Tag Archives: Basil

Florence’s Ringo gets by without help from his friends…but with amazing slow food – June 24, 2009

Our first day in Florence began where it should, at the Uffizi Gallery. Where else? I mean, why not start your day with some Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and more. But after spending a few hours walking at a snails pace and battling crowds with firmly but gently placed elbows, one builds up an appetite.

A few weeks before we left, I bumped into my friend David, a man known to enjoy a good meal or two in his time. “If you’re going to Florence, you have to go to Ringo’s,” he mandated. “It’s the best lunch in Florence.”

Outside tables at Ringo's

Outside tables at Ringo's

When you enter Ringo’s, located here, just steps from the Boboli Garden side of the Ponte Vechhio, you may ask yourself, “Am I in the right place? Can this tiny space dominated mostly by a kitchen and small bar by a temple of gastronomic pleasure?” Then, you are promptly (and politely) informed that this is a slow food establishment, and that if you are looking for a quick bite to eat, go eat elsewhere. And maybe the “Slow Food” sign helps too. This place means serious business.

Is this a gastronomic temple?

Is this a gastronomic temple?

Ringo’s has been run my the same man, in the same way, for over 42 years. The maestro makes food one order at a time, using only fresh, local (he grows most of the veggies and herbs he uses) ingredients. He has been ably assisted for the past 20 years by his daughter, and with their back and forth banter in a typically expressive, Tuscan manner, gesticulating on each key word, forceful, passionate, respectful and loving all at once, you know that Ringo’s is more than a place to eat, it’s a family. Although it was empty when we entered at half past noon, we sat at the bar with the anticipation of a unique and extraordinary experience. And we were not disappointed.

Sasha and Il Maestro

Sasha and Il Maestro

Ringo’s is famous for his burgers; Roman-sized monsters of high-grade, fresh ground beef, simply grilled and topped with you choice of grilled onions and/or cheese. However, everything on the menu is extraordinary, including his daily pastas (only for 2), garden fresh salads, antipasta plates and desserts. Ringo is so protective of his food, he won’t let you over order. We had to come back twice (and very happily so) to try the breadth of his menu.

Botticelli's Primavera is a fitting image for Ringo's fresh focused cooking

Botticelli's Primavera is a fitting image for Ringo's fresh focused cooking

Il Maestro at work

Il Maestro at work

A simple amuse of grilled bread, fresh sliced heirloom tomato and a sharp, soft blue cheese

A simple amuse of grilled bread, fresh sliced heirloom tomato and a sharp, soft blue cheese

Garden fresh veggies ready for your plate

Garden fresh veggies ready for your plate

Veggie salad with cantaloupe, butter lettuce, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, basil, salt, pepper and Ringo's special mustard with extra virgin and aceto red wine vinegar served in a fish bowl

Veggie salad with cantalope, butter lettuce, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, basil, salt, pepper and Ringo's special mustard with extra virgin and aceto red wine vinegar served in a fish bowl

View from the top

View from the top

A sandwich press, a stove top, and a grill; simple, well seasoned tools make simply delicious food

A sandwich press, a stove top, and a grill; simple, well seasoned tools make simply delicious food

Ringo's pasta changes each day (or when he runs out of sauce)

Ringo's pasta changes each day (or when he runs out of sauce)

Pasta is only served in portions for 2 people; On our vist the Daily Pasta was a tagliatelle in a cheesy sweet sausage ragu

Pasta is only served in portions for 2 people; On our vist the Daily Pasta was a tagliatelle in a cheesy sweet sausage ragu

Great hamburgers start with great meat, so fresh and flavorful Ringo doesn't even use salt

Great hamburgers start with great meat, so fresh and flavorful Ringo doesn't even use salt

Every great hamburger joint needs special sauce...but Ringo's is the first mustard based special sauce I have ever had

Every great hamburger joint needs special sauce...but Ringo's is the first mustard based special sauce I have ever had

Ringo hollow outs the bun top and fills it with ketchup; special mustard sauce goes on the bottom bun

Ringo hollow outs the bun top and fills it with ketchup; special mustard sauce goes on the bottom bun

Burgers on the grill...on the way to being eaten

Burgers on the grill...on the way to being eaten

And a radish on top makes it perfect...

And a radish on top makes it perfect...

A mild emmentaler completes the cheese version of Ringo's masterpiece

A mild emmentaler completes the cheese version of Ringo's masterpiece

The "bunless" version: arugula, cherry tomatoes, aceto, grilled sourdough with special mustard sauce and topped with grilled onions
The best tiramisu I have ever eaten, bar NONE, comes served on the spoon

The best tiramisu I have ever eaten, bar NONE, comes served on the spoon

Ciao, Ringo; we can't wait to visit you again

Ciao, Ringo; we can't wait to visit you again


A 3 Star Lunch at Le Calandre – June 23, 2009

So, after spending a morning with Giotto and his magnificent frescoes, Sasha and I grabbed a cab to Sarmeola di Rubano, just outside of Padua, to visit Le Calandre. Run by brothers Massimiliano (in the kitchen) and Raffaele Alajmo, Le Calandre is a 3 star Michelin rated performance art experience hiding out as a restaurant. Only 28 when he received his third star, Massimiliano is a true artist, whose surface is the palate instead of the canvas.

Chad & Sasha with Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo

Chad & Sasha with Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo

Lunch began with a collection of amuses. The first was three tastes: a mini pizza margherita, cod fish salad encased in fried polenta and sprinkled with curry power, and an amazing little ball of Fassone beef carpaccio on a stick topped with shrimp crudo, chive and pink Peruvian pepper. There was something inside the Fassone ball that gave it a Rice Krispie-like crunch; I have no idea what it was but it was delicious.

Three Tastes...All Delicious

Three Tastes...All Delicious

Along with the three tastes, we were served a mozzarella tagliolini atop a pomodoro and caper sauce. The skinned tomatoes were garden fresh, just bigger than cubed and perfectly complimented by the low salt, eel-like mozzarella tagliolini and the salty, big Italian capers. It was at this point that I ordered a glass of Flor di Uis 2006 Via di Romans.

Mozzarella Tagliolini with Pomodoro and Capers

At the same time, we were presented with the following bread basket.

Bread anyone?

Bread anyone?

For our first course, we split the Antipasto, which is a tomato garden on a plate. It consists of chopped, just picked fresh, red and green tomatoes fava beans, green beans, ricotta, basil, chili pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

A tomato garden on a plate

A tomato garden on a plate

For our pasta course, I had maltagliati (a double wide noodle) with white asparagus, botarga, butter and parmesan. It was served in a huge stone bowl. Although everything about this dish suggested that it would be heavy, it was surprisingly light, hearty, creamy, salty and delicious.

Maltagliati and botarga anyone?

Maltagliati and botarga anyone?

Sasha was treated to Lasagnetta with a lamb ragu. This dish is one of the finest lasagna’s you will every eat. The round noodles were perfectly cooked and had a light texture to them. The lamb ragu, sweet and savory, was topped with creamy bechamel and complimented by subtle ricotta. We were again amazed by the lightness of the cooking for what is traditionally a heavy dish.

Little lasagna, BIG taste

Little lasagna, BIG taste

My meat course was a real treat; roast suckling pig with cream of potatoes, and amatriciana sauce. The pork was tender with a crunchy top, sweet and flavorful. The amatriciana was the best I have ever had; rich tomato flavor with the savory taste of bacon and just the right amount of spice. A forkful of the pork all’amatriciana combined with the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest potatoes I have ever eaten, brought my tastebuds to foodie heaven.

Calandre Roast Suckling Pig

Sasha had a perfectly cooked and tender medallions of beef over broccoli with puff potato crisps, egg sauce and basilica peppers. The kick off of those peppers combined with the rich sauce really made this dish shine.

Calandre Medallions of Beef

Although we passed on the cheese carts (yes, there are 2 of them!), but I thought I would capture it so I could share its treasures with you.

Cheese Cart 1
Cheese Cart 2

But we did finish the meal with some nice petite fours.

Calandre Petite Fours

If you want to see more about the menu, you can download it here, but you’ll have to be able to read Italian. Also, Massimiliano has produced a beautiful and artful cookbook, titled “In.gredienti”, which was awarded the 2007 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the best cookbook in the world. If you have $350 to spend on a cookbook that you probably can’t cook anything from, but want something that will look spectacular in your home, click here.

Calandre Cookbook