A local Florentine trattoria, with good Florentine dishes for an honest price, in the centre of the city, is as rare as a good night’s sleep on an international Singapore-Roma flight - very rare!. But last night I had just that experience. Just off the Piazza della Signoria, in a narrow street, is the VINI VECCHI SAPORE. It is small, only a few tables, you have to like rubbing elbows with the people next to you & your coat is hung up in the bathroom! However, the food is great & the place itself is a very typical, rustic, old-school family run joint. It is true Tuscan fare. We had a ribollita & a salad of fresh artichokes, rocket and parmesan to start with, followed by peposo with fennal parmigiano & lampredotto inzimino – price 39euros (wine & water included). For dessert there was a Tuscan speciality rarely seen on menus, Zuccotto, along with a pear cheesecake and apple pie. The house red wine was good and the service was great. The hand written menu is only in Italian & states specifically that there is no Bistecca, no pizza and no ice! It is the perfect place to go for some true Florentine dishes that, unfortunately, now make only rare cameo appearances on menus around town. Bookings are essential & they have two set seating times (8pm & 9.15pm) so as to organise their limited space. Tel. 055 293045
Historical note on the Florentine dishes:
PEPOSO means peppery & it is the name given to this Tuscan meat stew which is cooked with whole peppercorns and so is quite spicy. It has a luscious meaty sauce made from tomatoes and red wine that is perfect to mop up (permissible!) with the good Tuscan bread. The dish originates from Impruneta, a town about 15km from Florence famous in the Medieval period, and still today, for terracotta (bricks, urns to hold the wine and olive oil etc.). The bricks for the dome of the Florentine cathedral were all fired here. The industrious brick-makers, whilst cooking the bricks, would also cook their meat stews at the same time at the opening of the furnace.
LAMPREDOTTO INZIMINO – Lampredotto is more Florentine than the Fiorentina (the local football team) & they have been eating it here since the 1400’s. It is the fourth & final stomach of the cow & they boil it. Inzimino, again a Tuscan word from the Middle Ages, refers to when something is cooked with spinach or chard. This was served in a bowl, the lampredotto cut into strips. Forget the Uffizi, if you haven’t eaten Lampredotto here, you haven’t done Florence.
ZUCCOTTO – this dessert has regal origins dating to the 1500’s with Catherine de Medici Queen of France (who took her Florentine chefs & forks to Paris as the French court was still eating with their hands) and is in the form of the Brunelleschi’s dome, she being nostalgic for her homeland. It is a semi freddo made with gelato, sponge cake & liquor.
In season now......
ARTICHOKES – season March – May. For recipes and information about this amazing vegetable check out http://theartichokeblog.com – written by artist and chef Michael, one of the great all time lovers of this veggie, he has courted it for years and has mastered its transformation into delicious dishes.