Out & about

Out & about

By
Emiko Davies
Contains
13 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743790038
Photographer
Lauren Bamford

Florence has always had a great street food scene and an excellent selection of hole-in-the-wall places that offer a quick and tasty bite to eat, made on the spot. Freshly made panini, prepared with quick hands and quality produce (including local cheeses and salumi sliced to order), are a specialty of the winding streets of Florence’s historic centre. Without a doubt, lampredotto panini are the culinary symbol of the city – and a tradition that dates back to the Renaissance. Nowhere else in the world can you find anything like these warm rolls filled with boiled beef offal and lashings of salsa verde. Typically sold from a van before food vans became the popular thing, these panini can be found in strategic points all around the city.

In the evening, after work, the locals stop by their favourite enoteca (wine bar) to meet friends for a glass of wine before heading home or out to dinner. The tradition of an aperitivo (aperitif) at this golden hour is one that is found in all types of bars, but undoubtedly the enoteca is where you’ll get the best selection of good, wine-friendly stuzzichini (bites to eat) – snacks such as crostini, that will ‘open your stomach’, as the Florentines like to say, but not ruin your appetite for dinner.

A good meal out is commonly rounded off with a passeggiata (stroll), partially to walk off dinner but also to reach the nearest artisan gelateria for a smooth gelato, whipped out of metal tubs with a spatula into little cups. This is a favourite pastime in summer, especially when gelaterie remain open until midnight.

When out and about in Florence, you may come across some of the places that have inspired this chapter’s recipes, an easy way to bring a bit of the city’s street food culture into your home. There are those little spots to sit and enjoy a glass of wine along with some crostini with an array of flavourful toppings, such as the classic combination of creamy butter and anchovies or a balance of sweet and salty with lardo, honey and pepper and little truffled sandwiches for something a bit special. Or you may stumble across some of the city’s best paninoteche (panino joints), where you can grab a quick and cheap lunch filled with simple but delicious combinations, from warm brie and spinach rolls to the famous lampredotto panini. And don’t forget the gelateria – here I’ve included three of my favourite gelato flavours.

Wine doors

Dotted throughout Florence, usually nestled into the side wall of a noble Renaissance palazzo, a unique Florentine curiosity can be found: a small doorway with a stone arch that often mimics the palazzo’s main entrance. These miniature doors – positioned at chest level and just tall enough to fit a flask of wine through – are known as buchette del vino (literally ‘wine holes’). Dating back to a period of decline in the seventeenth century, these little doors allowed wine to be bought and sold discreetly to passersby on the street, allowing the struggling aristocratic families to make a little money on the side from the wine produced from their own vineyards.

A wonderful example is the well-preserved buchetta on the wall of Palazzo Antinori, next to the restaurant Buca Lapi on via del Trebbio, a palazzo that still belongs to the family bearing one of the city’s biggest names in winemaking. The word ‘vino’ etched into the stone archway of the walled-in buchetta is really the only reminder of the long-forgotten function of the buchette del vino. In their place are today’s hole-in-the-wall wine bars, which, like everything in Florentine culture, are born out of tradition and steeped in the city’s history.

Buontalenti’s gelato

According to popular legend, the first modern gelato was invented by a Florentine, the multi-talented artist, architect and engineer, Bernardo Buontalenti (1531–1608). This Mannerist artist and favourite architect of the Medici family was one of the key figures in Florence during Michelangelo’s time. Among his works are the Forte Belvedere in Florence and the palace of Bianca Cappello; he helped complete the Uffizi and decorate the Boboli Gardens, and he fortified the city of Livorno. He was also a talented goldsmith and ceramicist, not to mention theatre set producer and event coordinator for the Medici dukes.

As the story goes, Buontalenti created a unique frozen dessert to present at a Medici banquet, designing a gelato machine where a closed cylinder containing a mixture of lemon, sugar, egg white and milk spun around a mixture of snow and salt to freeze the mixture. It was a sort of lemon sorbet to be served at the end of the meal in glasses. Today, there are a number of Florentine gelaterie that have created flavours such as crema di buontalenti or crema fiorentina that give a nod of credit to the Mannerist master.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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