra’s bread and pasta is all handmade with flour from the local stone grinding mill, Mulino di Val D’Orcia.
And, to finish the meal, an elegant dessert plate.
I’m already looking forward to returning to Demetra this spring and summer.
+39 0577 150 3199 (restaurant)
+ 39 333 92 57 062 (cell # if no answer at the restaurant)