Thursday, May 26, 2011
If you’ve ever lived in Florence then the idea of carts all over the city selling tripe sandwiches seems like part of the landscape. The other day I realized that most people don’t really ‘get’ one of my all time favorite snacks. I tweeted that I was craving a tripe sandwich in Florence and the responses made me realize that tripe on a bun is not what most people run out for when the munchies hit.
And then I remembered it had taken me a while to get used to the idea of a late morning offal snack. I was living in Florence, working on my dissertation (Renaissance gardens) and had just met my soon-to-be husband, Domenico. Up until then I was more interested in deciphering 16th century Medici shopping lists than delving into pots of steaming innards.
But one day, while taking a late morning passagiata, Domenico suggested we detour to Piazza del Cimatori for a panino di lampredotto. Since I had just met Domenico, and was head over heals in love, if he had said “let’s jump into the Arno” I probably would have done that too. So tripe on a bun seemed a reasonable request.
The stand was crowded, and we waited our turn. When we got to the front, the tripe man asked “poppo o lampredotto?” Udder or stomach? After Domenico made some sort of cow boob joke, we went classic, chose lampredotto and he stuck his long metal fork into a steaming vat of broth, pulled out a beige piece of slightly gelatinous meat and plopped it on the cutting board.
Working quickly with a knife, he chopped up two portions worth into thin strips, laid them atop a pair of crusty buns, sprinkled them generously with salt and pepper and then capped them with the bun top, which had first been dunked briefly in a bit of the tripe broth.
And that was when I realized: not only did I love Domenico, I also really loved tripe. And maybe I loved Domenico that much more for introducing me to what is now one of my favorite all time snacks.
The tripe stands are scattered all over the city. Although they are on wheels, they are permanent. All of them sell both trippa and lampredotto. Trippa is what we call honeycomb tripe, is the second stomach, is white and usually cooked in a tomato sauce. Lampredotto is the fourth stomach and is a much more tender, slightly meatier cut. It is simmered for hours in a seasoned broth and is the staple of most sandwiches. You can have your lampredotto seasoned with just salt and pepper, or else one of two sauces, salsa verde (parsley, capers and lemon juice) or hot sauce.
Some of the other offal you’re likely to find includes poppa, the udder - cooked even longer and amazingly tender; nervetti - almost translucent tendons - not a lot of flavor, but - well - try them if you’re curious. And if all this kind of scares you, and you need a softer entry into the world of tripe stands, just ask for bollito, which is boiled beef.
If the sandwich seems too much, you can also ask for your tripe/lampredotto/bollito in a small take away dish.
Here are a few of my favorites, located near the center of town. For a full list of trippai, see Osterie d’Italia. And for a full description of these tripe stands, and other restaurants in Florence, see my app, Eat Florence.
Loggia del Porcellino, Florence
Lupen e Margo
Via dell Ariento, Florence (just outside the Mercato Centrale)