Tuscan Take-out

movfeast_flor_thumb_finI can remember the first time I discovered my neighborhood rosticceria, or rotisserie -- I was at a friend's house, and she said that we should walk down there and get some chicken and lasagne for dinner. So we went over, just as the lasagne was being pulled out of the oven. Two young women worked behind the counter, expertly weilding the spits without burning themselves as I probably would, and carving whole roast chickens with two or three slips of a knife. Even before tasting anything, I was impressed.

When I got home, I was delighted to find that the spit-roasted chickens were the best I'd ever tasted -- herby, salty, and moist, the skin was just amazing. We'd bought a bit of each type of chicken, both the tondo (round) and the schiacciato (flattened). In recent years, I'd come to prefer chicken leg to the breast, because nearly every breast I encountered was dry and flavorless. But deep down inside, it's the white meat that I love, and after a bite of the pollo tondo, I knew I'd found The Perfect Chicken Breast. As one might expect, the breast of the pollo schiacciato was drier, but the skin was crispier, and the leg was absolutely heavenly.

The lasgane was an incredible heap of pasta fresca, ragú and besciamella, and over the months, I've come to realize that it's never quite the same. It's like a little lottery, except you never lose. Sometimes, there's more meat, sometimes more tomato, but it's always delicious, and always cheap.

Another staple for me is a little container of roast potatoes, which I still find to be a bit of an enigma. Tossed with salt and rosemary, they are unmistakably Tuscan and go perfectly with any of the roast meats. But, I swear that I see them being pulled out of the deep-fryer when I peek into the kitchen. It's one of those don't ask, don't tell kind of situations, I guess. My only tip on the potatoes is never to get the ones from the first batch -- like french fries and really any fried food, the first batch never gets the intensity of flavor that the later batches take on, and they don't get to be golden brown, either.

It took me a while before I figured out the hours of the rosticceria -- often I would go there too early, and sometimes, sadly, too late, once everything had been sold out. Once, though, I hit the jackpot and got there right as they were opening, and saw something I'd never seen before, the rosticciana, or spare ribs. I asked if they were a new thing, and the comessa laughed and said no, that actually, they had them every day. They were just so popular that they usually sold out in the first 20 minutes. So I licked my lips and ordered some costoline and patate to take home for dinner. We loved them -- they were greasy and tender and perfectly seasoned. They were excellent, but I wouldn't want to have them for dinner every night. Not like my beloved petto di pollo tondo.

Though I usually just stick to the chicken (I am a creature of habit when it comes to foods I like), the rosticceria has plenty of other offerings: through the winter, a thick farro soup got me through the flu season; pappa al pomodoro is showing up these days; there are always a couple of pastas and a sformato, and lots of grilled and roasted vegetables; trippa alla fiorentina makes a frequent appearance on the menu, and arista, or Tuscan roast pork loin along with spit-roasted rabbit, beef and lamb are usually available. Just last week I had a great sandwich for lunch that I made with a few thin slices of arista, some rucola and a caper-y salsa verde.

My new favorite summer offering is the parmigiana di melanzane, easily the best eggplant parmesan I have ever had. It is so rich that even I, the bollito sandwich addict, don't miss the meat. Huge pieces of mozzarella cheese are layered with thick slices of eggplant and a simple pomorola sauce. The parmigiana is another of those rich southern dishes that makes me swoon, and this one can compete with the best of them.


Rosticceria & Ristorante della Spada
Via della Spada, 62/R 055.218.757


 





Comments

When I started reading this post, I thought...could it be? I spent several weeks in Florence last summer, and one of our favorite places to eat was the Ristorante della Spada -- not recommended to us, and not in the guidebooks -- we were fortunate enough to just happen upon it. The first time I ate there, I was foolish enough to order the special that included 3 different kinds of pasta AND roasted meat and potatoes. I was barely able to make a dent in those plates. I also developed a craving for their pesto, which is always really delicious. Your postings also helped me relive my own sojourns to the market and Nerbone, and to Carabe and Vestri. Thanks!

 

Similarly, if readers are venturing to Venice, there is a rosticceria there (a little hard to find- nr Rialto-see Rick Steves' guide for detailed directions) that is open lunch and dinner with no break-alsot he best eggplant parm I had ever tasted-this less than a month ago in early June 04

 

Well, La Spada has been excellent for at least 20 years! We discovered this place in 1984; it was just down the street from our hotel. At the time, a small restaurant without the emphasis on takeout. When we returned to Florence 2 years later, the waiter recognized us! On a return visit in the 90's, we found they had expanded significantly, and added the takeout business. It was as good as ever...and it is nice to see that they still are!!

 

I might be going for the first time ever to Tuscany. What is the best thing about this region and what is the worst thing? Where should we eat?

 

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