The First Thing I’ll Eat When Italy’s Restaurants Reopen Is a Cow-Stomach Sandwich
It’s not the most delicious thing I’ve eaten, but it is the most rewarding
I will never forget my first panino al lampredotto.
It was a hot Saturday morning in July at Da Nerbone, a famous stall in Florence’s Mercato Centrale that has specialized in simple primi piatti, herby porchetta, and panini al lampredotto, the city’s famous sandwiches of boiled cow stomach, since 1872.
I ordered my panino piccante and received a hot plastic sack of meat with that particular offal smell and bread soaked in its juices. I ate with my elbows on the counter, sweating from the spiciness of the chile sauce and the searing summer heat. Cooking broth dripped down my chin as big chewy bits of meat that I couldn’t sever with my teeth escaped from the bun — with nowhere to go but inside my mouth. I chewed with fortitude until nothing was left.
I had done it. I was part of the club. I liked lampredotto.
If only it were that easy.
Lampredotto, the name of the meat from the fourth part of the cow’s stomach (called the abomasum), is a local treasure in Florence and is most commonly eaten in sandwiches, plain or with salsa verde and chile sauce. Like most offal, lampredotto roots back to a time when the everyday Tuscan couldn’t afford prime cuts of meat and had to make do with the scrappier bits. Unlike tripe, which is prepared all over Italy and the rest of the world, lampredotto is really only found in Florence.
To this day, lampredotto is inextricably ingrained in Florentine life. You’ll find it on blog posts about Florence’s essential dishes, in upscale restaurants paying homage to Tuscan tradition, and, mostly, at food stalls around any given corner of the city. Based on the informal surveys I’ve taken around town, about half of Florentines love lampredotto, and half can’t stand it.
Based on the informal surveys I’ve taken around town, about half of Florentines love…