This edition of The Florentine celebrates the joy of food so often induced by Florence and Tuscany. How do you put a new spin on fresh pasta? What’s the secret to making an artichoke omelette? What really goes on behind the scenes at a Florentine bakery? What’s the true definition of bistecca alla Fiorentina? We have brought together all these bites in a compilation of articles, recipes and interviews from across the region’s food community, so that you can savor a taste of Florence and Tuscany wherever you are in the world.
The timing is pertinent as Italy instigates lockdown measures for Easter. The country’s restaurants are amongst the worst affected by government-mandated pandemic closures and the dearth of tourism. As Harry Cochrane reports, “As consumers, we have done without restaurants for the best part of a year, save for a few months last summer and a brief burst of freedom in January”. The Ristoratori Toscana group, set up in March last year, estimates that approximately 3,000 of the 15,000 restaurants in Tuscany have closed permanently since the inception of the pandemic, 100 or so in the Florence province.
While we cannot eat out (apart from while staying in a hotel: the lone loophole to dinners out!), interest in the peninsula’s food has never been greater. Stanley Tucci’s suave new CNN series, Searching for Italy, is cooking up a storm, with spin-off articles on both sides of the Atlantic: Jane Farrell wades in with insight into the businesses and individuals featured in the Tuscany episode, which was broadcast on March 14. Though we still haven’t managed to secure an interview with the charismatic actor (I have tried: Mr. Tucci, you know where to find me!), we speak with two inspiring culinary figures: Mary Ann Esposito, the host of America’s longest-running television cooking program, whose 30-year career championing Italian regional cuisines has been recognized with a knighthood, and Paula Carrier, the British chef at the United States Consulate General in Florence, who has cooked for the likes of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.
Health, wellbeing and sustainability remain foremost on our mind, which is why we go in search of the city’s nourishing nosh, farm-to-door deliveries and fresh produce. Alexandra Korey takes a step further and details her post-lockdown 1.0 experience of growing her own, while Hershey Felder recalls his elation on discovering the Sant’Ambrogio market and neighbouring specialty stores, and Danielle Cohen considers how bars and bakeries are reducing food waste in 2021.
It’s time to embrace spring’s seasonal fare—asparagus, artichokes, agretti!—and try your hand at a new recipe or two. Judy Witts Francini offers a traditional Easter savory pie, Kamin Mohammadi dishes up a duo of carciofo dishes, and Giulia Scarpaleggia rolls out creative herb-laminated tagliatelle. After celebrating Nowruz, Coral Sisk adds international flair with a survey of Tuscany’s vibrant Iranian food businesses and our very own Leo Cardini sketches his legendary seafood carbonara recipe, quashing the age-old cheese and fish myth. Sweet-toothed readers can rest assured that dolci will round out this month’s feast: iconic Florentine cakes from historic bakery Pasticceria Buonamici and Pasticceria Gualtieri, as well as Sheryl Ness’ lemon desserts and Emiko Davies’ apple and jam cake. We finish our meal with limoncello crafted by Pamela Sheldon Johns.