Chestnut meringue torte, excellent fall dessert at Cibreo restaurant in Florence

Cibreo

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Cibreo is widely considered one of the best restaurants in Florence. Chef/Owner Fabio Picchi has become a celebrity in his own right, an outspoken ambassador for traditional Tuscan cooking. He has built a gustatory empire in the blocks surrounding the original restaurant and Cibreo remains his flagship enterprise.

While the Michelin starred Enotecca Pinchiori may have more international acclaim, Cibreo is always the first off the tongue of a local Florentine when asked for the best restaurant in town; although they will usually follow it with the admission that they have never been. Locals instead are much more likely to visit Teatro del Sale of which they are particularly enamored.

The Cibreo experience is unlike no other. Service is impeccable. In lieu of a written menu a suited waiter sits down at your table and patiently explains every dish on the menu, answering any questions that you may have. They know every dish inside and out. Once your order has been placed, a slew of small dishes of antipasti come out. You will find tripe salad and a number of other small dishes of both meat and vegetables.

The food at Cibreo is rooted deep in tradition and the chef has done a lot of historical research in developing each dish. In fact you won’t find any pasta on the menu, instead you will find a number of velvety smooth soups in their place. Although studious in approach, the kitchen maintains a sense of humor. A large baguette like bread shaped like a femur bone comes to the table, meant to be torn apart by hand, and shared with everyone. It is accompanied with a slightly sweet almond spread.

Many dishes have a subtle underlying chili heat, which is not common in the Tuscan kitchen, but which nevertheless is a welcome addition. Soups include a signature Passato di Pepperoni Gialli (Yellow Pepper Soup – see recipe) that tastes of intense roasted pepper, and a Passato di Pesce Piccante (Fish Soup) that is smooth and thick and full of seafood flavor with just a touch of spice.

Secondi each come with their own side dish; and the options are various and many. They may include a rich creamy smooth baccala or a Roasted Squab with Mostarda. Veal cooked in milk, should you see it on the menu, is exquisitely tender and flavorful, and not to be missed; while the baccala is unlike what you will find elsewhere, the fish itself is a smooth, rich brandade. Served in a gratin dish, the fish is on top of slightly sweet caramelized onions and topped with crispy breadcrumbs, turning a humble dish into something extraordinary.

Desserts are, for the most part, excellent. A dense flourless chocolate torte is like a thin sliver of chocolate ganache; pure bittersweet chocolate in all of its intensity. A blueberry tart is stellar, with light pastry cream, rich buttery pastry and intensely sweet berries; while a fall Meringata con Crema di Marroni (Chestnut Meringue Torte) riffs on the classic Monte Bianco, combining crispy meringue with whipped cream and sweet chestnut puree. In a final touch of generosity, the kitchen delivers an extra dessert, making sure the meal ends on an extra sweet note.

The wine menu is extensive, luckily the staff is well trained and can you help navigate the selection. They know the list well, and are happy to provide suggestions.

Signature Dishes: Potato and Ricotta Sformato (Potato and Ricotta Souffle), Torte al Cioccolato
Get It!: Veal Cooked in Milk or Baccalà Mantecato alla Cassi (Brandade or Cod Gratin)

TIP: Go to Cibreo Trattoria; same food, same kitchen, a fraction of the price.

Via A Del Verrocchio, 86, Florence. www.cibreo.com; tel: +39 055 234 11 00. Closed Monday.

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