When I drop by a village bar in Italy, I often see, hanging on the wall, a black and white photo showing the town’s central piazza filled with lively locals – a scene which unfailingly makes me daydream about the good old days. Then I look through the window, from my table, and get a glimpse of the same town square as the one in the picture, only to realise that things have changed quite a bit: the present-day piazza is either desolate or overcrowded with tourists…

In Sarteano, a town sitting on the border of the Val d’Orcia, there is no such discrepancy: the real thing looks pretty much like the old one. The reason for this is that Sarteano is ideally situated: close enough to explore some of the valley’s famous sites, but also far enough from the busy tourist trails. Besides, unlike many other small Italian towns, Sarteano is not at all grappling with depopulation, quite the contrary: it is alive and kicking. And this is why Asia Chirdo fell in love with it.

Asia is at the helm of the kitchen many of the guests who stayed with us in the Val d’Orcia know well: the Dopolavoro restaurant at La Foce. Together with Katia Lysy, Iris Origo’s granddaughter, Asia decided to reopen Sarteano’s village bar and give the piazza a new lease of life. Asia and Katia have christened their new concern “Dopoteatro”, as it is located right opposite the town’s lovely theatre.

Dopoteatro’s beautiful interiors are the perfect setting for a coffee, cocktail, snack or light dinner; and its menu is entirely based on locally sourced produce.

Make sure you try a bico, a type of sandwich unique to the area and absolutely divine when savoured with a glass of red wine. I suspect that the bico is a close relative of the torta al testo, a flatbread sandwich prepared in neighbouring Umbria and which I’ll turn my attention to in the upcoming weeks.

Stay tuned for a full report on this new culinary experience before the summer ends!


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