Florence, Italy - Lunch at Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale
No trip to Florence is complete without a visit to the Mercato Centrale, the central food market in the San Lorenzo neighborhood. Under one roof you will find two floors filled with every Italian culinary product imaginable from meat to produce, cheese, pasta, fish and sweet confectionary items. The second floor is dedicated to small stands where you can sit and enjoy a meal prepared on the premises: anything from sandwiches to pizza or pasta with shaved truffles. Now listen carefully: forget the second floor. The real place to dine in the market is where all of the local workers eat themselves and is located on the ground floor at a place called Nerbone.
Each day (since 1872, who can argue with that) there is a handwritten menu on the wall that tells you what's for lunch (open from 7am-2pm). You line up and order what you want and then take your tray to one of a handful of tables to enjoy your meal. Pasta and risotto always feature on the menu, as well as tripe with tomato stew and their famous boiled beef sandwich with a special sauce, which is the real crowd pleaser. I dove into a bowl of reginelle al ragu, ribbons of pasta in meat sauce with a healthy dose of grated parmesan cheese. The price, a mere €4!!
Then I got back in line to tackle the panino bollito or beef sandwich and watched as they were being assembled: slices of meat are shaved off of a huge chunk of boiled beef, which is then dunked in its own juices, piled in a fresh baked crusty bun and then topped off with a tomato salsa with a hint of chili and a green herb sauce.
Such delicious food for absolutely unbeatable prices. I will take this over a Michelin starred restaurant any day! Do have a proper walk around the market and see all of the beautiful food stalls. The workers are cheerful and engaging and you can buy some wonderful, authentic products to take home with you.
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