Sunday, November 11, 2007


I have a distinct memory of intrigue for this perfect neighborhood Restaurant. Like many Restaurants not supported by recommendations or proactive inquiry, I made the mental note to return. But while many places dissolve into remembrance, "Sostanza' became a compass for other restaurants. I would peek in to watch the handsome waiter prepare their signature Strawberry dessert or to watch the young chef learn how to cut the perfect Florentine Steak. “Sostanza” emanates local buzz, a characteristic promoted by the communal table template of its front of house and what I specifically look for in a Restaurant.

Only after my third meal, did I realize that my lil “find” was considered by many the best Restaurant in Florence. A google later pulled up extensive chatter about their specialty dishes, the best times to arrive, how to navigate the menu etc. But by this point I already felt like a regular. They knew me and enjoyed my New Yorkese passion. Being a well lit Trattoria, I could speak freely and being alone meant I always made friends. I continued to return because there were dishes I felt compelled to try at least once. Your proximity to other guests encouraged this temptation; whether for Steak or a simple Contorni. Here are the highlights, the first and last Florentine Steak included.

Tortoni di Carciofo, a scandalously scrumptious omelet of Artichoke. The Chefs’ precision was perfectly clear in its preparation. Only a skilled wrist could wistfully create not only visible outer layers of buttery egg, but also an entrenched center for its main ingredient, fresh abundant Artichoke swimming in just cooked gooey yolk.

Their famous Pollo in burra; a bubbling personal portioned scalding pan of Chicken in Butter. The pictures unfortunately don’t do the dish justice and it had to be eaten immediately. With more thought I would have videotaped it to remember its distinct sizzle.

Prosciutto crudo cut thickly to showcase its perfectly creamy and pricey outer lardo.

Bistecca di Florentina / Florentine Steak (the single biggest Tourist trap of Florence). A grandiose Porterhouse of Chianina Beef (white Oxen from Arezzo) sold by its weight. It is served charred with a hot pink center and can be ordered for one or more. It is not only overpriced and showy, but often cooked (and eaten) poorly. I have watched Americans waste their money’s worth of meat. I have studied other diners’ approach and in my sleep had carefully calculated my way to maximize the experience. My waiter knew this was my last culinary adventure in Italy (an important bookend). He invited me into the kitchen to approve the Steak and meet the chefs and from afar I watched them tend to my indulgent Secondi. As I ate, the staff watched me carefully make sense out of my knife’s acrobatics and waste nothing. After, they commented on my precision and passion.

Fragolini con Vino Rosso e Zucchero / Wild Strawberry’s with Red Wine and Sugar ended my meal. Bitter and to the point it was my digestive and my farewell.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

This is a beautiful and intense description of your experience with this one special restaurant. -Maybe resembling your whole experience in Italy - A combination of observation, thought, research, and instinct before each decision (whether it be the town, restaurant, or menu selection); carefully enjoying and noting all the particulars of each experience; and then reflecting on it long after the moment has passed... Until it becomes part of your subconscious and makes its way into your plans for the future...

Can't wait to see where all of these extraordinary adventures lead you next...

And, missing you hugely!!!!