September 4th - Florence
I fed my Duomo Obsession and had to squeeze in a day in Florence even though it didn't fit in with my trip at all. So after gazing at the Brunelleschi's engineering marvel which never ceases to amaze and trying to imagine how the heck they built that thing in the 1300s, I numbed my overworked brain with some gelato and headed to dinner.
Well, first I headed to Il Due Fratelli "wine bar" to chase down my gelato with a pre-dinner glass of wine and cured meat of some sort sandwich. This little wine shop is teeny so you order your wine and drink it out in the street.
For dinner I suffered a physical test that rivaled boot camp - a meal at I Latini. I was skeptical because it was so heavily tourist-ed (giant casks of Chianti on the table and all) but the communal tables appealed to me more than dining alone. I did not realize that I was signing up for a Food Olympics (which I obviously medaled in).
There is no menu - waiters come by and sort of consult you but really they just bring out whatever they feel like serving you. I joined a table with an Austrian businessman and a couple from Ohio who may have thought Italian cuisine was best represented by the Olive Garden before their first trip to Italy. So Arnold and I did our best to order for them and educate them. Meaning that I ordered their food and he kept ordering us different kinds of booze.
First, the antipasto course. I asked for a small sampling of meats and cheeses. I received 5 plates of food - crostini, finocchiona (fennel salami found only Tuscany), a cheese plate with at least 2 pounds of cheese on it, a plate of prosciutto and a farro salad (tho I like Farro, a really yummy grain, I decided I didn't want to waste stomach space in this one):
I made it thru most of the paper thin prosciutto and cheese before I gave up. Note: I was also shooting little teeny glasses of Chianti from a cask in the middle of the table.
I moved onto the soup course and couldn't decide between two traditional soups I wanted to try:
Pappa al Pomodoro (Bread and Tomato Soup)
Ribollita (literally "re-boiled" and made form day old bread, kale, beans)
This is Italian peasant cooking at its best - using old bread to make some tasty and filling food. Mmmmm...
Ultimately, the waiter decided for me - one of each!
The initially somewhat shy couple from OH opened up after a few bottles of chianti, an asti, a limoncello, a Vin Santo (with Cantucci "biscotti" for dipping of course), and a grappa followed by an espresso. I am still not sure if they ever actually made it to their hotel or are still passed out near the Medici Chapel somewhere...
I regret that I did not order the Bistecca Fiorentina which this place and the entire region of Tuscany is known for. This is basically a giant steak cut thick and served rare. Though we did notice that the American diners got theirs cooked a little more well done than the Italians (still mooing).
Anyhow, if you find yourself in Florence, it is pretty hard to steer away from touristy places so you might as well get the fun atmosphere of I Latini.