Friday, December 7, 2007

In Berlin!

Sad news! My time in Italy is almost up. I am currently on vacation in Berlin and will be returning to Firenze next week for a few days before heading to Morocco (for another vacation, I guess?) In the meantime, there won't be many posts (nor any photos), but I will try to get some up once I'm back in Italy and then perhaps a few from the US as well. Ciao for now!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Can You Stomach It?

Apologies for the bad pun in the title, but I couldn't resist, since this entry is devoted to my recent experience with lampredotto, which is the fourth and final stomach of a cow. Not be confused with white honeycomb-esque tripe (trippa, in Italian), which is an altogether different part of the cow's digestive system, lampredotto is wrinkly, brown, and very tender when properly cooked.

In case you were curious (and even if you weren't), here are some pictures of these fascinating innards:



Florentine cuisine is known for using lots of meat, and innards are certainly no exception. I had read about these famed sandwiches before I even arrived in Florence and was determined to eat at least one while living in here. Meat is indeed ubiquitous - all over town, one can find street vendors selling rolls stuffed with freshly stewed tripe and lampredotto (as well as more standard offerings such as roast beef), although I've heard these stands are less numerous than they were in the past, partly due to changing tastes. Still, at 2.50 euros a pop, a tripe or lampredotto sandwich makes an economical and nourishing meal.

Despite the cajoling and encouragement of my host father (who is a big fan of lampredotto), it took me over two months to work up the courage to taste it. Finally, about three weeks ago, I found a friend daring enough to accompany me to the much-lauded lunch stand Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale. (I must thank Emily Wise Miller and her book, The Food Lover's Guide to Florence, for leading me to Nerbone! Her blog, whose name I unwittingly practically stole, can be found here: Florence Foodie )

Nerbone, which serves up piping hot plates of risotto, pasta, and sliced meat to mobs of hungry patrons at lunch time, is certainly more than just a sandwich spot. However, I would estimate that at least half the people ordering had come for the trippa and lampredotto sandwiches (interestingly, most of those who ordered these items were men). The lampredotto, which is kept hot by being submerged in a bath of dark, piquant, broth, is plopped onto a cutting board to be sliced to order.

Lampredotto about to be sliced at Nerbone

When it came time to order my sandwich, I stuck to the ritual that most others seemed to be following: ask for your panini roll to be "bagnato" (soaked in the meat's cooking juices) and then say yes to both the salsa verde and the red salsa piccante.

The sandwich

Before I tucked into my sandwich, I reminded myself that lampredotto would be no different from any other meat I'd had before. The first bite was miraculous. In fact, the meat was like nothing I'd ever had before though - silky, tender, juicy, and flavorful, it quite nearly melted in my mouth. On the second bite, however, I bit into a thick rind of fat and nearly gagged because of my surprise at the unyielding texture. Despite this slight setback, I continued to munch away, happily enjoying the majority of the lampredotto. By my seventh bite or so, I began to feel quite weighed down by the meat and reluctantly decided I wouldn't be able to finish the sandwich. (At this point, my friend also stopped eating, although I think this was because she did not find the lampredotto quite as pleasing as I did.) Perhaps next time I'll have to find someone to share with.