Aug 14, 2010

Tuscan street food

Image © AT Casa

I wrote a post on Panelle some time ago, providing the recipe for the typical Sicilian street food fritter made with chickpea flour.

But I had completely forgotten about Cecina! During a recent weekend escape in Lunigiana, I was pleasantly reminded of this local delicacy. And I indulged in the reminder several times a day, to be honest.

Although very similar in its composition to Farinata–from Liguria–and Panelle, Cecina is not fried like its Sicilian counterpart, rather it is traditionally baked in a large copper pan called 'teglia' measuring over 1 meter in diameter (3 feet). Cecina is commonly baked in a wood-burning oven, but you can also make it at home. La cecina is a simple mixture of water, chickpea flour and salt. The rather liquid batter is poured with a jug into the special teglie and baked for a few minutes until crisp and golden, yet remaining incredibly soft and fluffy on the inside!

It is best eaten piping hot with only a sprinkling of ground black pepper. Its unique crisp/tender texture melts in your mouth and pleasurably scratches your throat at the same time. You can find Cecina sold as a snack all along the Tuscan riviera, in Lunigiana but also in Pisa, Livorno, Lucca and Massa Carrara.

Illustration by Olga Bruno ©

This made me think of other Tuscan street food examples.

I ignorantly thought Rome held supremacy over tripe, but I was wrong. Toscana boasts a long tradition of offal dishes, and a long-established custom of selling them in roadside kiosks.

Take the Panino col Lampredotto sandwich, for example. Although widespread throughout the entire Tuscan region, this peasant preparation actually comes from Florence. The fourth and final stomach of common bovines, stewed in a seasoned broth, is shredded and stuffed in a bread roll. When asked if you want your €2,50 sandwich bagnato (wet) you should always say "Sì!" The trippaio preparing it will dunk the top portion of the bread in the lampredotto cooking sauce, and will therefore be served to you juicy, wet and dripping with tasty sauce.

Add on: Thanks to Oriana from Tuscanycious, who reminded me of the mandatory green sauce topping. Here's the recipe. You can also watch their fun video that graphically explains how to make Lampredotto sandwich.

Image © S-Punti di vista

Image © consumazione obbligatoria

Or the Insalata di Trippa, a cold plate made with boiled calf's tripe, sliced oranges, celery and seasoned with olive oil and cracked black pepper. It contends the title for best tripe dish with local Trippa alla Fiorentina, in which the meatier or spongy, honeycomb part of the stomach lining is cut it into very thin strips, stewed with battuto and tomato and then sprinkled with grated Parmigiano cheese before browning it in the oven for five minutes.

Other trippai specialties (kiosks that sell these snacks) include fried brains–which shortly after the popular cannibal movie saga was aptly renamed "the Hannibal"–nervetti (chopped up tendons and meat from the calf's foot), lingua (tongue), pan co' grifi (a sandwich made with stewed pork muzzle. The chopped meat is ladled into a deep bread pocket called "orcello", used like a soup bowl, and comfortably eaten with a spoon, during your passeggiata. Grifi, or musetto can also be ground into a sausage or used to add flavor to stews and soups); and Animelle, which according to the Italian Culinary Foundation are defined as, "sweetbreads, or the thymus glands of veal and lamb." The testicles (that's what they are, essentially) are skinned and soaked in chilled water for 2-3 hours before being fried and served in paper cones.

Another typically Tuscan snack is ranocchi fritti, or fried frogs (this is turning into a post not suited for those with a delicate stomach). This peasant dish is native to the watery lowlands of western Florence, and the best hunters for the main ingredient were notably kids, who took the chore as a game. The skinned amphibians are left to marinate in beaten eggs, lemon and salt, and then deep fried in vegetable oil.

Mau & Tamara, the trippai in Piazza Mercatale, Prato
A few favorite places in Florence banchini dei "trippai" where you can find the dishes mentioned above:

- Mario in Piazzale di Porta Romana
- Lorenzo in Piazza Artom
- Marco on Via Gioberti (near piazza Beccaria)
- Alessio on Via Aretina (on the corner of Via Casaccia)
- Orazio at the Loggia del Porcellino
- Sergio on Via de' Macci (on the corner of Borgo la Croce)
- Leonardo on Viale Giannotti (corner of Via Paradiso)
- Lupen e Margo (used to be called La Trippaia), on Via dell'Ariento (on the corner of Via Sant'Antonino)
- Simone in Piazza de' Nerli
- Il Trippaio di Firenze on Via Maso Finiguerra (corner of Via Palazzuolo)
- Maurizio, "il Molisano" on Via dei Cimatori
Image © Big Map

Buon FERRAGOSTO a tutti!


  1. gosh l feel so hungry now!

    saz x

  2. OMG! I'd love to taste all of this. I love tripe! *sigh*

    Paz (dreaming)

  3. Great post. I love Tuscan tripe dominance!

  4. Hi Eleonora, I never remember seeing street food in Florence, and the vendors we've seen in Rome have all looked just like the ones in the states - selling soda, candy, etc. Anyway, I'm not a fan of tripe or any of the other examples of Tuscan street food - don't get me wrong, I love food but I'm not that adventurous!! Thanks for a very informative article though! Ciao, bella!

  5. I need to bookmark this and look at this for 2011 when I am finally going back to Italy. Street food is too much fun and so creative.

  6. I'm afraid your post has left me a bit queasy, I'm not an organ-eater! And what are "animelle" or do I want to know?
    You know, I have not been able to find chick-pea flour to make panelle, where do you buy it?

  7. The cecina sounds good - I'm vegetarian, so I have a good excuse to avoid the others! ;)

  8. I am sure you have turned away a few American tastes but not mine! I like tripe and organ meats though I haven't had testicles. Don't think I would hesitate to eat them, however. I don't think I've eaten brains. I've had frogs legs but not the rest of the frog.
    I'll try just about anything!

  9. and i thought i knew italian cuisine........there is so much more out there to consume!

    buon ferragosto to you too ~ of course august 15th is an important day in greece as well.......the end of a big fast and all manner of meat dishes are prepared!


  10. Saz~ Shall I make you a panino? Glass of Chianti? :)
    Paz~ You should come over and have a taste, it's delicious!!
    Katie~ I immediately thought of you!
    FHFG~ This post is not for all palates, I knew I'd get some "Eww"!
    Claudia~ And it's representative of our culture too.
    Saretta~ It says in the post what animelle are, but I suggest you don't go back to read... For farina di ceci, have you tried herbalist shops and specialty stores, like "BIO" markets?
    Rachel C.~ Cecina is a drug!
    RNSANE~ That's my girl.
    Amanda~ Oh. but this is nothing: there are gazillion unknown foods in Italy...

    Thank you, vegetarians and non-offal lovers, for bearing with me on this organ-fest. Ciao

  11. La trippa al sugo! Just like Nonna used to make... Eleonora, just found your blog, very well done.

  12. Andrea~ Grazie! Where was Nonna from? Ciao

  13. Eleonora, la Nonna Silvana era una pratese di Prato, vicino a Firenze.

  14. Andrea~ E io sono in vacanza a Canneto, nella Villa Rucellai!! Vengo qui ogni estate da quando avevo 17 anni. Il mondo è davvero piccolo...

  15. Nothing could make me eat tripe!!!
    Cecina, on the other hand - In Lucca, in Via Buia is Pizza da Felice, where they do an excellent cecina.

  16. Ma non mi dire.... small world indeed.

  17. Bagni di Lucca~ Thanks for the tip, I'll have to add this to my list of must-go places!
    Andrea~ Oggi si torna a Roma, ahimé :(

  18. I can't believe I missed fried frogs when I was there...sounds like I need to make another trip and soon.

  19. Theresa~ Oh you must!! Book flights now...

  20. You have just performed a minor miracle by making my mouth water at the thought of cooked innards! Something I never thought would happen after I tried callos madrileños when I was in Spain and nearly had a nervous breakdown... Toscana here I come!

  21. Statusviatoris~ Hooray for the offal miracle! Callos madrileños, that's tripe with sausage if I'm not mistaken. Well, the Tuscan stuff (as well as the Roman, may I add) is a gazillion times better ;)


  22. Il Cibreo! Did you eat there too?

  23. Ah, and Cecina is also available between Nice and Menton (an area which was Italian not such a long time ago) under the name Socca.
    Very nice indeed and easy to prepare at home too.

    And now I want some lampredotto too.

  24. Spacedlaw~ didn't know about Socca. Thanks for the precious addition! And whenever in Santa Croce, I never pass a meal at Cibréo. Or the more affordable Cibreino across the street, for that matter!

  25. Ciao Eleonora,
    loved your post - because it's so thorough and neat! We of the social media team created a cartoonlike video of what lampredotto is, I'd love to know what your opinion is!?

  26. Oriana~ I'll be right over, thanks!!

  27. Hi Elionora ....
    I love Italian food though the italian food we get here in India may not taste the same but i still love all the flavors.

    Wanted to tell you about this Cecina . This dish is called 'besan ka pooda' (chick pea pancake)in north of India and i wonder how some foods can be so similar in different cultures.

  28. Sangeeta~ It always amazes me to find the same dishes around the globe. This really is another reminder that we are all one people.
    Thank you for your visit and kind comment.

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