Ask a Florentine about popular street food and it’s likely they’ll point to one of the many lampredotto stands dotting the city center. Heed the advice by standing in line with devout locals, foodies and tourists in the know for the Tuscan capital’s gourmet equivalent of a fast food sandwich. Decide whether bread is best soaked in broth or meat should be drizzled with salsa verde versus a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
The filling is freshly-sliced tripe, the kind that melts in your mouth, from the fourth yet most tender stomach of the cow. Toss any skepticism out the window because this local dish has been a made-to-order favourite since the 15th century, an era where no part of the animal was wasted.
No longer a typical peasant dish or workman’s sandwich, lampredotto took its name from an unusual source: the lamprey eel (lampreda in Italian). This eel once thrived in the Arno River, graced the tables of Florentine households and has a mouth that when open resembles the tripe used in lampredotto.
Executive Chef Vito Mollica’s interactive lampredotto station at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze’s Sunday brunch is among the busiest at the buffet.
“I strongly wanted this typical street food at our Brunch because of its delicious flavour, the sauces and how proud Florentines are of it. We always strive to stick as faithfully as possible to the original recipe,” says Chef Mollica.
He adds celery, carrot, onion, a bay leaf, salt and peppercorns to cold water and then cooks the tripe over low heat for at least three hours. After slicing a bread roll in half, the cut side is dipped into the cooking broth. Next, meat is piled onto the roll and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, Maldon salt, chili oil and fresh salsa verde. Chef Mollica develops relationships with local producers who share his passion for quality, simply because ingredients produced with care taste better. And, because he believes food is an experience that extends beyond what’s on the plate, each guest feels at home in the restaurant from the moment they set foot in the door to a warm goodbye.
The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze helps satisfy a lampredotto craving in two additional ways. Firenze su Misura — Food Shopping Guide highlights the Florentine food scene with mention of 123 delicatessens, food stalls, butcher’s shops, bakeries, pastry shops, ice-cream parlours, wine shops and food markets. Use the guide to decide where to nosh on lampredotto between admiring frescos and shopping. Or, go home with Chef Mollica’s lampredotto recipe by picking up a copy of Vito Mollica – Invito a cena al Palagio di Firenze. This gorgeous book also discusses the culinary history of Borgo Pinti, the famous street that Four Seasons Hotel Firenze calls home. Both books are available for purchase at the hotel, select bookstores in Italy and online.
To truly eat like a local in Florence, lampredotto is the dish to seek out. Advocates swear you’ll be hooked after trying it. —Katie Dillon
And for more gourmet fare in Florence, take a look at our “Firenze su Misura, Food Shopping Guide“.