[From Liz: Chef David DiBari of the Cookery in Dobbs Ferry is on a wine trip to Italy. He’s blogging along the way. Here’s his latest report.]
We had a free night in Florence. For a couple hours I had a chance to stop writing notes, understanding the methods of wine production, characteristics of grapes, estate history and take a break from that uncomfortable bus.
Tonight was a night of sheer carnage. I was on the hunt for something simple and mindless. We made our way through the narrow streets avoiding vespas and staring at the unexplainable beauty of the city of Florence. A couple glasses of cognac on the way got the fire burning for what was about to a memorable experience, to say the least.
Finally we reached our destination. Trattoria La Casalinga. Not your typical neighborhood diner. La Casalinga was located on a small street completely out of the way and nearly impossible to find. I think the locals like it that way.
Upon entering the first thing that struck my curiosity was the kitchen of course. Here is something you don’t see at home. Every employee in the kitchen, man or women could not been under the age of sixty. They were running around almost completely disorderly. I couldn’t even figure out where the hot line was if there was one at all. This was a French chef’s nightmare, not that my personal give-a-sh#t meter could read anything more than zero. Stock pots were bubbling everywhere, pieces of cured pig jowls were being pulled out of the walk in and being trimmed as needed and the sound of plates clanging as they were being thrown into the pickup window was giving me a headache.
Now let’s talk about the menu. Besides the classic bistecca fiorentina this menu was filled with peasant goodies that I couldn’t resist ordering.
First take a look at this steak for 5 poeple!!!! They cook that as is so it’s a good thing we were in no rush. Why should we be?
I had to start with the Lardo di Colonnata. A whole plate covered with slices of cured pork fat and served with toast. This is one thing should not eat more that once a year if that. But when you get the chance it should be savored for all its glory.
Next was penne with rabbit sugo which was made by grinding all of the meat including the head and livers to create a sauce that was rich and but still yielded the flavor of rabbit. The pasta was perfectly dressed and i could have eaten all of that myself.
Next was the fegato alla salvia. Thin slices of veal liver sautéed with sage. The liver reminded me of veal scaloppini, tender moist with a nice crust. The aroma of the sage penetrated the liver and countered its impurity aroma for lack of a better term. I happen to love the stuff. A simple sprinkling of Parmigiano reggiano and olive oil adorned the top of the liver giving it a fruity creamy finish. It was by far the simplest and best liver I have ever tasted. Veal liver will be in the restaurant before I get home so I don’t have to wait to share this amazing dish with my patrons. After all if they have no problem with duck tongues I sure calf’s liver will be a hit.