Exhausted, hungry, and more than a little crabby, my mom, dad, younger brother, and I disembark from the 23 bus at the Stazione Pensilina and walk into Florence. But it’s late. In the daytime, there are rather more than a few vendors, selling all sorts of items, in particular goods made from Tuscan leather. I have a fantastic leatherbound journal from my previous trip to Florence. But these vendors have long since closed up shop.
We are on a mission—food. I following the map, and my family following me, we finally arrive at Giannino in San Lorenzo, the place recommended to us by our trusty guidebook—Italy for Dummies. There is some concern about needing a reservation, and as I see how busy and full the restaurant looks, my empty and grumbling stomach gives a sickening turn. We approach the entrance and pleadingly ask a waiter if we can eat here. He asks if we have a reservation. We apologetically and probably rather pitifully say that we do not. But to our joy, he says he can take us upstairs. We follow him past the front counter with many hanging meats and circles of cheese, up the stairs and into a large, rather beautiful upper room with many tables, only one other occupied by customers.
We sit and look at the menu, my younger brother and I looking at the recommendations from the Italy for Dummies book to find the corresponding food items on the menu. Eventually, a flustered waiter quickly passes by and says, “Be there in one minute!”
“Take your time!” I say out of instinct. My mom, hungry, gives me something of a glare. “I’m sorry, I just said it being polite. I didn’t mean for him to actually take his time!”
When the waiter returns, he tells us that the restaurant has been crazy busy from midday till now, around 9:30 at night. We ask if it is always like this. Not every day, he says. Tuesday is Republic Day (apparently a national holiday; today is Sunday), and people have been off work from Friday to Tuesday. Moreover, during the weekend, there was some 100km race (I think on bicycle). So it’s been especially busy this weekend.
Finally, we make our order. Based upon the recommendations, my brother and I had been debating between the sausage and white beans, and the Florentine beefsteak, which is what the restaurant is famous for. So Joshua and I decide to each order one and then split the meals.
The steak comes with bruschetta, which Joshua does not care to have, not really liking tomatoes. But when he tries it, he says it’s good, though not really his thing. He chalks it up to just being hungry. Haven’t I made the point that flavor is subjective? Food we normally would not enjoy becomes appealing under the tyranny of hunger. For my part, I like the bruschetta but am not blown away by it.
The sausage is very good. There are two, so I take one and Joshua the other. Each has been cut down the middle and split open like a butterfly—a juicy, savory, delicious butterfly, grilled to perfection. It is salty, and rich in flavorful spices. The beans, well, the beans are beans. Not much to be said there.
Then there is the steak. Joshua and I order it medium rare; we like our steaks juicy. It comes bloody and much more on the rare side than the medium side, which, frankly, is okay with us. I’d eat my steak raw if I could. It is seared and crispy on the outside, very tender and juicy on the inside, with a rich, smoky flavor. What exactly makes it a Florentine steak? I have no clue. It tastes like steak to me. Good steak, to be certain, but steak nonetheless. Forgive me, but I am afraid my palate is not so refined as to know the difference between steaks. Probably I shouldn’t write about food, but that is what I am doing and you are foolish enough to read, so there we are. Now don’t we both feel just a bit ashamed of ourselves?
Moving on. The fries. Look at them. Can you guess what they taste like? Probably. They taste like any other average steak fries taste. But that’s my own fault. Who orders steak fries at an Italian restaurant? Americans, that’s who. I should have ordered the salad. No, that bit of green to the right of the steak is just a piece of lettuce. No salad for me. Just bland fries, a decent steak, and some very good sausages.
My overall analysis is that the steak was very good, but I’m not sure about all the hype. Again, I probably am just not enough of a steak connoisseur, but there it is. You’ll probably stop reading this blog now. He doesn’t know much about steak? Why is he even writing this? Why doesn’t he just go to McDonald’s and blog about the quality of their meat patties? Please stop. I can hear your judgmental thoughts. They’re not nice. But the sausages I highly recommend. Very good flavor from my vantage point. Really? He would go for sausage instead of steak? What kind of food blog is this? Seriously, I can hear you!
We pay and leave the restaurant. Regrettably, I forgot to write down the cost of the meal.
Then we head over to Il Duomo, which is one of my favorite structures in all that I have seen in Italy. It is so ornate and busy on the outside, but elegantly simple on the inside, the reverse of every other cathedral I’ve seen. At last, after seeing very little of the city we fought so hard to enter, we make our way back to Stazione Pensilina. Although no longer hungry, we are becoming increasingly exhausted and the bus seems to be taking a very long time to come. So we end up taking a taxi back to the car, paying a very reasonable 12 Euro. And then we start our hour and a half drive back to where we are staying for the night.
I think we all slept well that night.