Sitting in Bologna, but want to get a few more words in about the food, etc in Florence before I get behind…and I already have a small amount of personal verbal baloney about Bologna. Soon.
|Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori|
So, on my first day in Florence during which I arrived just in time for lunch, I felt like I had to expand the opportunities to taste new/different stuff in my two short days. So, after Cibreo, I headed to a place I’d never been to called Osteria (Vini e Vecchi Sapori) [which translates as Hole In the Wall: Wines and Old Flavors].
It really is just a hole in the wall, maybe 4 or 5 tables, 20 chairs, perhaps. I got there toward the end of their lunch period and shared a table with a couple of local dudes who shared not a single word with each other, and were very focused on their task of eating lunch and getting out. Ok, the menu was short, not many choices, but all interesting. So, Mr.-I-Can’t-Get-Enough-Lunch ordered wide, fresh pasta typical of Tuscany called pappardelle which was dressed with a duck ragú. The pasta itself was a bit thicker and tougher than the pasta I make at home, and thicker than pasta here in Bologna, but more on that anon. The sauce was tasty, but it really could have been any meat since the meat itself was practically pulverized. Still, a good dish.
|Faraona: Roast Guinea Hen|
For my second piatto (plate, but really, course), I had an oven-roasted guinea hen, in Italy very common and called faraona. Yummy, juicy and tender, far better than any typical American chicken. If you go to Italy, keep an eye out for it on menus, especially in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. Worth the effort.
For dinner that evening, I ventured into another unknown, for me, place that has raves around the Italian Internet and trattoria guides called Del Fagioli on that street, Via de’ Neri of which I wrote in the last post. Well, I made a reservation for 9.30, finally sat down sometime after 10pm and was totally bushed. Remember, I had only five hours sleep since 5am Wednesday morning in Portland and it was then about 2pm Portland time. Well, by that time, they were out of all the things on the menu I had been coveting, so I settled for a mediocre bowl of ravioli and tomato sauce, and a small veal chop which was adequate. I think I had some stewed artichokes as a side dish. I had to share a table with about 8 20-30 somethings and it was a bit rowdy. Some asshole New Jersey dude was sitting at the next table, and his constant yapping was even more disturbing than the ragazzi at my table. He would not, as they say there, shut the fuck up, and his yap was just tedious.
I was so glad to get out of there.
|Caffe Rivoire’s Ciocolato con Panna|
|Palazzo Vecchio, Florence|
I closed the day with a deadly cup of deliciously decadent hot chocolate from my favorite dispenser of such, the Caffè Rivoire which sits in the prime spot in what is my favorite public space on the planet, the Piazza della Signoria, the site of some interesting Florence highlights: the monumental Palazzo Vecchio
was once home to the Medici family, before they built a couple of new palaces. It was and still is, the town hall of Florence and contains some fantastic art; in the middle of the piazza is a plaque indicating where the fanatic monk Savonarola was burnt at the stake, just where, a few years before, he conducted the actual Bonfire of the Vanities…he’d convinced many well to do Florentines to burn their evil books, paintings and so on so they could more easily get to heaven;
|Savonarola’s Burning Plaque!|
the adjoining Loggia dei Lanza contains some absolutely top shelf sculpture:
|Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa|
|Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women|
Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women among many others; next door to all of this is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s finest collection of significant art. Oh, and the space itself is just absolutely overpoweringly majestic. I’m sure this added to the people’s respect of the Medici…fear more like it.
Next morning—well, it was 11:30 when I finally hit the streets—I wandered off to the Mercato Centrale, the Central Market, for a quick sandwich for breakfast…just before I was determined to head back to Cibreo for my second lunch there. So I had another pappardelle dish and a boiled beef trademark sandwich. However, the wait in line for the sandwich was about 30 minutes and my pasta got cold, so I ain’t a gonna mention the name. Let’s just say it’s a Mercato landmark.
|Porcini at the Mercato Centrale|
Then I wandered about the market looking at the amazing selection of cheeses, preserved/cured meats, fresh meats, spices, produce and mushrooms!!!! Porcini mushrooms are still in season since it’s been warm here, I may have mentioned this already. But I’m in wild mushroom heaven. I’ve had them twice as a passato at Cibreo (see the previous post), two or three times as a pasta condiment, and I can’t remember how else. Will seek out more here in Bologna. I’ve never had a mushroom as flavorful and texturally perfect as the porcino (singular of porcini, ok??? Panino is the singular of panini, please try to remember this!!!!). Hope they are still around this weekend when I hit the southern Tuscan town of Montalcino. Love ’em….
|Tripe Wagon, Florence|
For some reason, Tuscans just love tripe and other forms of cow stomach…remember the cow has several of these, and each has it’s own flavor and taste. I’ve heard the taste of innards like this is a bit like shit, and I just can’t figure out why people, mostly men in Florence, love the taste of shit.
|Tripe Stand, Florence|
Maybe they are doing some sort of penance? These days, tripe stands are all over Florence, though on my first trips twenty years ago I don’t recall seeing these at all. I suppose they are copying Portland, Oregon where the provincial know it all food experts seem to think the food cart was invented. Wrong!!!! Anyway, guys, enjoy those shitty sandwiches…you can have my share!
|La Vecchia Bettola, Florence|
That night for supper I went to another mostly for the locals place called La Vecchia Bettola which features a very, very traditional Florentine menu including a great porterhouse steak, a wonderful fried rabbit with artichokes, yummy oven roasted pork loin and a fantastic boned then stuffed roasted chicken, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten; unfortunately it’s been years since I’ve seen that on their menu. Once when I ate there, about 1994, an Elvis impersonator came in and sang a song. Hardly raised an eyebrow. Great little place. Oh, the now famous dish, penne with vodka sauce was supposedly invented here. They call it Penne alla Bettola…highly recommended.
|Fresh Pasta with Porcini|
|La Vecchia Bettola|
I wandered home through the Oltrano neighborhood and shot some photos of signs, 800-year-old bridges and so forth. Check ’em out:
|Ponte Vecchio, Florence|
|Duomo, Cathedral, Florence|
These statues come from the next bridge down from the famous Ponte Vecchio. It is called the Ponte Trinità and was designed in part by Michelangelo. The four figures represent the seasons and were added in the early 1600s. When the Nazi’s retreated from Florence in 1944, they blasted much of the city to smithereens, including all the bridges, including this one, except the Ponte Vecchio. Even these assholes were soft enough to leave an 800-year-old relic. Gee, guys, thanks at least for that one. By the way, these were REAL Nazi’s, not the imaginary kind trumped up by equally assholy tea partiers. The bridge was reconstructed in the mid-50s, though the head of Spring was only found a few years later in the river mud when a generous reward was offered, so there it sits, right where the head should be.
Trattoria. This word is pronounced trat-oh-rEEah. Not trat-O-reeah as I’ve heard many Americans, including a certain Italian American pal of mine in NYC. Here’s a sign:
|Trattoria Sign, Florence|
|Da Ruggero, Florence|
|Da Ruggero, Florence|
And my last meal in Florence was the Trattoria da Ruggero, another ultra-traditional place a bit south of the tourist mecca of the historic center.
No tourists make it here, for the most part. It was Sunday lunch, the Italians favorite meal for eating out with the family. (It ain’t after church eating…Italians might be Catholic, but few actually attend mass regularly.)
|Pasta with Porcini|
So the place was hopping, almost electrified. I loved it. My choices included some house-marinated artichokes, a really good pasta with porcini, and a delicious slice of pork loin called àrista, an anchor of the Florentine kitchen (some say the name is Greek and means “the best” which was supposedly blurted out by a Greek bishop attending an Ecumenical Council in Florence. Apparently he liked his pork.).
|Àrista, Da Ruggero|
Just lick the screen here and see what you think of Ruggero’s cibo!
Next stop, Bologna!