Many people will ooh ahh over foie gras or liver pate yet strangely cannot stomach the though of eating stomach, cartlidge, or brain. Personally I enjoy the texture of offal and enjoy experiencing the love and tradition that has gone into slow cooking an ordinarily hard protein to cook. Whilst I would never rave on how head to tail eating demonstrates greater respect to the animal (as many other do) I do enjoy knowing that no part of the animal has gone to waste.
Sam and I are major suckers for offal. We see tripe, sweetbreads, pigs ears, marrow or liver on a menu and there is no discussion about not ordering it. So it goes without saying that on our recent trip to Italy, we went nuts for the tripe. And lot’s of it.
Here’s our official offal roundup of Tuscany and parts of Umbria:
Teatro del Sale – Firenze
Fabbio Picchi’s casual theatre pumps out some amazing dishes during the 2 hour, at least 13 course ‘buffet style’ meal (separate post to come). One of the highlights of the bargain 30 euro dinner was the amazing garlic, olive oil and tomato trippa, slow braised to mouth-watering perfection. If you don’t like tripe after experiencing this tripe, I’m afraid you never will.
Da Vinattieri – Firenze
Quite literally a ‘hole in the wall’ this traditional trippa e lampredotto stand is masterfully hidden through an archway just off Via del Corso. They serve traditional Trippa alla Fiorentina as well as Lampredotto. Slow braised in a tomato sauce, the tripe was tender and one half of the bun was dipped in the tomato broth to soak up the juices. Unfortunately the tomato sauce was a little bland which could have easily been fixed with a sprinkling of salt.
San Lorenzo Market – Firenze
Here we tried the lampredotto which is substantially more offaly that white tripe. I have been told that it is the last lining of the stomach which would explain the thinner texture of the offal. The meat is more tender, perhaps owing to the fact that it is flatter than trippa, and is again slow braised in a broth. Ask for a lampredotto bagnato and one side of your bread will be soaked in the juices. Whilst the lampredotto was tender, there was a clear offal taste that even to me was a little strong. The other major let down was the fact that the bread was slightly stale.
Piazza de’ Cerchi – Firenze
Again we tried the lampredotto and this time we were not let down. The bread was amazingly fresh with one side soaked in braising juices. The stomach was tender and did not at all have a offal smell. Best of all it was stuffed to the brim and the lampredotto was served with a generous helping of chilli picante sauce as well as a green sauce (salsa verde).
Boccacesca Festival, Certaldo, Toscana
Trippa Fritta. You don’t have to be a linguist to understand what it means. Having never eaten tripe crumbed and deep-fried before, I must say it was rather pleasing. The outside was crisp, yet the tripe was super tender and succulent – evidence that there was some pre-frying slow braising to this tripe. I might go even as far to say that it’s a strong contender to kick crispy salt pepper squid off its pedestal.
La Trattoria de Oscar, Bevagna Umbria
A little husband and wife team run this amazing restaurant in Bevagna. The chef got us on his side immediately when he sent out few complimentary slices of sopressata. Sopressata is a Tuscan sausage basically made up of anything left over from a pig, from its head to tongue. The sausage has a varied texture and this one in particular was really flavourful. This was followed by a lightly tomato braised tripe served with generous shavings of soft pecorino. The tripe was delicate and simply melted in our mouths. Combined with the pecorino – bliss!
Stay tuned for more Italy posts… that is if I can even find the words to describe how amazing our food experiences were!