I was thrilled when a mobile catering stand which had pulled up in a layby between Borgo a Mozzano and Diecimo advertised that, among other food items, it sold lampredotto. Yesterday I decided to give it a try and was absolutely delighted with my lampredotto sandwich.
Lampredotto is not normally sold in Lucca province but is as endemic in Florence as jellied eels and pie and mash shops are (or were?) in London’s east end. What is it? For long I’d thought it was something to do with those eel-like creatures called lampreys but I was only half-right. The product does look like the lamprey which used to be common in the Arno. But it’s not a fish. It’s the fourth stomach of the cow. If you start squeaming here then I’d advise you to skip the rest including the pictures but you’re really missing out!
The scientific term for the fourth stomach is the abomasum and the product is usually served in a sandwich together with piquant green sauce in several kiosques in Florence called lampredottai. It is essentially a poor man’s food but none the less tasty because of it. (After all, oysters used to be only eaten by the poor in London).My favourite lampredotto kiosque in Florence is that near Porta Romana in the Oltrarno, Here everyone, from suited and booted executives to labourers in their togs, congregate without distinction of class. The product is simply delicious.
Lampredotto is formed by a lean part called the gala and a fatty part called the spannocchia. Both should be included in your panino to deserve the appellation of lampredotto. It’s cooked for a long time in water with tomatoes, onions, parsley and celery and usually served with green sauce, either separately or in a panino, as I prefer it.
Lampredotto has a long history dating back to the fifteenth century. Leonardo and even Michelangelo must have satisfied their hunger pangs by biting into it. In the nineteenth century lampredotto was sold from hand-painted wooden carts and later by bicycles.
Today it’s generally sold in the kiosques, of which there are several as I mentioned A very popular one is that near the boar’s statue in the old market in the centre of Florence (see Debra Kolkka’s post at http://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/a-load-of-tripe/) but there are several in the Santo Spirito area.
Strangely I’ve never got into tripe which assembles parts from all the four stomach of the cow. These are (with the Italian names for it in brackets) the following:
The ruminant (Ciapa, Croce, Larga, Panzone): the thickest and fattest stomach which comprises 80% of all the cow’s stomachs.
The reticulus (Beretta, Cuffia, Nido d’ape): this has a spongy texture.
The omasus (Centupezzi, Foiolo, Libretto, Millefogli, Centopelli)- the thinnest stomach with a white texture and a foliate appearance.
The abomasus (Caglio, Francese, Frezza, Lampredotto, Quaglietto, and Ricciolotta): this is the only cavity which is the true equivalent of what we understand as the stomach.
Tripe is a mixture, in differing proportions, of these parts of all four stomachs.
But give me (and Sandra) a lampredotto panino any day!
Incidentally, if you want to cook the stuff yourself you’ll need a recipe for salsa Verde (green sauce). Here’s one I picked up:
Extra virgin olive oil
One boiled egg
I salted anchovy
One clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
Mix together all the ingredients using a mixer. You can, of course, add or remove ingredients as suits your taste. I like a sprinkle of Cheyenne pepper in mine and a touch of lemon.
Enjoy it with your lampredotto. Certainly all the truck drivers that congregate round this stall (except for Mondays when it’s closed) enjoyed theirs! There’s lot’s of other things to choose, of course, like porchetta (suckling pig) sandwiches or just a plain hamburger and chips.
PS After your lampredotto, only a hundred yards further on the same stretch of road, is the Guidi bar and newstand which also incorporates a pasticciera (bakery).
It sells a very mean Rum Baba filled with crema pasticciera.(Italian equivalent of custard but so much more delicious) which I had for my dessert for a total lunchtime meal which set me back just five euros.