I’m really glad we made it to Florence before the Jersey Invasion dropped a gang of guidettes into the birthplace of Michelangelo. Although I’m sure they feel quite at home amongst the various Guess stores and Footlockers, I was disappointed that there is no legitimate shopping in this city. But I did have two of my more memorable food experiences during my short stay.
Across the Ponte Vecchio, away from the crowds and endless gelaterias, was a very small, simple, organic eatery with a mostly vegetarian menu called Cinque 5 (Piazza della Passera, 1, T:+39-055-274-1583). This is where I had the magical molten delight called focaccia di formaggio, a Ligurian specialty that is essentially a cheese-stuffed pizza cooked until it becomes a lava flow.
It wasn't like what we know as focaccia at all. The dough is closer to a pita or lavash dough, rather than spongy bread. I was in salty, rich heaven.
My co-pilot started with a simple salad that I wanted to share because the concept behind the bowl almost seems revolutionary next to our deep-fried taco salad bowls. Very thin, light, and crisp = less guilt!
The interesting thing I found in a lot of Italy was German beer served instead of Italian. I love German beer just fine, but when in Rome, I want Roman beer!
One of my regrets was not trying the traditional Jewish Roman-style artichoke called carciofi di Giuda. Deep fried, it’s like the Roman-Jewish version of Chili’s Awesome Blossom. In Florence, I saw carciofi (artichoke) on the menu and ordered it, hoping I’d get lucky but ended up with deep-fried battered artichokes. Big distinction although they were delicious nonetheless.
Nowhere near as good as what we had in Panzano-en-Chianti but it was good to try different versions.
Definitely the best and most unforgettable meal I had the entire trip was the gnudi at the enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. I had heard the word before but, even as the owner himself said, “This dish is 30 years in the making! You will not get this anywhere!”
Perfect balls of ricotta, asparagus, and flour sitting in an über-rich sauce of the same, with shaved pecorino on top.
The cheese plate here will also go down in history. We had to wait for a little while for the cheese because the farmer hadn’t brought it yet. Yes, that’s correct. The farmer makes only sheep’s milk cheese and delivers to only 15 restaurants in ALL of Tuscany, and ours was one of them. I’ve had phenomenal cheeses before, but these really take the cake. They may look simple in the photo but they each had such an elevated, incredible flavor. There was even one that was a straight-up pepperjack!
The reason we went to this restaurant initially was because we overheard a private tour guide mention it at a winery we visited in Chianti. I specifically went because she mentioned the triangoli di tartufi (stuffed triangle pasta with shaved truffles).
Fortunately for us, that was actually the least exciting dish of the evening. Normally truffles for me would trump all but it really couldn’t hold a match to the gnudi.
As is typical for landlocked interior regions, the cuisine is made up of mostly breads, pastas, and cheeses, while the coastal regions are made up of mostly seafood and fresh vegetables. So while heavy at times, ultimately you can expect nothing less than rich and delicious from Florentine cuisine.
Next stop: Liguria!
*Jerkey was born in Tehran, raised in Berkeley, and now living in sunny Los Angeles. She enjoys playing XBOX, making pizza, and playing XBOX while eating pizza.