Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some new pizza discoveries in Firenze

Me and Piazzale Michelangelo, looking west over Firenze
My time in Italy is nearing its end (for this trip, that is). Bologna is one day away. One hard day, I should say... climbing out of the Arno River valley, over the Mugello mountains of northern Tuscany, and into Bologna. I fly out of Bologna on Saturday. Tonight, I was in Firenze (Florence). I was here for two days during my '07 trip. I remember it being packed and I was itching to leave. That was in May. Not the case in November, which I am very pleased about. I spent the late afternoon walking the town to see the sights. The colors with the setting sun and the views from Piazzale Michelangelo (on the much-less-visited-southern banks of the Arno) were awesome. Florence is another one of those places, like Siena, that is not to be missed. The art and museums are the best in the world. This is the cradle of the Renaissance and of many inventions, ideas, and architecture that are interwoven into the fabric of modern civilization.
LP says this is the best "quick snack in all of Europe."
Kind of a stretch in my opinion.
The food scene is also quite good. There's a lot of competition and most places appear to stick to tradition, so you can usually bet that you can eat really well even with a budget. For lunch I went to I Fratellini. Its a little paniniteria that is kind-of famous. They crank out a panini in about 10 seconds, fresh. I visited there in '07 and I wanted something quick, so I set about finding the place. It wasn't too difficult and it didn't hurt that there was a swarm of people around the tiny little shop. I was expected to have to wait awhile... but nope, with 20 people in front of me, I had a panino in about 4 minutes.
Piazzale Michelangelo, looking east. No this pic hasn't
been photoshopped.
With food on the mind, I was rather excited about dinner too. During the past week and a half, I have not come across many pizzerias that look remotely promising. Most were gas and the pies just seemed to be missing something. As a result, and also to save some dough (money, not the pizza type), I have been mostly self-catering breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was not a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed getting to chose both what I would eat, and where I would eat it. My favorite spot being the Il Campo in Siena. But I am again getting away from my main post theme... which was my return to pizza. This is also likely to be my last pie for this trip, so I wanted to find a good one. Firenze is littered with wood-fired pizzerias. So during my walk around town I went into a half-dozen pizzerias, looked at menus at two dozen, and narrowed it down to two or three. I settled on The Clubhouse. It was actually the most modern looking pizzeria I came across. Kind-of like some trendy place in Phoenix. This isn't my typical style or selection, but it had a good vibe so I went for it. I came back at 7:30. The place was fairly empty, but I knew I was out early for Italians. I had a seat and ordered the Covaccino. It had bresaola (similar to prosciutto, but made with beef), arugula, gran padano, and cherry tomato.
The Clubhouse in Firenze.
I learned a couple of things during this meal which at first I was upset by but quickly got over. First, Cavaccino is not pizza. Its basically a style of Tuscan foccacia that is brushed with sea salt and olive oil. This was obvious by the lack of loft and also the holes in the crust (implanted by a roller with spikes on it). None of the toppings where baked with the dough (or what I would call bread in this case). Nonetheless, throw the rest of the ingredients on the Cavaccino, and you still have one tasty meal, and still an excellent definition of "fresh ingredients on good bread." In fact, I couldn't finish it, which is a first in a long while. Perhaps I was most excited about this pizza because of a concept I first thought of at Vecchio Forno, in Tropea. I look forward to sharing this idea with many folks soon, as I think its a good menu option.
From this pizza, I also discovered bresaola. Wow, its damn good. As you might have picked up from my previous posts, I love good prosciutto crudo. Bresaola has a very simlilar flavor and is from cattle. I've never seen it in Arizona, but I've also never looked. It'll be something I'll keep an eye out for from now on... its really good. The day is coming to an end in Firenze and tomorrow will be bittersweet. I need to rest up. Ciao!
The Cavaccino... not pizza, but damn good.

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