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Cane e Gatto Will Have You Barking and Purring

By Kathy McCabe, Editor and Publisher, Dream of Italy, The Insider’s Guide to Undiscovered Italy

“I think this was the best meal of my life,” Lorraine announces, putting down her fork for the final time. This lawyer from Washington, D.C. seems surprised yet sure of her statement. One by one, the rest of us think for a moment (going over the Michelin-starred restaurants we have visited and the pricey expensive account meals we have eaten) and agree — definitely one of the best, if not the best meal we had ever had.

Just where do we experience this culinary nirvana? Antica Hostaria Cane e Gatto, a small family run Italian restaurant on a quiet street in Siena. The name, which means ‘dogs and cats’ in English, was the old name of this street where two powerful Sienesi familes were said to have fought like, you guessed it, dogs and cats!

The cozy art-filled dining room, which feels more like a private home than a restaurant, has seats for just 20 patrons at glass-topped brass tables. Owner Paolo Senni welcomes each female guest with an orchid before retreating to the kitchen to whip up some magic with wife Sonia. What we came to experience can only be called Siena magic.

Paolo and Sonia’s daughter, who is also the waitress, gives the women in our party innovative metal hooks to hang our bags from the table. Pouring a complimentary glass of Prosecco, she explains that there is a fixed menu of five courses for 55€ per person (not including wine) in this truly unique Italian restaurant. She will ask us after each course if we want the next one or if any of us are too full and might, for example, want to skip the soup before the pasta course.

Our dream meal begins with a plate for each of us of antipasti: prosciutto with melon; honey drizzled on Pecorino cheese; startlingly fresh mozzarella and tomato; chicken liver pate; and finally, quiche with a cheese sauce. “I think I’m going to like Tuscany” announces Al, the only male member of our group, who just arrived today.

A light, yet flavorful potato and leek soup comes next. The pasta course is gnocci with pesto and tomato sauce. But forget everything you think you know about gnocci. These particular pieces of pasta have a soft and light consistency and simply melt like butter on your tongue. We savor each and every one of them. “This food is prepared with love,” remarks Bethanne. We laugh and clink our wine glasses, toasting the chefs.

The main course is a colorful plate of meat and veal interspersed with asparagus and zucchini. We eat quietly. Although the conversation is flowing, we don’t want to distract our senses with too much noise. The mix of beef, spices and vegetables taste as good as it smells.

After a leisurely break – there is absolutely no reason to rush – dessert, another mixed plate of colors, consistencies and flavors arrives. The waitress pours a complimentary glass of Vin Santo, the Tuscan dessert wine enjoyed in Italian restaurants far and wide. We each enjoy biscotti (which we dip into the wine), a luscious piece of tiramisu and a semifreddo (ice cream) made with fresh strawberries.

Forget Mario Batali or Jacques Pepin, Paolo and Sonia are our culinary superstars. We’re the last customers to leave and Al insists we take pictures with the chefs to mark this momentous meal. They happily oblige as they are as nice as their food is spectacular.

No visit to the city of Siena is complete without a meal shared at Cane e Gatto. Make sure to add this delightful Italian restaurant to the list of experiences you want included in your customized tour itinerary. Call or email us today so we can start work on planning your trip to Siena. The Details
Cane e Gatto
Via Pagliaresi, 6
Siena
(39) 0577 287545
Open for dinner only. Closed Thursday.
Reservations highly recommended.

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