There are few things I love better than settling in at an old fashioned traditional trattoria. It sounds easy, but is more difficult than you may think. Many trattorie in Italy have either:
- Changed into something more sophisticated (which is sometimes really great)
- Changed into a tourist trap (which is always really horrible)
- Closed (which is the saddest thing of all)
Somehow, against all odds, Florence has managed to retain some of my favorite places, even though it is one of the most touristed cities not only in Italy, but in the world. But even though there are probably more icky tourist restaurants per capita in this small town, there are also some of my favorite restaurants in Italy. If I could eat every day at places like Sostanza, Ruggero and Fagioli I’d be a very happy (albeit slightly larger) girl.
One of my favorites spots is a place that has remained completely unchanged: Coco Lezzone. Located right in the heart of Florence the long communal tables are one of the best places to have simple, homey, well made Florentine food with no extra flourishes, but lots of extra good cheer.
The small entry way is still covered in the original tiles that date back to the early years. While the few tables in these front rooms are cute, we usually end up in the larger dining room in the back, where four long tables mean you can come by with a big group or – as Sophie and I did recently-sit down with who ever happens to be there. The day we were there one entire table was taken up by an extended Florentine family celebrating their son’s 6th birthday, while another table was presided over by one of Fiorentina’s top soccer players. While kids from one table took turns taking their photo with the players at the other table, Sophie and I happily dug into serious Florentine comfort food.
While we poured over the menu, we nibbled on my favorite: chicken liver crostini. We then shared a big steaming bowl of zuppa di lmapredotto, something I’d never even heard of, much less tried. Lampredotto is one of four kinds of tripe that you can usually find at Florentine panino stands all over town. Unlike honeycomb tripe, this cut is more meaty, almost like brisket, and the soup that came to the table was a rich, meaty broth with tender bits of lampredotto as well as cabbage. It was delicious.
For our seconds we followed the lead of our table mates (the plus side of communal tables: you get to see what everyone else is ordering). Braciola della Casa for me: two cheese and proscioutto stuffed involtini of veal stewed slowly in a rich tomato sauce. For Sophie one of the specialities of the house: Crochette di filetto, a tender pan fried beef filet served smothered in the same rich tomato sauce. A plate full of steamed artichoke hearts was our attempt at not making the entire meal a meat-fest.
Because we were in Florence we ended our meal with a small plate of biscotti and vin santo. Which was a sweet way to end the meal. But want to know what else was incredibly sweet? The people who own and run this place. When they saw I was taking photos, not only did they not mind at all (some restaurants start yelling at me) they invited us into the kitchen to see the wood fired stove that is still very much in use.
As we left we looked at all the photos hanging on the walls. It turns out that the soccer player isn’t the only famous person to come here to eat. There was Prince Charles , Giorgio Armani, Roberto Begnini, I think I even saw a photo of Luciano Pavorotti. But don’t worry. This place is the antithesis of fancy. And not expensive either (they have a special 3 course menu for 28 Euros including wine and water).
It’s nice to know that some places realize what a great place they have and don’t change a thing.
Trattoria Coco Lezzone
Via del Parioncino 26r
For more information on dining in Florence and Italy download my app, EAT ITALY. EAT ITALY is a free app, and contains guides to Venice, Milan, Rome, Florence and Umbria (and an ever expanding list of regions and cities) available as in-app purchases for both iPhone and iPad.