Il Nutino & Le Cappelle Medicee: A Taste of Tuscany
Text: Kiki Deere | Photos © Cappelle Medici And Il Nutino
The streets around Florence’s cathedral teem with tourists throughout the year. Tucked away a few steps from the Renaissance marvel that is the city’s Duomo, are two great little spots to savour some of the best Tuscan dishes in town.
“Il Nutino opened its doors in 1955 as Florence’s first pizzeria and the same wood-fired oven has been producing bubbling pizzas ever since,” explains owner Ludovico. Customers can sit back in one of the three first-floor dining rooms with frescoed ceilings and wooden ceiling beams, or in one of the two ground-floor dining areas. Thanks to Il Nutino’s exceptionally central location, it hums with hungry customers at virtually all times of day, with large, juicy steaks brought to the tables by friendly, affable waiters.
“While our pizzas are a popular choice, Il Nutino is today renowned for its typical Tuscan dishes, not least the city’s much-loved ‘bistecca alla fiorentina’,” explains Ludovico. Served rare and bloody, bistecca alla fiorentina is a Tuscan favourite, traditionally made from Chianina, an ancient Tuscan breed of cattle renowned for its tender flavoursome cuts.
“Our sister-restaurant Le Cappelle Medicee, which lies just round the corner, also serves up big, juicy steaks prepared with just as much loving care,” continues Ludovico. A cosy wine bar and restaurant, Le Cappelle Medicee is located opposite the Medici Chapels a stone’s throw away from the Basilica of San Lorenzo – one of Florence’s oldest churches. Opened in 1950, the restaurant was the first eatery to open in the area of San Lorenzo. Interiors have rustic, wood-panelled interiors lined with wine bottles (there are over 200 types), which lend a welcoming feel. Here too, waiters serve up large plates of freshly cooked bistecca alla fiorentina, filling the the premises with a succulent juicy aroma.
“The marbling in the beef entraps moisture, keeping the meat tender and infusing it with an exceptional melt-in-your-mouth flavour. We serve it sprinkled with ‘sale di cervia’, salt that to this day is harvested by hand from salt pans on the nearby Adriatic Coast. It has an exceptionally wonderful flavour – a sweet aftertaste that really brings out the flavour of the meat,” says Ludovico. At both restaurants, bistecca alla fiorentina can be enjoyed with a variety of side dishes, from roasted potatoes sprinkled with rosemary to ‘fagioli all’uccelletto’ – a delicious side dish prepared with cannellini beans, tomato, garlic and sage that is typical of Florence and that marries particularly well with a succulent steak.
Quality Local Produce
Using top-quality produce from the local area is key to Ludovico. “Our olive oil has been carefully chosen and selected from a Tuscan mill, cold cuts are from a nearby farm and pecorino cheese is from Pienza, a small town that lies a few miles from Montepulciano.” The wines, too, are Tuscan. “Our house wine is produced in the small town of Castellina in Chianti, oak-matured for six months at a temperature of 14 degrees Celsius, resulting in a perfectly-balanced wine with fruity undertones. It goes particularly well with our dishes. It’s exceptionally drinkable,” he proudly states.
Meat and wine aside, both establishments also offer plenty of other Tuscan favourites. Pasta is made by hand, with a strong favourite being ‘pici’, pasta similar to spaghetti, served with sausage and black cabbage. The sausage is browned in a pan with red wine and then mixed together with the black cabbage to create a particularly tasty sauce. “Our pecorino flan served with a courgette and caramelised pear sauce is excellent, too. Delicate and balanced, it makes for the perfect antipasto,” suggests Ludovico. “Another favourite is our beef fillet cooked in Chianti wine sauce. The fillet is cooked together with the sauce, which infuses the meat with flavour.”
The desserts are, naturally, all homemade. There’s panna cotta, a classic Italian dessert made with sweetened cream, cheesecake with a homemade berry sauce and, of course, Italy’s much-loved coffee-flavoured tiramisu. “Guests have a soft spot for our homemade chocolate fondant made with Perugina chocolate, a gooey spongy dessert with a melting texture and a delicious liquid centre. It truly is divine,” says Ludovico.
“We want our international clientele to be able to savour authentic Tuscan cuisine at its best.” Ludovico aims to bring a corner of Tuscany not only to an international clientele in Florence, but also to customers elsewhere. “We have now opened a sister restaurant in Berlin. We want people there to be able to taste and savour our region’s wonderful variety of produce. I hope we will become a point of reference in the German capital for people wanting to enjoy an authentic bistecca alla fiorentina.”
Il Nutino and Le Cappelle Medicee are two of the very few places in Florence where hungry punters can still be served food at midnight. “As a general rule, in Italy it is difficult to find food outside of the standard meal times. We stand out as our kitchen is open until late. Florence has scores of international visitors – we need to cater to them,” explains Ludovico. And so he does, with an excellent choice of Tuscan specialities and bubbling wood-fired pizzas served right in the heart of town.
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