Friday, October 15, 2010

Dinner as a culinary experience...


In Florence, we went to Cibreo. It is considered one of the most creative kitchens in the city, and with good reason. The chef, Fabio Picci, has three establishments side by side (well, two are back to back). I'd eaten in the trattoria twice before, and enjoyed it immensely. There's also a cafe across the little street with a bar and snacks.

We went to the "real" restaurant, hoping we could get in without reservations (legend has it that one can NEVER get in without them). We lucked out. We were among the early comers at 8:00 and got a good table with as good as view of the kitchen as there is. Our first hint of the price level was that there were four fine stemmed glasses at each place.

One interesting note: Cibreo serves no pasta. The chef is reputed to have said "It's cheap and we all eat it at home. Why go out for pasta?"

So here's how it works: You don't get a menu. You get a card saying first courses (primi) are E20 and main courses (secondi)are E30. A handsome young man came to the table, pulled up a chair and listed the first courses. I chose a yellow bell pepper soup that had been recommended to me by a friend who'd been there. Tom got a "spicy fish soup."

For our main course, Tom got "coda de vacca," an oxtail dish cooked sort in a stew. I got pigeon with mostarda, a tangy fruit confit. Once we'd ordered, the sommelier came for wine ordering we asked for a light white wine, and were happy with the selection although in retrospect, a light red would have been better with our main course. He didn't suggest that to us. Hm...

Then came a lovely selection of antipasti: a tomato/basil aspic, a spoonful of marinated zucchini, a square of zucchini mousse, one crostini each of liver pate and another of sundried tomato, and tender, delicious marinated tripe, with a roll of the home-made potato bread they are known for. Tom even ate his liver. I didn't tell him what the tripe was until he'd eaten it. He liked it.

Then came the soups. I'd say the serving was around 6 ounces. My yellow bell pepper soup was good, and beautifully served, drizzled with a very fine flavored olive oil, with a couple of tiny slightly cheese-flavored croutons. Tom's spicy seafood soup was just that. A similar sized serving, it was dark and dense and delicious, with a little more than a hint of hot pepper.

My pigeon was wonderful. all dark meat but tender, and the waiter encouraged me to use my fingers (a real no-no for most Italian rules of etiquette) to get every bite. As my contorno (side dish) I was brought a ramekin of potato puree, lightly toasted on top. Tom's ox-tail was, well, boring. The sauce was a little on the sweet side, it was hard to eat, and, well, boring. And he doesn't remember if he got a contorno. So it must not have been memorable.

We pretty much never order dessert, and didn't there either, but they brought us a nice tasting slice of a very dense, very chocolatey tart. The bill was E180 with the wine, or somewhere around $250. Was it an interesting experience? For sure. Did I enjoy my food? Absolutely. Am I sorry we went? Definitely not. Will I ever go back? No. Am I recommending that you do? No.

Go to the trattoria, it's half the price for many of the same menu items and a LOT more fun!

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