See this man's face? Remember it. Don't forget it! He is the man you will want to find when you are Florence, for he will hand over one of the most delicious sandwiches you will ever eat!!!
When I went for a semester in Siena, Italy many years ago, one of my favorite things to do was to take the bus early Saturday mornings from Siena to Florence to The Mercato Centrale (the great food hall), located in the center of the Mercato San Lorenzo near the Basilica San Lorenzo. It was at this market that I ate my very first panino bollito. Last Summer, I found myself standing in front of Da Nerbone, a small unassuming food stall, there since the 1800's, once again! Da Nerbone is inside the Mercato Centrale tucked into a corner on the outer ring of the market. It is popular with both locals and in the know tourists. During the week it can be quite crowded with the lunch time working crowd. Go early, for the panino bollito con salsa verde (a boiled beef sandwich with a green herb sauce) on a crusty Italian roll. though popular at lunch, I think it is the perfect breakfast sandwich. Take some time to wander through the market, have a sandwich, wander some more then come back to Nerbone for lunch. You can't go wrong with a plate of pasta and a glass of local Tuscan wine. You might have to stand in line for a bit as it is very popular, but have faith! If they are out of the beef as sometimes does happen quickly, they will offer up their other specialty, lampredotto a tripe sandwich.
The Mercato Centrale was designed in the mid 1800's by Giuseppe Mengoni, a famous Italian architect. Mengoni used a beautiful design of cast iron and glass to create this gorgeous landmark market. He based his design on the grand market halls of Paris, Les Halles. The Mercato opened in 1874 soon after an older market was torn down.The building still stands today, much as it was when it was built. Stalls on the first floor sell meat, fish, cheese and pasta as well as some prepared foods and food made to order. Vegetables are sold on the upper floor where you can see the gorgeous vaulted glass ceiling. If you have never been to one of these amazing European food halls you must go! You will find everything from rabbits to wild boar (cingale) to locally harvested mushrooms and the tiniest most flavorful Fragola di Bosco'!(tiny Alpine strawberries) Buy! don't touch or the Italian fruit vendors especially the ladies will get quite cross with you! If you are patient and kind they will most likely give you a taste.
While doing a little research on the market I came across another bloggers ruminations and admiration for the Market and for the very same sandwich at Nerbone. Samin Nosrat is a chef, teacher, writer, and from what I can tell a gastronmic dervish, liviing and working in San Francisco. She came up through the ranks from bussing tables to cooking in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, where she trained before moving to Italy to work with butcher Dario Cecchini and chef Benedetta Vitali. Samin was somewhat obsessed with finding and eating the panino bollito from Nerbone as soon as she set foot in the magical city of Florence. Another chef at Chez Panisse had been somewhat obsessed with it as well and told her she must try it upon her arriaval. In her post for the Food Sectionwhere she guest curated an entire week of posts on Florence, she talks about that experience. I think her post is worth sharing as she has many great personal recommendations for vendors at the market that she got to know quite well while living there. See her post below and check out her blog at www.ciaosamin.com.
If you are lucky enough to live in SanFrancisco, you can take one of her home ec classes such as a hand pulled mozzarella or fresh pasta . Samin is the co founder of Oakland's Pop-Up General Store along with former boss Chris Lee of Eccollo and if that isn't enough... she partners with Tartine Bakery for the dinners Tartine Afterhours. Tartine Afterhours is a three course family style dinner occurring once a month or so at Tartine Bakery for the way economical price of 35 dollars.
I am more than a little sad that she does not live in NYC!
Check out her full week of posts on Florenece!
Stall #292, 1st Floor, Mercato Centrale (Central Market), entrance on Via dell'Ariento, Florence, Italy +39 (055) 219-949
Samin was kind enough to supply me with a recipe of her version of the famous Nerbone sandwich!
thank you Samin!
Panino Bollito al Nerbone
3-4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of major fat
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, peeled
2 ribs celery, chopped finely, plus 1 whole rib celery
1 bunch parsley, picked and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
Red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pickled red chilies, such as these Calabrian peppers
6-8 Crusty round buns (in a pinch, seedless Kaiser rolls will do)
The day before you plan to cook the brisket, season it generously with salt and pepper.
The next day, place the brisket in a large pot, cover with cold water, add the onion, carrot, and celery rib and bring to a boil. Add a healthy pinch of salt to the water for good luck. If the brisket floats to the top and is exposed, place a plate on it to submerge it. Reduce the heat and keep the water at a simmer. Cook until the brisket is knife tender, about 3.5 hours.
In the meantime, make the sauces. In a small bowl, cover the diced shallot with red wine vinegar. Let it macerate for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the finely chopped parsley and celery with enough olive oil to make an unctuous sauce. Season with salt.
For the chile sauce, you can either chop the peppers by hand or whizz everything in a blender or food processor. Mince the peppers however you like, then mix them in a separate bowl with a generous amount of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and season with salt.
When the brisket is cooked, remove it from the cooking liquid and slice the meat thinly against the grain.
Slice the buns in half. Finish the salsa verde by combining the shallots and red wine vinegar with the parsley oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Skim any fat from the cooking juices, then lightly dip the inside of the bottom bun in the bollito broth. Assemble the sandwich with sliced meat and each of the two sauces.
:: samin nosrat ::
writer, cook & teacher