During my last trip to Florence to update Eat Italy, I tried to visit as many places as possible. Not just new places, but old places as well. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum from ‘Gesto is Da Burde. Well, actually, it’s not the complete opposite, since they are both restaurants in Florence. So maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. But for me they represent two ends of what is going on now not only in Florence, but in Italy in general, on the restaurant scene.
On the one hand you have a place like ‘Gesto, that is obviously the brainchild of a younger generation that has been abroad, travelled, seen other places and other things, then brought that experience back to their home town to create something new, exciting and delicious but at the same time home grown and local in terms of technique and ingredients.
And then you’ve got Da Burde which couldn’t be more old school if it tried.
I first visited Da Burde about 15 years ago. I was working on a photo shoot in Florence, for a magazine article. It was back in the heyday of magazine life. When publishers actually paid the writer to wander around a city with not only a photographer, but also an assistant and stylist. And a car and driver.
When it came time for lunch I had my short list of where I thought we should go, but the driver insisted: he knew a place that was outside of the center. And since we had the car…why not?
So we headed out the Via Pistoiese. Leaving ancient Florence behind, we drove past all those ugly apartment buildings that you manage to avoid in a normal trip to Florence. But there were also the odd villetta: small two story turn of the century buildings that spoke of another time when this road, leading to Pistoia, was practically in the countryside. And the places along the road were actually prime pieces of property.
Da Burde , right on the main road, is one of those classic, timeless trattoria that seemingly hasn’t changed since the day it was opened. The original restaurant dates from 1907, and was, at first, a small store. They restaurant eventually moved to the current location in 1927 and the same family still owns and runs it.
While all appears to have been stopped in time, the Gori family – and especially Andrea Gori – have upped the ante quite a bit from the original humble origins. But not in any fancy, flashy way. Instead the restaurant has one of the best and interesting wine lists in town and has very close ties to the Slowfood movement.
On a recent sunny day Domenico and I headed out for lunch. And no. We did not have a car and driver. (The life of a blogger isn’t quite that of a c. 1995 magazine writer). Instead we happily took the number 35 bus from Santa Maria Novella which dropped us at the front door after an easy 15 minute ride.
The front of Da Burde is still a store and bar, and sells everything from pecorino and prosciutto to cigarettes and coffee. We headed to the back room, where the real eating goes on.
This is the place to indulge in hearty Tuscan dishes. I had an amazingly green bowl full of farinata di cavolo nero, a dish that is usually hard to find in restaurants. It’s a kind of cross between a bowl of soup and a plate of polenta, with the green coming from an massive quantity of Tuscan kale. A drizzle of bright green olive oil was poured at the table.
Domenico instead went for the ribollita, made how it should be: thick enough to eat with a fork.
Although you should definitely have a look at the wine list, if you are feeling like you just can’t decide, the wines by the glass are always great. We had two glasses of Le Macchiole, a Bolgheri Rosso, which the waiter kindly left on the table just in case.
For our main course Domenico couldn’t resist the bollito. And I’m happy he ordered it because it was the cutest serving method ever. He got his own little brass handled aluminum pot full of broth, bones, meat and vegetables. Slices of tongue, veal, turkey and knuckle were served with the appropriate condiments: pickled onions, home made mayo, and salsa verde.
I had another Tuscan classic: La Francesina. It’s similar to the Roman Picchiapo’ , in that it’s made with leftover beef. But here the onions are the protagonist. And in fact my thickly sliced beef came to the table smothered in sweet, stewed onions.
Dessert was a home made pear and hazelnut tart. I tried to ask the girls in the kitchen for the recipe. But the owner came by and nipped that in the bud real fast.
After lingering over our coffees, it was time to head back to town. As we were paying, at the counter in the front, we asked if they also sold bus tickets.”Yes, we do” said the owner, “But not to you.” and handed us two bus tickets, on the house. How cool is that? When is the last time your restaurant paid for your transport? (and maybe he felt guilty for not giving me the recipe?)
Via Pistoiese 6R
Open for lunch and dinner, Monday-Friday
Saturday lunch only
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.