By Nadav Soroker
Florence, ITALY – Not one to shy away from something new, and with a plethora of beef-related experiences under my belt such as lengua, cabeza, and beef heart tartare, I took the plunge and ventured to the Mercato Centrale to hunt down a panino con il lampredotto: a beef stomach sandwich. I knew I was in for a cuisine adventure when even a local expressed hesitation.
Lampredotto is made from the fourth stomach of a cow and gets its name from the loose, flappy texture of the meat before cooking; its rubbery texture and bright white color when cooked is supposed to be similar to a lamprey’s mouth, though I cannot confirm this.
Stewing in water with light vegetables which stains it darker like a well- done steak, the meat is pulled from the steaming pot and diced on the table in front of you before being piled onto a bun that has been hollowed out a bit to help hold the hot pile. Drizzles of parsley salsa and a picante chili sauce brighten up the deep meaty color of the sandwich which is wrapped with one end open for immediate consumption in the crowded marketplace.
Wandering back out into the Mercato’s surrounding leather stalls and others hawking their wares, I slowly munched my way to the nearby Piazza San Lorenzo to sit on the steps and finish off the strange, but rather delightful, sandwich. The most noticeable thing about it is its feathery mouthfeel, a cross between a pate and a soft fish. Second is the lightly meaty taste, like a very subtle essence of steak. Then at the back of the throat, you taste the fresh bitterness of parsley and the pizzaz of the picante chile sauce. The thick warm bun, barely dipped into the stewing pot of lampredotto gives it a final fullness.
A curious sandwich, with a truly unique texture. I will definitely be moving on to another small stand that, rumor has it, offers excellent panini con il lampredotto.