Having grown out of humble origins, Florentine cuisine has always relied on fresh food from the surrounding countryside. Basic and rustic ingredients come together to make simple, tasty recipes. Here is a list of 10 dishes you’ll want to try during your next visit to beautiful Florence, Tuscany.
Florentine meals usually begin with antipasti, which may include bruschetta or crostini served with an assortment of toppings. A common Florentine antipasto is crostini di fegato, which consists of croutons covered in a liver spread (veal, chicken, goose, duck…) mixed with chopped anchovies, onions and capers for flavour.
Bread is very important in the Florentine and Tuscan diet. Featured prominently in sandwiches and antipasti, it also appears in soups and salads. Tuscan bread (called pane sciocco, meaning bland bread) is traditionally cooked in a wood oven. It can be recognized by its distinctive thick crust and its absence of salt. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages when a feud between Florence and Pisa cut off the supply of salt to the city of the Medici. Another story, also dating back to medieval times, claims that salt once became so heavily taxed that it could no longer be afforded by common folk, who simply stopped using it to make bread.
In Tuscany, even dry bread is appreciated. One finds it in many of the region’s hearty soup recipes. One such Florentine specialty, ribollita (literally meaning reboiled), is made from a local variety of black cabbage, beans (often cannellini), tomatoes and/or other vegetables, as well as stale, reboiled (hence the name) bread. Another traditional Tuscan soup, called pappa al pomodoro, combines tomatoes, basil, garlic, as well as stale bread and olive oil to great effect.
Feel more like salad than soup? Florentine cuisine has something nice to offer… again with bread! Panzanella, consisting of diced tomato, slightly stale bread cubes, onion, basil, olive oil and vinegar, is basically the “salad” version of pappa al pomodoro. Simply delicious!
For your secondi piatti (main course), treat yourself to the flagship of Florentine cuisine: bistecca alla fiorentina. Carnivores will be charmed by this thick porterhouse cut of beef. Weighing anywhere from two to eight pounds and made from the local Chianina cattle breed, it is served well-roasted on the outside, red and bloody on the inside. These T-bone steaks are cooked on the grill (traditionally, using chestnut embers), with salt, pepper, olive oil and a lemon wedge for taste.
Other Florentine specialties that appeal to carnivores include the stracotto (a kind of beef stew), the arista di maiale (pork roast with rosemary sauce and garlic), and the pollo alla fiorentina (chicken with ricotta, parmesan, spinach and lemon).
The Florentines adore tripe dishes, and trippa alla fiorentina is one of the city’s classic dishes. It features tripe, sauteed in olive oil, onions, tomatoes and a generous serving of parmesan.
The lampredotto is another typical way of serving tripe in Florence. Thinly sliced tripe is cooked in broth and served on a plate or in a sandwich. Lampredotti are typical street food and can easily be purchased from street vendors or in the public markets of central Florence. One tops them off with a choice of sauce, typically red sauce (spicy) or green sauce (herbed), or orders them bagnato (with wet bread with a little gravy).
Meat is a staple of Florentine cuisine, but pasta is a mainstay too, which is the case everywhere in Italy. One example is pappardelle sulla lepre. A typical recipe for pappardelle (a long, wide and flat pasta) involves a sauce made from hare, but other meats such as goose or rabbit are regularly used too.
If you still have room for something sweet, you might like capping off your hearty meal with some cantuccini (almond biscuits), either dipping them in a glass of vin santo (one of the region’s dessert wines) or enjoying them alongside a caffè ristretto.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you might also try schiacciata alla fiorentina. Best described as a kind of pastry-style sponge cake, covered with vanilla and lemonscented sugar, it is particularly popular during carnival.
Pappardelle pasta is an Italian flat pasta cut into a broad ribbon shape. In width, the pasta is between tagliatelle and lasagna. This pasta is traditionally served with very rich, heavy sauces, especially sauces which include game such as wild boar, and it is particularly popular in the winter, when it can make the basis of a hearty, warming meal. This pasta’s name comes from the Italian pappare, a verb which means “to gobble up.”
Some markets carry pappardelle pasta, as do restaurants which offer a range of Italian pastas on their menus. It is also possible to make this pasta at home, with the assistance of a pasta machine or by hand. Typically, pappardelle is made with an egg-based dough, making the pasta richer and fluffier, and the edges of the ribbons of pasta may be fluted or left straight, depending on the taste of the cook.
Fresh pappardelle pasta can be made with a range of flours, but dried pappardelle is usually made with durum wheat, an especially hard variety of wheat. Durum wheat is ideal for pasta because it helps the pasta hold its shape, and it will stay firm even if it becomes slightly overcooked. Softer wheats, on the other hand, tend to result in pasta which falls apart if it is not monitored closely by the cook, a result which is generally not desired.
This pasta is designed to be served on a plate or in a broad bowl. The wide ribbons are very absorbent and sturdy, making it ideal for thick sauces, and some people also serve pappardelle pasta under stews and pot roast, using the pasta as a starch to sop up the sauce. Pappardelle is generally not suitable for baked dishes, since it is too large to work in a noodle casserole, and too narrow to work in a lasagna.
Dried pappardelle pasta is usually available in the form of folded nests of pasta when it is made with eggs, and as flat ribbons when it is made with durum wheat alone. Dried egg pastas can simply be dropped into boiling water and stirred briefly until they come apart, indicating that the pasta is almost done. Durum pastas take longer to cook, usually 13-15 minutes, thanks to the large size of the pasta. In both cases, after draining, the pasta can be run under cold water or briefly tossed with oil to prevent the ribbons from sticking to each other.
As cities grew and food consumption skyrocketed, the result was a society feeding off of processed foods and drive-thru dinners. This trend led to a major shift in the distance food traveled and the content of that food but there is a new trend in the culinary world. It is a movement characterized by consumers seeking locally sourced ingredients on their grocery store shelves or at their restaurants and it is growing.
Food wasn’t always packaged and shipped thousands of miles. Before the rise of cities, massive highway systems, and food transportation improvements, food traveled less than 50 miles for the vast majority of Americans. Convenience eventually trumped freshness though and processed foods had their day. A new movement is underway, however. Ingredient labels packed with sugar, fat, sodium and preservatives are driving consumers to the “farm to table” way. Simple, nutritious, seasonal, local food is in the spotlight now and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Demand for local, healthy food is driving new restaurants, farmer’s markets and grocery stores to make them available. The price and limited availability are improving as a result. Local farms are given business from restaurants seeking the freshest of ingredients and smaller, environmentally conscious grocery stores are stocking their shelves with local foods. Joining this movement is easier than ever and the convenience is steadily improving. Sustainability is key and the “farm-to-table” movement benefits the local economy by lifting up hardworking, local producers and presenting their food products.
Under the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act, a food item can be shipped no more than 400 miles in order to be considered a local or regional agricultural food product. The long-distance shipping of food to fulfill the convenience seeking customer often leads to fruits and vegetables picked before fully ripe. During transport, they absorb the remaining nutrients from their surroundings and what results are less tasty, nutritionally weaker food that doesn’t hold a candle to the local, properly picked food.
If the healthier and tastier aspect of the “farm-to-table” style is not motivation enough, it is also better for the environment. Less transportation miles equates to lower emissions. Food travels, on average, 1500 miles from farm to customer according to a study by Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The prevalent food transportation system uses up to 17 times more fuel and 17 times more C02 is emitted. Transitioning to locally-sourced food benefits our environment both short term and long term. The movement towards fresh, local food saves fuel, hours, C02 and time.
Once, this movement could only be found in cities like Boulder and Seattle, but now large cities and small-towns across the country are joining the trend. The benefits of producing local, fresh food have increased to the point where cities like Miami are joining in. “Farm-to-table” restaurants can be found across the city presenting a variety of cuisines. The best food in Miami can often be found at farm-to-table restaurants. If you are looking for Miami Italian restaurants, head to Toscana Divino. Chefs scour local markets and seek out farms to gather their ingredients and craft menus that present the freshest of food. Vegetables are selected, prepared and served all within the region instead of shipped thousands of miles.
This conscious effort to break free from the chaotic, convenience driven lifestyle that plagues society now is growing. Simple, fresh food’s value is increasing and the health-conscious consumer is driving the market to fulfill requests for fresh, inventive fare. Seek out restaurants supporting local ingredients and join the movement. Convenience is growing in this trend and the “farm-to-table” movement is on the rise.
Check out what Toscana Divino has to offer Miami with their “farm-to-table” menu: https://www.toscanadivino.com/italian-menu-miami-fl/
Caviar was once served as an appetizer in saloons of the Old West. In another time it was considered extremely valuable and only suitable to be served to royalty and the upper class. But what exactly is caviar? Why is it so highly prized and so expensive? Here are the facts on where caviar comes from and what all the fuss is about.
Caviar refers to the salted eggs (roe) of the fish species, sturgeon.
Caviar comes from the Persian word Khaviar which means “bearing eggs”. Some eggs from other species ( such as salmon, paddlefish, whitefish, and lumpfish) may be labeled caviar if the name of the fish is included. The three main types of caviar beluga, sevruga, and osetra, refer to the sturgeon species the caviar comes from.
Beluga, the largest eggs, comes from the species Huso huso. Huso huso typically weigh 80 to 400 pounds when harvested and may weigh up to 2,000 pounds. 15 percent of its weight is eggs. The female Huso huso doesn’t bear eggs until around 25 years old and may live up to 150 years. Beluga has a rich, creamy flavor and delicate texture. Its rarity, however, is what makes it the most esteemed of all caviars.
Sevruga caviar is obtained from Acipenser stellatus. These small sturgeon are usually under 50 pounds. Sevruga is light gray in color and has a creamy texture and strong flavor.
Osetra (Osciotr), the rare golden caviar (or Imperial caviar), comes from Acipenser guldenstaedti. These sturgeon range in size from 40 to 160 pounds. Although the golden caviar is highly prized, the eggs of this species are often more brownish in color. The caviar has a distinctive nutty flavor.
Most caviar production is centered in the Caspian Sea, with the two main producers being Russia and Iran (along with the countries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan). Sturgeon, however, is not confined to this area. There are at least 50 species in the northern hemisphere and may also be found in North America, China, and France.
Major importers of caviar are the United States (20% of Caspian Sea exports), Switzerland, Japan, and the European Union (mostly France, Belgium, Germany, and the UK).
All sturgeon are endangered or threatened due to over fishing, poaching, black market trading, and habitat loss. Currently only two sturgeon species are banned from harvesting, Acipenser brevirostrum and Acipenser sturio. Other species are protected by CITES. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Countries may export caviar if they can prove that doing so is not detrimental to the survival of the species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must inspect all caviar coming into the United States. Their forensics laboratories have methods of determining the species and country of origin of the caviar.
Malossol refers to caviar that has very little salt.
With modern refrigeration and sanitation techniques, the amount of salt needed as a preservative is not as great as it once was.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, the United States was one of the greatest producers of caviar in the world. Because of over fishing, commercial sturgeon harvesting was banned early in our history.
Today, mostly through farm-raised varieties, caviar production has returned to America. Some American caviar is very high in quality and has been compared favorably to wild Caspian caviar.
We met with the talented bartender Julian Biondi to get the low-down on classic Italian drinks. He’s one of our favorite bartenders in Florence (and on our very fun Aperitivo Tour in Florence) and we’ve learned a lot from picking Julian’s brain. We asked him to tell us about his favorite Italian Cocktails, and put this list together, complete with a bit of history!
Top 7 Classic Italian Cocktails, according to (awesome) bartender Julian Biondi in Florence (ahem, winner of best cocktail during Florence Cocktail Week 2016)
4cl Campari, 4cl Red Vermouth, Topped with soda
Created in Italy during the first years of the 20th century, the name Americano refers to America and the style of drinking “on the rocks,” in old-fashioned glasses (in that period the majority of drinks were in cups without ice).
This is most likely the real story, while the legend holds that it was invented in honor of the boxer Primo Carnera, nicknamed “The American,” who was the first European to win the heavyweight title in the USA. However, this is an urban legend because this event took place in 1933, which would mean that the Americano was created after the Negroni, and we know that that isn’t the case.
4cl Campari, 4cl Vermouth, Punt&Mes (NO SODA)
The Milano-Torino is a variation of the Americano created to celebrate the inauguration of the A4 Highway that connects Milan to Turin. The ingredients are in fact Campari from Milan, and Punt&Mes, a vermouth from Turin. The cocktail brings the two cities together, just as the highway did in 1932.
10cl Sparkling Wine, 4cl White Peach Juice
The Bellini cocktail was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, in 1948 on the occasion of an exhibit dedicated to Giovanni Bellini, known as Giambellino. The drink must be prepared with white peach juice (with pulp), and not with canned yellow peach juice as often happens. For this reason it is a seasonal cocktail that isn’t always available. Julian says Americans are often very disappointed when he is unable to make Bellini in the winter!
3cl Gin, 3cl Campari, 3cl Red Vermouth
Classic bitter-based Aperitivo born in Florence circa 1919 thanks to a certain Count Camillo Negroni. Mr. Negroni had developed a taste for gin due to his time spent in England and upon returning to Florence, frequented historical caffes such as Rivoire and Caffe Casoni (now known as Caffe Giacosa). Legend has it that the drink was born from Negroni requesting trusted bartender Fosco Scarselli at Casoni to make his Americano with less soda water but topped up with gin. Variations include “sbagliato” with prosecco in place of soda.
10cl Sparkling Wine, 4cl Mandarin Orange Juice
The bartender Renato Haussmann from the Hotel Posta in Cortina d’Ampezzo, faithful to the concept of preparing cocktails with seasonal fruit, created the winter version of the Bellini using Mandarin Oranges from Calabria. It is such a successful cocktail that, in addition to being the “House Cocktail” of Hotel Posta, it was added to the list of AIBES* drinks.
*Associazione Italiana Barmen e Sostenitori (Association of Italian Bartenders and Supporters)
4,5cl gin, 3cl dry vermouth, 2cl campari
The Cardinale was invented by a Cardinal who frequented the Excelsior Hotel on Via Veneto in Rome. He suggested the recipe to his bartender, and the idea was a success with the other clients too, so the bartender christened the cocktail with the name “Cardinale.”
one third Sparkling Wine, one-third Liquor (Aperol, Campari, Select), one-third Soda
The Spritz was created during the period of Hapsburg domination in Veneto during the 1800s. The soldiers, as well as various merchants, diplomats, and workers of the Hapsburg empire in Veneto quickly got used to the local habit of drinking in Osterias, but they weren’t comfortable with the large variety of wines from Veneto, which had a higher alcohol content than the beers they were used to. Hence the request to the local hosts to spritz a bit of water in the wine (the verb “spritzen,” in German) to make them a bit lighter. The original Spritz was in fact originally comprised of sparkling white or red wine, diluted with fresh water.
Over the years the Spritz has “grown up” with an infinite number of possible additions, like for example strong (and less strong) liquors such as Aperol, Bitter, Select (this last one almost exclusively in Venice), or a dark bitter like China Martini or Cynar with lemon peel either immersed in the drink or simply squeezed into the glass, according to taste.”