Tag Archives: Extra Virgin

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


Il Ridotto, Venice, Italy, June 22, 2009

Chad and Sasha with master chef/owner Gianni Bonaccorsi

Chad and Sasha with master chef/owner Gianni Bonaccorsi

Il Ridotto is a little restaurant located on a precious square (more of a triangle) behind Piazza San Marco, located here. There are a few excellent enotecas nearby, including one catty corner to the restaurant also owned by Bonaccorsi called Aciugheta (it means “anchovies”). Sasha and I ordered the Chef’s testing menu (which had a wonderful description that I wish I had written down); at E50, it’s a feast and a bargain. The amuse bouche was potato wrapped roasted prawn on a bed of creamed potatoes, extra virgin and chive. The prawn was succulent and full of flavor and the crunch of the julienned potato wrapping combined with the cloud-like creamed potato was a winning combination.

Amuse Bouche @ Il Ridotto

Amuse Bouche @ Il Ridotto

Next up, I had a “fantasie di pesci” appetizer of warm and raw crudo. This included razorfish in a pepper salsa, cuttlefish with potatoes, mackerel with pickled beet, tuna, and one other fish that I can’t recall.

Crudo Delicioso

Crudo Delicioso

Sasha’s appetizer was a tower of beef tartar. The layers of tartar are presented on top of perfectly crisp and round toast and aretopped with a hard boiled quail’s egg. Accompanying this dish was a light salad of arugula with extra virgin and balsamic. The tartar was silky and flavorful.
Tartar

For the pasta course, I was treated to a seafood risotto featuring branzino and octopus. The risotto was a perfect al dente and the flavor was rich and yet subtle. What really made this dish was the raspberry in the center. The berry was perfectly ripe and just a bit cooked so that when I touched it with my fork it easily came apart. The fruit cut each bite of risotto and added a wow factor without overpowering the delicate flavors of the pasta.

Raspberry Hurrah

Raspberry Hurrah

Sasha was treated to a luxurious tagliolini with Piedmontese “Fassone” meat ragu. Fassone beef, rasied in Piedmonte, is renowned for its lean and delicious flavor. Again, the freshly made pasta was perfectly cooked and the ragu expertly seasoned. The Fassone was not only amazingly tender, but its delicate, sweet and savory flavor made this ragu very light.

Fassone  - You Can't Touch This

Fassone - You Can't Touch This

We were so focused on enjoying our meal that we forgot to take pictures when the next course arrived and just started eating (which accounts for the state you see in the following photos). Up next for me was a breaded Dorade with asparagus puree and roasted carrot and zucchini. I was again amazed by the maestro’s ability to make what I expected to be a heavy dish taste so light. The puree was soft and sweet and perfectly complimented the fish. The breading did not taste fried, but almost as if the fish were born that way. The texture was as if the fish were steamed.
Il Ridotto - Dorade w Zucchini Puree

Sasha’s beef braised in red wine was served with creamed potatoes with extra virgin and chives. Another hearty dish prepared with a light touch. The beef bowed tenderly to the slightest touch of a fork and melted with each bite. Combined bites with the cloud-like potatoes produced a rich, sweet and savory experience.

Are you drooling yet?

Are you drooling yet?

We were already screaming for mercy, but Bonaccorsi would not stop. From Sicily came the Cassata Cheesecake with Cassata Gelato and a chocolate flan with vanilla gelato. I don’t think I have ever tasted anything like the Cassata Cheesecake with its tiramisu texture. Coffees were served along with four kinds of sugar.

Ever seen pink sugar?

Ever seen pink sugar?

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