On my recent vespa tour through Tuscany, we took a break for a light, traditional Florentine lunch with Alberto and his mother Giuseppina. My guide Freddie tells me Zeb Gastronomia is a real local favourite in Florence (and when a food shop has gastronomia in its name, there is no walking by this one!)
A typical Florentine lunch can be very simple like antipasto. Traditionally, antipasto is the first course before a larger meal but it can also make for a light mid-day munch. Antipasto is usually made up of cured or salted meats with different cheeses and vegetables that are grilled or even pickled (in oil or vinegar) like mushrooms, eggplant, artichoke hearts, red peppers, or green beans. It’s often served on large platter dishes for sharing. Not finding antipasto on a menu in Tuscany is very rare. In fact, it has become a popular meal all over Italy where lunch is traditionally light, healthy, locally produced, and usually paired with a glass of local wine. In Florence, it’s Chianti.
Alberto and his mom serve up locally produced antipasto here. Although salame, soppressata, and prosciutto are delicious cured meats, bresaola happened to be my favourite – an air-dried salted beef aged for a few short months, with a lean, sweet taste.
Believe it or not, I never used to like cheese. Until I started travelling to Italy. My first love of cheese was parmigiano, shredded in a big bowl of pasta fagioli from a little trattoria by the Spanish Steps in Rome. In Tuscany, I fell for burrata, a heavenly soft-textured cheese with a milky flavour that pours out creamy goodness when you cut into it right down the middle. It’s made from Italian buffalo, cow’s milk and and mozzarella strings so it’s not at all dense and strong like most cheeses. Best part of all, this cheese is supposed to be eaten within 24 hours. Isn’t it great when food actually has an expiry date in the same lifetime? Food here is undoubtedly fresh and unpreserved.
Alberto greets you with a genuine smile when you walk in but by the time you leave, you could get the ol’ Italian double-cheek kiss like you’re one of the locals!
How to get there: It’s a good walk away from the city centre across the Arno, but well worth it. Via San Miniato, 2 rosso, Firenze
Zeb Gastronomia is a stop on the Walkabout Florence tour. Although I was a guest, all opinions are my own.