The 7 dishes you can't miss in Florence
The pillars of traditional Florentine cuisine
As soon as you set foot in Florence get ready because the quantity of masterpieces concentrated in the historic centre is unrivalled anywhere else. Bounce nose up from the Duomo to Piazza della Signoria, from Ponte Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens. If you're smart and have booked in advance a visit to some iconic museum don't worry, just come in and enjoy the show. But even for you, who will walk three meters above the ground suspended between beauty and enchantment, the languor of lunchtime will come. Consider it the least of your problems: the art of eating in Florence is equal to the one you just left behind when you leave the Uffizi or the Accademia, or take your eyes off Brunelleschi's dome. To help you discover it, we tell you about the 7 dishes with which you will enter into symbiosis with the city. You will understand at the first bite what is the secret ingredient of Florence, the Sublime that was produced here centuries ago by the ingenious manipulation of simplicity: bricks and stone in art. Bread, meat and vegetables in the kitchen.
Caravaggesca, in the alternation of white and deep red. Renaissance in its origins, when it was cooked on large bonfires on the night of San Lorenzo. But above all Florentine: the steak made a pact with the city. It is the most famous dish of Florence in the world even if the name has English origins. One of the most remembered versions of the origins of the name dates back to the times of Alessandro de' Medici, to a night on August 10, 1565, when during the feast of San Lorenzo the knights of the English crown invited to the sumptuous grill began to claim those pieces of grilled meat shouting: beef steak! From here the Florentines began to cripple that cry in steak. To make a Florentine steak to perfection, you have to take a steak in the fillet two or two and a half fingers high, weighing about 1.2 kg (some say that the one in the rib is not so much worse, what is certain costs about 20% less). Before cooking it should be kept at room temperature for 2 to 10 hours. After it is red-hot on the embers of oak or olive tree, 5 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other. It should not be salted before cooking is finished. Purists eat it like this, naked and raw (or rather, cooked rare), without seasoning it even with a drizzle of oil, if the raw material is of first quality. We advise you to accompany it as per tradition with the white beans cooked in the flask, another Florentine typicality.
Here you will find the addresses where you can taste the best steaks in Florence. If you want to cook them, here are the best butcher's shops in the city where you can buy them at a glance. And if you want to know everything and more about the subject, we suggest our book on Steak, an all-inclusive work for fans and connoisseurs! A volume of 200 pages, with more than 180 unpublished photographs written by food and wine critic Aldo Fiordelli, with a preface by Allan Bay. A journey through the best trattorias and restaurants offering Fiorentina: 23 in Florence, 10 in Tuscany but also in Milan, London, Paris and New York.
Bread is the main ingredient of this soup, considered on the menu is a first course in the same way as pasta and risotto, but for the farmers of the past it was a unique dish. Bread strictly silly as they say here, which means not salty. This characteristic dates back to the twelfth century when the struggles between Pisa and Florence led Pisa (which at the time was one of the 4 Maritime Republics of our peninsula) to block the salt trade inward, so the Florentines decided to bake without salt. Here the stale bread, i.e. aged a few days because it was leftover, is reused as a base for this famous soup to which are added, in addition to white beans, some very common vegetables from the garden: onions, carrots, celery, black cabbage (fundamental). Ribollita because the peasant women used to prepare a large quantity that was gradually re-boiled, i.e. heated every time it was brought to the table. It is served with a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil. Here are the restaurants and trattorias where you can find the best ribollita in Florence and Tuscany.
PAPPA AL POMODORO (TOMATO SOUP)
More stale bread is at the base of this other emblematic and very popular soup made with tomatoes, garlic, basil, broth and olive oil. The tomato soup is an essential dish. The extreme simplicity of the taste is not directly proportional to the ease of its preparation. Making a mistake with bread can lead to the most total debacle, finding in the dish a sticky and slimy mixture perfect to dull the walls of your kitchen. Yes, because a meal with tomatoes worthy of the name starts from a very difficult base: finding the right bread! It is essential a homemade bread, possibly baked in wood-fired oven, without salt and with a large and light crumb. And tomatoes, firm, sweet and ripe. We could say that in the veins of every good Florentine flows Chianti and Pappa col Pomodoro. A concentration of good flavors, reassuring as the embrace of the mother. Ah, a final warning: never ever would a Florentine doc eat it dusted with grated cheese! Do the same and you won't regret it. To know the restaurants and trattorias where you can find the best tomato soup in Florence and Tuscany click here.
TORTINO DI CARCIOFI (ARTICHOKE PIE)
Poor dish made with eggs and artichokes. In theory it would be the equivalent of a simple artichoke omelette, in fact the art of certain epic cooks of today has made it sublime, bringing it to the fore with ingenious tricks and interpretations. There is not much more to add, apart from inviting you to try one of these carefully selected versions that we recommend.
There is no Sunday or Christmas in Florence without a roasted arista served at lunchtime. The history of this second course speaks volumes about its nobility. Only 5 years after his rise to government in Florence, in 1439, Cosimo de' Medici, known as the Elder, managed to convince Pope Eugene IV to bring the Ecumenical Council between the Catholic and Orthodox churches to Florence, all at the expense of the Banco dei Medici. The greatest banquets ever seen before were organized for the occasion. During one of these, the Byzantine Patriarch, at the first bites given to that roast pork, exclaimed: Arista! which in Greek (neutral plural of the superlative of the adjective agathos) means 'Excellent! The Florentines lost no time and since then they began to call the roasted pork chop "àrista".
The "arista" is in fact a piece of pork that is obtained from the back, up to and including the loin. It can be cooked with or without the ribs, although when it is cooked with the ribs, with the bone it is said in Florence, the meat is much tastier. Another important thing, the arista must be fat. A slice of lean arista is likely to be not very tasty, withered and stubborn, therefore a disgrace for the demanding palates of Florentines. It is served hot, sliced, together with roast potatoes.
In Florence we are famous for our lampredotto sandwiches. Prepared with beef or veal entrails, these offal represent for amateurs a noble bouquet of flavours despite the gruesome poverty of the raw material. The lampredotto is in fact one of the four bovine stomachs (abomasum) which is first washed properly and then cooked for a long time in boiling water with tomatoes, onion, parsley, celery, salt and pepper. Once cooked, it can be enjoyed like a normal boiled meat, seasoned with green sauce, or in the way most loved by Florentines, that is cut into pieces used as the filling of an unsalted sandwich (the upper slice of which must be soaked in the broth of the lampredotto itself), always seasoned with green sauce, salt, pepper. The best lampredotto sandwiches you'll find at the so-called Lampredottai, itinerant baracchini located in various parts of the city. Very popular at lunchtime, among regulars it's easy to come across star chefs, Florentine nobles and professionals. To know where to go, click here.
TRIPPA ALLA FIORENTINA (FLORENTINE TRIPE)
It is another typical second dish of Florence based on offal, tripe, which is part of the so-called fifth quarter. It is a very cheap cut, obtained from different parts of the bovine stomach (cap, cross, etc.). It is prepared by slicing the tripe, well washed, into strips and adding it to a sauté of onions, carrots and celery cut into small pieces. The peeled tomatoes are then added and left to cook until the water from the tripe and tomatoes is removed. Serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. In the old days even the broth in which the tripe was cooked was sold in flasks, an excellent soup was made from it where rice was cooked together. To know where to go to eat the best Florentine tripe, click here and, also, here.
BEANS IN THE FLASK
It's an endangered dish that involves cooking cannellini beans on the grill of the bread oven after putting them in a flask spagliato, with a neck a little wider than the common flasks. In the flask together with the beans, after soaking them in water for one night, some sage leaves, ground pepper and about two thirds of water were added. This practice of cooking beans in glass flasks has distant origins. In the thirteenth century the master glassmakers of the Val d'Elsa, Val d'Arno and Empolese began to create furnishings for common use, including flasks: wine containers that stood out from the common bottles because they were bellyfuls and without the foot, which was then covered with the stiancia, a local marsh grass from the base to the mouth (at the time it was like this). In 1388, for hygienic reasons, the ban on the use of metal containers came into force in Florence and this made the fortune of flasks. The flasks, after the first three hours of work, were "fresh", that is, they stopped for half an hour. When they decided to eat the beans they went to work a little earlier to prepare the flask. A flask of about two and a half litres, with a rather wide neck. They would fill it with two thirds of water, then they would put the beans with garlic and sage. In winter, they'd add a sausage or two. The flask filled in this way was put between the "little rooms of the oven". Here the beans cooked slowly by irradiation of heat, and were ready, just right, to be eaten during the "fresh", seasoned with olive oil to enhance the flavor. The custom then spread among the farmers who put the flask in the oven where they had just baked the bread. It was placed on the ashes still hot, and the slow and constant temperature cooked the beans leaving their fragrance unchanged. A long cooking that explains why, in the absence of ovens, flasks and patience, this side dish gradually disappeared. In some trattoria the custom still survives, that's where.