Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I’m a creature of habit (aren’t we all?) I always tend to go the same 2 or 3 places in cities I know very well. But this Eat Florence app thing has definitely gotten me out of my (delicious) rut. Not only has it forced me to try out new and wonderful restaurants, but it’s made me revisit some of my old favorites where I haven’t been for ages.
While in Florence a few weeks ago, the top of my ‘must revisit’ list was All’Antico Ristoro di' Cambi. I don’t think I’d been there for....oh, I won’t even tell you how long it’s been.
There was a reason, of course. Cambi is not only way across on the ‘other’ side of the river, it’s down in the San Frediano neighborhood. Ok, Florence isn’t that big, and everything is certainly within walking distance. But in the last ten years or so I just hadn’t had a reason to head that way. No museum. No fancy house to write about. No important people to interview. And - until recently - no interesting shopping.
But like much of Florence, San Frediano has become trendy. There are more cool boutiques and even a hip (and very good) new restaurant (Osteria Personale).
But most of the neighborhood has remained the same. Simple, honest working class kind of feeling
And this is the feeling that All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi exudes. Opened in the ’50’s as a simple fiaschetteria (wine shop), they had a small kitchen which served honest food to go along with the straw-covered bottles of Chianti.
Even though the place has expanded, the Cambi family (cousins, mothers, sisters, brothers) is still running things with the original warmth of a neighborhood hangout.
Much of what’s on offer is on immediate display: massive bistecche alla Fiorentine fill the refrigerated case; dozen of prosciutti hang from the brick ceilings; carafes of ruby red Chianti line the bar.
The menu sticks to tradition too. This is the place to order pappa al pomodoro and ribolitta, although more modern and seasonal spins like pumpkin risotto are tempting.
Domenico and I stuck to the classics. Crostini Toscani were heaped high with rich, fragrant chicken liver. I couldn’t resist a thick slab of fennel-studded sbriciolona, served with a side of porcini mushrooms. Domenico went straight for the pappa, which he liberally doused with bright green olio nuovo.
Seconds were hard to decide. Since we were in Florence, Domenico went all the way and ordered lampredotto. This is the cut of tripe that is served almost exclusively in Florence. Taken from the fourth stomach, it’s more meaty - in both taste and consistency - than the tripe you probably think you don’t like. It arrived at the table in a rather dramatic three-tier presentation for such a humble dish. A plate supported a steaming glass bowl of lampredotto, which floated in it’s own broth. Atop that was another plate, for condiments: hot, pickled peppers and dollop of salsa verde.
My stuffed rabbit was perfection. De-boned and rolled with sweet frittata and salty, fatty pancetta, with a hefty dousing of intense pan juices.
A big lunch, which required a big walk afterwards. Rambling around the back roads of San Frediano we ended up in front of The Carmine, which I think I hadn’t visited since my last time at Cambi.
So, not only did I get to renew my relationship with the deliciously hearty food at Cambi, I got some Masaccio and Filippino Lippi in as well. A kind of perfect lazy Saturday afternoon in Florence.
All'Antico Ristoro di Cambi
Via S. Onorfrio 1R
Piazza del Carmine