“The new Caffè Italiano concept was thought up by Umberto Montano, the food entrepreneur behind the Mercato Centrale brand. There’s a Neapolitan-only pizza corner headed up by Guglielmo Vuolo, Sicilian cooking by Carmelo Pannocchietti next door at Arà è SUD, and a fantastic wine list selected by Sandro Soltani (including 106 labels by the glass).
The project’s all about quality: food, wine and beverage consultant Federico Menetto brings us all together, balancing our personalities in the kitchen! In a touristy city like Florence, it would be easy to serve certain dishes. It takes courage to earn less and have a long-term vision. It’s a stimulating project!
I bring the meat from my restaurant in Bibbona, along the Tuscan coast. I’ve brought my food suppliers with me. There’s cured Cinta meat from Rocco Toscani, reared in Casale Marittimo and aged in Parma, as well as meat that’s not been aged at all from Marco Martini up in Boves, in Piedmont. My preference is for really marbled meat; I’m not a fan of meat that isn’t marbled at all and I don’t serve it in my restaurants, even here in the city where locals prefer non-fatty cuts. There’s just the one butcher in the Mugello who selects game caught in local woods, and that’s the wild boar and venison we offer here. Bistecca Fiorentina makes up 20 percent of the meat that we sell.
This is a new chapter for Caffè Italiano, a historic restaurant in a historic palazzo. It’s not your usual place to go out for lunch or dinner.”
Caffè Italiano originally opened in 1998 in the fourteenth-century Palazzo Salviati. It is regarded as a site of Italian artistic heritage.
Lasagne for one
by Gionata d’Alessi
This recipe is a contemporary twist on a traditional dish with no oil and lighter sauces.
For the meat sauce:
1/2 kilo veal breast / 2 litres milk / 1 carrot / 1 celery stick / 1 onion / 2 sprigs rosemary / 1 bay leaf / 3 sage leaves
For the Béchamel sauce:
2 tbsp flour / 500 ml water / 1 tbsp milk / Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta (freeze the remaining quantity – we make it in bulk in the restaurant):
50 eggs, separated (set the whites aside to make a meringue) / 2.5-3 kg flour / Semolina flour
Wild fennel, to garnish
Simmer the veal in milk with a carrot, celery stick, onion, rosemary, bay and sage for 1 hour. Drain and finely grind the meat using a grinder or a food processor.
Place the flour on a board, make a well in the centre and break the eggs into it. Using your fingertips, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, to make a soft dough. Knead well. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least one hour. Use a pasta machine to create the pasta sheets. (You can always use shop-bought pasta sheets if you’re short on time.)
Make a Béchamel sauce from the flour, water and just a drizzle of milk. This makes the dish easier to digest.
Layer the Béchamel and meat sauce between three fresh pasta sheets in an individual copper pan. The pasta doesn’t need to be precooked in water.
Bake at 180°C for 7 minutes.
Garnish with wild fennel and serve immediately.
Sommelier Sandro Soltani recommends Conte Brandolini D’Adda Vistorta 2012, a Merlot from the Friuli region. The slight smokiness surrenders to red fruit and blackberries before coffee, cocoa and coriander nuances capture the attention.
Via Isola delle Stinche 11R, Florence
Facebook: Caffè Italiano