Lampredotto is a sandwich unique to Florence. Having been a seller of sandwiches, this piqued my curiosity. I learned of this bovine sandwich whilst perusing Secret Florence, a great guide book about the local lore of this town. It speaks of things you won’t hear from tour guides. For example, there is a relief of an angel on the exterior wall of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo) that is gesturing in the Italian equivalent of the one-finger salute….surely, you jest?!…. The relief has something to do with the sodomites who inhabited Florence throughout the Gothic and Renaissance periods. See photo below and judge for yourself.
My apologies for the digression. There are few, if any, tourist areas where one can find lampredotto. Most often it is served from food carts in the locals’ neighborhoods. During the first week in Florence, I had not seen any carts in the old town area and I was concerned that this Florentine favorite would elude me. A few days later, however, Bobbi and I were out strolling and we turned down a narrow, dingy street. The tall buildings on either side seemed to close in on us the deeper we ventured. Bobbi suddenly grabbed my arm and pointed to a faded sign painted above a small serving window. The serving window was in the shadows directly beneath an arched walkway. A dilapidated wooden shutter covered the window. The sign above the window read: “Lampredotto.” It felt very covert; very back alley; as though any moment a head might poke through the window waiting for the password. Unfortunately, a head did not present itself, and therefore neither did any Lampredotto.
By week four in our new city, I had forgotten all about Lampredotto. This changed the following Saturday. Bobbi wanted to explore the Mercato Centrale. This central market is inside a large building and is chock full of small independent food vendors. Everything from fresh fish, to fresh pasta, to herbs and vegetables, as well as prosciutto sliced to order. And because it is a nutty time of year, there were even freshly roasted chestnuts. We were going to eat well.
After we had covered the bases and filled our bags, we stopped for espresso at a little restaurant in a corner of the building. After ordering our cafe, I looked around the walls. This restaurant had been around awhile and it was definitely well established. On two of the walls, there were at least three hand written signs that said: “Lampredotto.”
As I previously mentioned, I had all but forgotten about lampredotto, and because in the intervening weeks my brain had been inundated with so many Italian words, the word lampredotto did not register. However, what did register was that this “lampredotto” must be the restaurant’s specialty. For this reason alone, I figured I should order one. Bobbi then reminded me that I was getting the chance to order the Florentine favorite. Oh, yes, I recalled….sandwich…. unique to Florence…..food carts…..beef…with broth… I imagined the Italian version of the French dip.
I hadn’t planned on having lunch at 10:30 a.m., nor did I feel like the requisite glass of red wine that is supposed to chase the sandwich. But, opportunity mocks the clock, so I compromised and ordered a sandwich sans the wine. Bobbi did not. When the sandwich arrived I graciously offered her a bite. She graciously declined.
It was served on a hamburger bun and looked much like pulled pork. I bit in; it’s flavor was…..subtle….different…..But what made it unique was the texture. At first I thought it was stringy beef that had been cooked in a crock pot. But the texture was a little too smooth and soft…more like…… tenderized octopus. I couldn’t put my finger on it……….so I took another bite. Bobbi looked on. After about four bites and being halfway through it, the flavor and texture were rapidly losing their appeal. I took one more bite and set the sandwich down. It was at this point that I wished that I had ordered the wine.
Bobbi then asked me what I thought of this sandwich. I told her that I could see why its appeal had not spread beyond Florence, and I relayed to her the odd texture of the meat. She asked if I was glad to discover what the fourth stomach of a cow tastes like……..come again? I said. She looked at me curiously and reminded me that I was the one who had read to her about the sandwich, and didn’t I remember from what lampredotto was made? ………apparently not, I said.