When I first started this blog, I thought that one of my main standbys for posts would be lists of things. You know. Best Gelato in Florence. Five Favorite Restaurants in Venice. That kind of thing.
While I did do a few of these in the beginning, I’ve come to realize that I find it very hard to choose the ‘best of’ anything. There are so many variables when choosing favorites. How I feel that day. What I feel like eating. How much I want to spend. And if I’m doing the choosing for someone else? Like you? Well, then it gets even harder.
But the thing is, if you’re a blogger (and I’m that) then you’re supposed to do these kinds of lists to get traffic. I should know, since the posts I love the most on other peoples blogs are things like “Five tips for better Food Photography” or (more to the point) “The top five pastry shops in Paris.”
So, in response to this self imposed guilt, I‘m going to try to be a better blogger. And provide more lists. Because that’s what you want, right?
Why Five best panini in Florence? Because the panini in Florence are damn good. I can’t really think of another Italian city where I more willingly eat sandwiches. I’m more of a sit–down–at–a–table and dig–into–a–plate–of–pasta kind of girl, when it comes to meals. But in Florence? I just can’t seem to walk by any of the panini places in town without getting one to go.
Here are my five favorites, in no particular order: (and I’m probably forgetting some)
If Florence is currently undergoing a panino Renaissance, then Alessandro Frassica, of ‘Ino, is leading the pack. Since the day he opened his doors, his gourmet panini have been flying out those doors. What’s his secret? First of all top notch ingredients like prosciutto di San Daniele, Robiola from Piedmonte and sun-dried pachino tomatoes from Sicily. He also special orders the ciabatte and pane toscano. Then there is the creative element. You never know what you’ll find. The specials of the day are written on a scrap of butcher paper. The day I was there I had a ciabatta filled with grilled zucchine, robiola and ‘nduja (a spicy sausage spread). Truffles often figure prominently. Nothing wrong with that.
Via del Georgofili 3, Florence
I think I passed right by Semel three times without seeing it. And I was actively looking for it. Barely bigger than a closet, this tiny storefront serves some of the best panini in town, and maybe in Italy. Yes, there are other gourmet panini places in Florence, like ‘Ino and Il Cernacchino. And at the other end of the spectrum my beloved tripe carts.
But Semel is a completely different experience. Open for only a few short hours a day -11 to 3pm- the store owner Marco Paparozzi elegantly crafts six different types of sandwiches on any given day. Semel is the word for a typical type of Florentine roll, soft but slightly crunchy. These are sliced and filled with things like stews made from things like donkey, pheasant, beef or deer. The day I was there I had roast duck served with candied orange. Although I was tempted by the Herring with Pecorino. Guess I have to go back.
Piazza Ghiberti. 44r, Florence
You could almost miss Da Vinattieri, since it’s just a hole in the wall, located beneath an archway, down a narrow alley. But what will catch your eye is the long line forming outside both the window and the door. That and the mouthwatering smell of simmering goodness.What are people lining up for? Fresh focaccia sliced to order and filled with just about any combination of cured meats and cheese you can think of. Or else the small rounds of fried dough, coccoli, again stuffed to order or just eaten plain.
Or maybe all those people are waiting at the window for what made me decide I was starving way before it was anywhere near lunch time: a crusty roll piled high with tripe and dabbed with salsa verde.
You might have trouble finding it. It’s just off the corner of Via Santa Margherita and Via del Corso.
Via Santa Margherita 4r, Florence
Trippaio Mario Albergucci
This famous tripe stand is located just outside the Porta Romana. Why is it famous? For the quality of the tripe – and other boiled meats – of course. But also for the cranky owner. If you can get him to smile, let me know.
Besides various versions of tripe (including lampredotto, trippa bianca, lampredotto sbucciato) they also have such hard to find delicacies as Nervetti di Zampa (hoof nerves) Guancia di Vitellone (Calf Cheek) Lingua di Vitellone (Calf Tongue) and Poppa (veal breast). Take your pick.
You can have any and all of these served up in a sandwich, or as a portion on a plate. But the lampredotto panini are the main attraction, and you can order them with any of the following condiments: leeks, artichokes, beans, potatoes, olives, stewed onions.
And if you can’t decide, Mario is happy (well, he’s never really happy) to serve you up a hearty portion of bollito misto – a bit of everything.
Piazzale Porta Romana, Florence
Mon-Fri, 9-7pm (closed for 3 weeks in August)
Even though the sign outside says Alimentari, what is really happening in this tiny below street level store is a whole lotta panini. Its location on a very quite alley, and its lack of sign outside, means that it’s mostly locals in the know who stop by for a quick lunch.
The sandwiches are all made with two thinly sliced pieces of unsalted Tuscan bread. Then you choose what you’d like inside. Tongue and mustard? Herring, butter and capers? I always succumb to their famous pollo in galatina, a cross between a chicken meatloaf and chicken pate, topped with a few baby artichokes. I take my panino to the back room, grab a stool, and with a glass of Chianti I’m a very happy girl.
Via Parione 19r, Florence
8-3:30; 5-7:30. Closed Sun.
For more on eating tripe in Florence, which is a subject unto itself, see this post.