Friday, December 03, 2010
The Ristorante San Barnaba.
As she was sending me off from La Marzocco, Mary passed on some advice about a place to eat: "Just up the street from the hotel and right before the city wall is a restaurant called San Barnaba - great people and great food. Go there."
So, in spite of the cold and my lack of clothing, I made the walk to San Barnaba - at 6:30pm. Which meant that the restaurant was closed. Darn it, I had forgotten that restaurants in Europe don't open until 7pm or later. Even though I don't like to eat as early as Americans, I always seem to end up in this predicament every time I am in Europe.
My table setting.
After walking around in the cold for forty minutes, I entered the restaurant. I was the first person there. The chef looked at me strangely, like "what's he doing here so early. We just opened." Communicating in as best Italian as I could, I motioned that I would like to eat and they sat me straightaway.
Right off the bat is a glass of champagne. Hmmm, I like this place. Then some bread and then more drinks. Still water and red wine, please.
The very cute girl came up to care for me. Wish I could actually speak Italian. I ordered the Flan and then she offered the Papardelle special. I agreed.
The dining room.
Here's the thing about Italian food. I've had a lot of it over the years, but I still feel that I don't know what truly good Italian food is all about. I'm hoping that this trip can shed some light on the subject. Another aspect I've heard about traditional Italian meals are the courses: anti-pasti, then a pasta course, then a meat course and then dessert. Honestly, it sounds like a lot of food, but I'm going to give it a go.
At first, I decide to hold off on the meat course since the papardelle special has meat, then after thinking about how the meat in this region is supposed to be some of the best in Italy, I decide to order the steak. The girl looks at me like I'm crazy, confirms and goes off to tell the chef.
Champagne, mille grazie.
I can hear them in the kitchen. The chef confirming with the girl that I definitely want the third course. I figure: what the hell. Game on.
The flan is crazy good. Pecorino and gorgonzola cheese in some sort of soft, spongy textured flan. Delicious and perfectly portioned.
Flan di Verdure in crema al pecorino e gorgonzola.
When the papardelle special arrives, I note that it's just the right size. Not huge like in America and not too small. I taste it. Again, this is delicious. Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned and the pasta is perfectly al dente. I just want to scarf it down.
As I reach the halfway point of the papardelle, I start to feel it. That feeling of being just right - just full enough. I know that if I continue and polish everything off this plate, I will be Full. And if I eat that steak, I'm going to be ill.
Inside the Flan.
Suddenly, this has become a marathon. I must pull back from the papardelle if I'm going to survive the next round. But I can't. The pasta is too good. I must have more. I end up finishing the pasta while leaving some of the stewed meat and await the next course.
A few minutes later, my girl is back. She's come back to confirm if I really want the steak still. Wait, I don't understand. Turns out the chef thought that I might have ordered too much and chose not to prepare the steak, waiting until I was finished the papardelle and could better gauge if I really wanted the next course.
And some cheese.
Thank God for this man and his foresight. I immediately thanked her and canceled the steak because I couldn't eat anymore!
In the end, the food was delicious. I loved it. The service was great and they were very attentive and took my hacked Italian and penchant for English in good stride. The next time I visit Scarperia I will be eating here again.
The Special: Papardelle alla Cinghiale.
Ristorante San Barnaba
Viale Kennedy, 15
50038 Scarperia, Firenze, Italia