If you walk around Florence, especially on the outskirts of town, you might come across food trucks that sell panini al lampredotto, or plainly lampredotto, and wonder what those tasty looking sandwiches are filled with.
All will be revealed about this Florentine delicacy that scares away the weak but rewards the brave with an unforgettable culinary experience.
The Story of Lampredotto
Lampredotto takes its name from the Italian word for lamprey, an eel-like fish considered a delicacy for European aristocracies. Henry I of England is said to have died from over eating them.
This prized fish was rare and unaffordable for most. A Florentine noticed that beef offals had a similar taste and created a poor man’s alternative. Very quickly vendors started appearing all over the Tuscan capital selling their delicacy from carts.
Centuries later, lampredotto has become a symbol of simple and traditional Tuscan food that no self-respecting Florentine would turn down.
What Is It Really?
Some people consider that lampredotto should be tasted before knowing what the meat actually is in order to keep an open mind. If you would prefer not to know, skip ahead to the next paragraph.
Lampredotto is made from an 18 month old calf’s fourth stomach lining which explains it slightly wrinkled appearance. It is a mixture of fattier and leaner meat that have milder and stronger flavours respectively. The meat has quite a dark appearance when cooked.
Many chefs around the world are re-introducing the use of offals in high end cuisine both for flavours and sustainability, but here in Florence, you can have the experience for a song.
Types of Preparations
Originally, lampredotto was served as a stew. It is slow cooked in water with tomato, onion, celery and parsley. Salsa Verde, a fresh and tangy sauce made from parsley, capers and anchovy, is added for extra flavour. A complete experience should include a glass of Tuscan red.
Over time, the panino al lampredotto, became a great crowd pleaser. The top part of the sandwich is softened with broth and then filled with the tender meat. Condiments should include salsa verde but if you like a bit of spice food truck also have a hot sauce option. Be careful when you eat your sandwich, things tend to get a little messy!
Best Places to Eat It
Florence is full of food stalls where lampredotto can be enjoyed. Some of the most famous eateries are very spartan, with little to no space to sit down. So expect to eat your sandwich in the street as Florentines have done for centuries. Lampredotto food stalls usually open as early as 8.30 am and close around 8 pm so don’t expect a midnight snack.
- L’Antico Trippaio, in Piazza de’ Cimatori, is about halfway between the Orsanmichele church and the house of famous Renaissance poet, Dante. Along with its traditional lampredotto recipes, you can also discover other Tuscan classics: tripe and bollito sandwiches. The menu list is short, but you’ll find that anything you try is worth it (get directions)
- Lupen e Margo, in Via dell’Ariento, is the only lampredotto stall in Florence run by a woman. Almost hidden between the leather vendors of the San Lorenzo market, this place is great not only for its food but also for the friendliness of its chef and owner (get directions)
- I’Trippaio di Firenze, in Via Gioberti 133/R, is located Piazza Beccaria, just out of the historical center but reachable on foot. This food stall will satisfy your craving for a quick sandwich (get directions)
- I’Trippaio di Firenze has a branch located in Via Ugo Foscolo 5/R near Porta Romana on the other side of town. There, you will find a few more menu items and a place to sit indoors (get directions)