Our love affair with Tuscany might stretch back centuries, but, just a short drive from “Chiantishire” and the landscapes beloved of British painters and poets, the coastal region of Maremma in southern Tuscany remains relatively under the radar. That’s no bad thing for restaurateur Mr Dickie Bielenberg, who has split his time between Maremma and south London since he was a teenager. “It’s remote, rustic and charming,” he says. “For 10 months of the year, you can walk along empty expanses of fragrant pine tree-lined beaches. It’s very much a no-bullshit kind of place – full of vineyards, olive groves and lots of cows. The type of visitor who comes here isn’t the resort type of tourist.”
For Mr Bielenberg, it’s the region’s food culture that holds such appeal. Traditionally very poor, Maremma saw an upturn in fortunes over the past century with land reclamation spurring agricultural growth while its varied geography is home to food, olive oil and wine producers renowned throughout Italy. “Compared to most Tuscan food, Maremman cooking is very much about seafood. The stretch of sea between Elba and the mainland is a few degrees warmer than the rest of the Mediterranean, so you get varieties of fish you don’t find elsewhere,” he says. “Then just 10km inland, it’s mountainous, underpopulated and rugged and you have wild boar, venison and guinea fowl as well as amazing mushrooms.”
Aiming to translate the region’s charms to the capital, Mr Bielenberg – alongside partner and executive chef Ms Alice Staple – open Maremma in Brixton this month, with a focus on hyper-regional food and wine. Ahead of its launch, we asked him to outline the dishes that make Maremma so special.