Something to sink your teeth into

Biennale Enogastronomica: where tradition marries innovation

Brenda Dionisi
November 13, 2008

Lampredotto, bistecca fiorentina, ginestrata, fagioli all'uccelletto, polpettone, pasta e ceci, lepre in dolceforte, biscotti di Prato: the first edition of the Biennale Enogastronomica Fiorentina Leo Codacci has it all-and much more. With food and wine that stimulate the senses and feed the soul, this two-week event, at locations around the city, is dedicated to the region's specialties.


The Biennale Enogastronomica (November 10-24) celebrates and revives Florence's rich culinary and oenological tradition. Workshops, tastings, talks. the chance to rediscover lesser-known and long-lost dishes, and an amateur bake-off are just some of the events featured at one of the most comprehensive culinary festivals Florence has ever seen.


Biennale director and noted eno-gastronomo Leonardo Romanelli explains that it is important to revive Florence's remarkable culinary tradition: ‘It became clear that Florence restaurateurs were in need of new stimuli in the kitchen and to go back to their roots, especially in such uncertain economic times'. The festival hopes to inspire local chefs to dish up the local specialties that Florence is revered for the world over, but that are hard to find in the city these days.


Thus un piatto tipico al ristorante (‘a typical dish of the restaurant') is the focal point of the festival. More than 80 restaurants will revisit traditional local dishes and foods over the two weeks of the festival. Each restaurant will present a menu featuring both well-known and lesser-known regional dishes. ‘It's a way for restaurateurs to rediscover uncommon traditional dishes and innovate with tradition', says Romanelli.


Prices and dishes vary, Romanelli says, reflecting the wide range of participating restaurants: ‘what delights me the most is the success of the initiative among both luxury restaurateurs and less expensive trattorie; there's a vast selection of food'.


Dedicated to the late Leo Codacci, Florence's own enogastronomico par excellence, this festival's inaugural year makes reality Codacci's long-held dream: instituting a food festival that celebrates and preserves the region's gastronomic treasures and showcases its culinary excellence. Codacci organized Florence's first food festival in 1976 and was a pioneer in the movement to blend food science and culture-an idea later promoted by the immensely popular Slow Food movement.


The festival's offerings are proof that 32 years later Codacci's passion for the region's authentic foods has finally been embraced. The celebration of fiorentinità opened on November 10 with sizzle and kick. With coach Cesare Prandelli present, the bistecca fiorentina and the AC Fiorentina represented the city's two biggest passions: steak and soccer. On November 11, the feast San Martino, the patron saint of the poor, Caritas Firenze and festival organizers held a special lunch for the city's poor, with food and wine served by restaurants Il santo bevitore and Gli Agricoltori del Chianti Geografico.


Street food, revered by Codacci, takes centre stage in Piazza Antigioni from November 13 to 16. Florence's world-renowned cibi di strada, the lampredotto and trippa, will be served up as will other street foods from across Italy and world. Porchetta sandwiches, piadina emiliana, arancini siciliani, as well as a wide range of kebobs and ethnic ‘fast foods' remind us, says Romanelli, that ‘In times of economic crisis, street foods are an affordable alternative, and Florence's strong street food tradition is an important part of the city's culinary background.'


The wines flow on November 15 and 23, with the latest vintages of Chianti Rufina being poured at the Villa Poggio Reale.  On November 21, a panel of food experts and middle-school students will determine the winning snack in the Il dolce della merenda: Concorso Gaia Gatteschi.


One of the region's most prized gastronomic treats, extra virgin olive oil, merits its own day on November 22. Called Olio dal vivo, the daylong happening includes workshops, guided tastings, and lessons from expert chefs, all against the backdrop of former Medici abode Villa Malenchini.


On November 24, leading chefs and winemakers from the region and country will discuss Tuscan cuisine's past, present, and ponder its future. Closing the festival is a gala event at Piazza del Carmine's Limonaia in Florence for participants, organizers and the press.


The party continues: in early De-cember the city's celebrated Enoteca Pinchiorri will host a banquet for the elderly and destitute at the Fondazione Montedomini.


The full programme of events is available at



Leo Codacci: pioneer of taste


‘You are old when you are no longer enthusiastic over the smell of bread that has just been taken out of the oven and when you forget the determined taste of olive oil that has just been pressed', wrote Leo Codacci on his 80th birthday. At the first event dedicated to the culinary excellence of Florence, the Biennale Enogastronomica in 1976, Codacci sang the praises of the succulent lampredotto, ribollita and trippa.


Helping to establish the Consorzio degli ambulanti trippai di Firenze after the Florence flood in 1966, Codacci became one of the most important promoters of the Associazione Sommelier and the Associazione Gastronomica in Tuscany.


Long-time advocate of the importance of preserving local specialities and promoting the joys of eating, Codacci wrote about his passion. His books on the culinary uniqueness of Florence and Tuscany remain among the world's most authoritative texts on the subject.


In his most well-known book, Civiltà della tavola Contadina in Toscana (1981), Codacci celebrates the rich rural and pastoral tradition that characterizes Florence's culinary history. Other books include recipes, restaurant guides and reflections on the strong bonds that link food and the pastoral tradition in Tuscany.


A quick author search will open the repository of Codacci's articles and recipes at



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