Or, as friends Lickie and Loo titled it, "Dining and Whining in Florence." For the whole story, including a hysterical point system for Italian boobage, you must go to Loo's blog. But I simply had to publish the food section here because it was so well done.
Part Four : But the food! Wasn't that at least amazing?
No. There, we’ve said it. Frankly, having lived in New York, Boston, and Portland, we've become very accustomed to eating well: amazing hand-crafted cheeses, artisanal breads, the best proscuitto de parma, olives of every shape and hue. If Florence is any indication (and it may not be), our general thinking was that Americans, at least in the more enlightened cities of this country, are out-Europeaning the Europeans in the fresh, interesting-food department. We had some wonderful, simple and honest food at two little local places, but in general the food in Florence is a snore—conservative and un-inventive, reminiscent of middle America, with most restaurants serving from a standard and limited list. Here’s what must be the Official Florentine Dinner Template:
Salty Parts of Beef or Pork
Salty Spinach, well boiled
Café or tepid tea
It's all some variation on pasta, meat and various animal parts (Chicken is a rarity, fish non-existent—tell us why this should be?), side vegetables cooked to a consistency that no longer requires teeth, plenty of that particular unsalted, low-flavor Tuscan bread (which we grew quite fond of, by the way), and wine (enough of which, we will admit, made many otherwise ho-hum meals quite, well, hum). The desserts were uniformly ham-handed (take one pear tart with soggy crust, coat with a Bosco-like chocolate sauce, serve. And this was at a restaurant whose food was otherwise quite fine), but this we already knew. Only the Chinese make stranger sweets. Cookies are good, and dipping cantucci into a glass of vin santo is a delight that we have now appropriated and that you will recognize when you visit us next.
Another dish worth mentioning was the crostini misti we ordered at a particularly noteworthy neighborhood trattoria. Out came the toasted bread and five ramekins of spreads, four brownish, one red. The red one was familiar: tomato something. The green-brown one was olive gush. The brown-green one was eggplant mush. The light-brown one was bean glop. And the brown-brown one, the one with the vaguely livery taste, was a meat paste. Spleens of "various" animals, a Florentine specialty, we later learned. "Various"? That gave us pause (paws?). Time to own up to another bit of naiveté: why did two mostly vegetarian, non-dairy eating, teetotaling, bread-eschewing, pasta-limiting, health-conscious eaters think they would like eating Tuscan food for two straight weeks? Naive indeed.