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Siena, Italy Restaurant

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A New York City restaurant critic, a friend, said he'd had the best meal of his life at Cane e Gato, a little restaurant near the Porta Romana in this Tuscan town. It was an impressive recommendation, but he had eaten there while on his honeymoon. Could his enthusiasm have been misplaced? Not at all.

The cozy restaurant, dominated by a 15-foot-long table, seats only about 20 people, and its white walls are decorated with oils and watercolors by contemporary Italian artists. Paolo Senni, the silver-haired proprietor, ambles over with a smile and greets each female patron with an orchid corsage. He returns and fills everyone's glass with a sweet and sparkling Prosecco. Then the food arrives. There is no menu—Paolo decides what to cook for you. You might have a trio of Tuscan classics: melon and prosciutto, duck-liver paté, and buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil. The second course: an exceptional potato-leek soup, a smooth and tasty seasonal risotto with yellow zucchini flowers, a sumptuous tagliatelle with porcini ragù. Glasses of Brusco dei Barbi, an achingly rich Sangiovese, accompany the food. The main course could be tender-to-the-bone braised veal; silky marinated eggplant; and beef with white truffles. Dessert, a generous offering of crisp-and-tender meringue with fresh strawberries; on-the-mark tiramisu; or fresh fruits and Moscadello di Montalcino, a vino frizzante whose light bubbles are the sublime finish to a delightful evening. Dinner, $65. Via Pagliaresi 6, Siena 53100, Italy; 39-0577-33-38-79.

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