By Erin Lawler, Food Sub-Editor
Whilst best known for its culture and influence in shaping the Renaisaance, Florence is also the sight of traditional and delicious dishes that will attract any real food-lover.
This August I embarked on a family holiday to Italy, to the beautiful region of Tuscany. Before we arrived I had no idea what regional delicacies awaited me in the Florentine restaurants and markets but I was soon to be pleasantly surprised.
Florence as a city is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance with such artists and genius’ as Michelangelo, Donatello - no, I am not listing the ninja turtles - and Botticelli to name but a few. But Florence is lesser known for its wonderful food and the Trattorias genius use of regional Tuscan produce to create simple but delicious dishes. A Trattoria literally translates to tavern in English, but more specifically it is a restaurant that serves traditional Italian dishes in a relaxed environment. On the menus you can expect to find dishes such as lasagne, mozzarella and tomato salads, meat stews and grilled fish with sides of roast potatoes.
Florence is lesser known for its wonderful food and the Trattorias genius use of regional Tuscan produce to create simple but delicious dishes.
We visited Trattoria Marione, this particular one was recommended to us by the owner of our villa but there are multitudes of them, practically one on every corner. A quaint restaurant with very rustic décor we felt comfortable and hopeful for the meal to come. We ordered lasagne and spaghetti with pesto but the stand out dish had to be the porcini mushroom tagliatelle - ordered by mum, not me, unfortunately. I have only in recent years begun to eat mushrooms after vowing I hated them for so many years and so I very sceptically gave this one a try. However, I was proven incorrect by these delicious wild mushrooms earthy and nutty flavour and, thank goodness, there was no detectable slimy mushroom texture.
Coming from a family of foodies, we couldn’t leave Florence without grabbing ourselves our own store of these delectable porcini mushrooms. In order to get our hands on some, we visited Il Mercato Centrale di Firenze; a huge indoor food market in the centre of Florence with stalls on the ground level and restaurants, bakeries and cafes on the upper level. We bought our porcini mushrooms from a stall where they sold either dried or fresh porcini mushrooms - the difference evident from the price and neither a regular for the weekly student shop but a lovely treat.
Epigram / Erin Lawler
Hungry for more of Tuscany’s produce we then visited another stall - named Baroni - to buy and try some Tuscan cheeses and hams, but what we happened upon was yet another regional favourite: the truffle. Truffle, another earthy and deep flavoured delicacy, is the perfect addition to any creamy pasta sauce which we discovered in an organic restaurant called SimBIOsi in Florence. It even served a vegan burger. The dish was pappardelle with a sauce of fontina cheese and truffle: perfectly creamy and salty.
I have taken away many lessons and lots of knowledge from my foody trip to Florence, such as the deep and wonderful flavour of wild mushrooms such as porcini and that the hype around truffles is well deserved. But the most useful - aside from my discovery of pistachio flavoured gelato - is that when it comes to pasta dishes it would seem the simpler the better.
Featured Image: Epigram / Erin Lawler