Francesco and I went to Piazzele Michelangelo late Friday evening. It was my first time to be on the Piazzele that overlooks the city at night. I visit there often during the daytime, and the panorama is unbelievable (see photos in Piazzele Michelangelo posting). Well the nighttime panorama is also incredible! The Duomo rises from the middle of the city subtly lit and it looks like something out of a medieval dream. The tower from Palazzo Vecchio flank one side of the Duomo and Santa Croce Church the other. I wish I had some photos, but didn’t have my camera with me that evening, but I will return to get some! Anyway, we spent some time there talking (Francesco speaks English very well, but likes to "practice" his speaking) He spoke in English with me correcting him when necessary, and I spoke in Italian, and he did the same. It is not ideal when I speak Italian with someone who speaks English because it is too easy for me not to "search my brain" for the right word, and to rely on them to supply it. Anyway, for a Friday evening, it was the right combination.
Francesco lives in the Oltrarno, which is on the South side of the river, and is the oldest preserved part of Florence. I am talking from the 600's! It is more hilly there and there are beautiful palaces along the streets. Since we were on the side of the river having been to the piazzele, we went to a restaurant owned by one of Francesco’s friends. It was very typically Tuscan, and I don’t think there was one "foreigner" there.....except me. This was about 10:30 at night, and the place was very crowded. Italians do not even think about eating until around 8:30, but more often they eat at 9:30-10:30 and on the weekends it can be much later.
We ordered wine, and Francesco had to explain to our waiter that I didn’t eat meat, and that I was allergic to eggs. This of course, is a problem in Italy. Italians, especially Tuscans do not understand why someone would not eat meat. They eat pork at every meal! Anyway, we ordered risotto with asparagus and a chicken salad and some fish. Francesco and I decided to split the chicken salad and the fish.
I have told you before that I do not like the Tuscan bread. It is made with flour and water and is very bland. No sugar or salt in the recipe, but no eggs either. It is nice if you have a dish with a heavy sauce but to eat it by itself ....not for me. Francesco and I discussed why I didn’t eat meat, and I had a difficult time explaining that! Anyway, he said that I should not leave Florence without trying the Bistecca Fiorintina. This is a famous Florentine dish which looks and smells marvelous, and if I was going to eat meat, this is the dish I would try. It is about a 2 lb. (No kidding) T-Bone steak grilled to medium rare. I told him that I didn’t think that I could eat meat now without becoming ill because it has been almost 20 years since I ate meat.
The food arrived and it was delicious. The risotto with asparagus came first, and frankly the "primi piatti" could be an entire meal. A huge plate of risotto would be enough for me! The waiter caused a scene when he took my plate away because I left a tablespoon of risotto! He was concerned that I didn’t like it! The salad and fish were served together and we split those and they were scrumptious. Although, I couldn’t "clean my plate". Francesco become concerned at this point that I did not like the meal. Okay, now literally, there was 2-3 bites left on the plate! I assured him that I did like it, but could not eat it all.
Of course, more concern on the part of the waiter when he cleared the plates and offered us coffee and dessert, Francesco ordered coffee, but I was content as always to continue drinking wine.
It was at this point that Francesco pointed out that I would not make a "good Italian". He explained to me that it was important to "experience the happiness" (this is the exact phrase that he used), and that if I did not like the bread, would not try the Bistecca, could not eat cake (eggs) and didn’t have coffee at the end of the meal, that I couldn’t possibly do that! I told him he might be right, but that I was having a terrific time "experiencing the happiness" of trying, even without those things!
We topped off the evening with a Limoncello! Cin cin!