Everything we were eating was very light and fresh, not coated down with heavy, thick, red tomato sauces.
My husband and I recently went on a 5-day vacation in Tuscany. Our itinerary looked something like this: pasta, wine, pasta, wine, wine, wine, pasta, wine. Oh, and gelato.
A lot of people we talked to were shocked that our trip was only 5 days, but it was our first time leaving our 15 month old son at home for that long of a period. We managed to enjoy ourselves, despite worrying and wondering what our little guy was up to without us. He had a great time at grandma and grandpa’s, and we had a great time in Italy.
We arrived at our hotel, the San Firenze Spa and Suites, in the afternoon. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and hit the streets. We wandered around for a bit to get our bearings, grabbed a pasta dish and risotto for lunch, and found our way to the Accademia to check out the David.
Husband: It’s way bigger than I thought it would be.
Me: That’s what she said.
I couldn’t help it.
Before heading back to our hotel to get ready for our restaurant crawl, we stopped at a cafe across from our hotel and split a half liter of sangria.
We quickly got ready to go to dinner and walked across the Ponte Vecchio to a more residential neighborhood where we met our guide, Adrienne, and another American couple, who would be dining and walking with us. Adrienne’s plan was for us to sample 4 courses of traditional Tuscan cuisine at 4 different restaurants.
Our first stop was aperitivo (happy hour!) at Tamero, a pasta bar with an outdoor cafe. Adrienne explained that most people kicked off their meals with an aperitif and snacks to kind of wake up their appetite. We had aperol spritzes and shared a huge platter of salamis, prosciutto, cheeses, breads, and spreads.
Then it was on to the next restaurant, Il Magazzino, for our primo (pasta) course. Adrienne told us the place we were heading was in the Piazza della Passera, which she explained was Italian for the slang P-word for the woman’s vagina. There it was, carved in a marble sign on a building, for all to read. And then, later, on the wine label of the bottle that we were sharing!
Adrienne sent the menus away and ordered three pasta dishes for us to share. One was a spaghetti with some sort of roe sauce – not bad, sort of salty, like caviar. The other was a carbonara with thick, flat, hand-torn noodles. The third pasta dish was a large raviolo stuffed with meat and cheese for each person.
She asked which one we liked the most, and I had to admit that I liked the raviolo. Turns out the raviolo was stuffed with tripe, which is why Adrienne sent the menus away before we could look. Had she told me ahead of time that I’d be eating tripe, I’m 99.9% positive that the thought of consuming cow intestine would have had me gagging at the sight of it. But it was surprisingly well-seasoned and tasted like any other ground beef that you’d find in a pasta dish.
One thing to note about pasta in Italy… All of the sauces are light, even the meat sauces. None of the dishes we had were coated down with heavy, thick, red tomato sauces. (That I’m totally guilty of making.) Instead, everything was very light and fresh.
For our secondo, or second course, we moved to another place for Florentine steak. In reading about and researching Florentine restaurants, I’d read about the Florentine steak a couple times and was a little nervous when I found out it was on the menu. It’s a thick, giant T-bone steak that is served rare. I was picturing huge hunks of cold meat with big globs of fat – and I was totally wrong. Yes, the meat was served rare, but it was sliced thin. We had steak two ways – one plain, and the other with shaved cheese and grilled tomatoes on top. Our steaks were served with spinach and white beans. The steaks were so good, I even had second helpings.
Our dessert, or dolce, was, of course, gelato. We went to a crowded gelateria where Adrienne invited us to choose not just one, but two flavors for our cone. I got ciocolatto amaro, which was a super dark, almost black, chocolate, and pistachio. It was so good – creamy, bittersweet chocolate, and salty pistachio! I vowed to have gelato every night in Italy, but said I wouldn’t repeat any flavors. I couldn’t help it. I had the dark chocolate and pistachio a couple other times.
Coming up, we’re sipping our way to Siena.