The name says it all. Coccoli, once a typical street snack on the sidewalks of Florence, have now been primarily relegated to restaurants. Il Coccolo takes the idea of fried pizza dough and uses it for a blank canvas to fill and stuff with the greatest hits list of typical Italian dishes.
Fried to order, coccoli come out, plump and golden, slightly crispy on the outside and warm and doughy inside – perfection. Plain they can be split open and layered with prosciutto and stracchino, as in the classic Florentine combination. But they also come stuffed; supersized and filled with such winning combinations of ‘ndjua and stracciatella (spicy sausage and extra creamy mozzarella), amatriciana (tomato and smoked guanciale/bacon) or eggplant parmigiana.
Think of them as mini calzones – begging to be attacked while still hot. Only that dough is lighter, having inflated after its hot oil bath. At 2 euro each, they also make the perfect snack. Other fillings include the typical Neopolitan sausage and friarelli combination, more often seen on top of pizza, or the now pervasive Caccio e Pepe (cheese and pepper.) They also come sweet, served do-it-yourself style, to be filled with Nutella, pastry cream or berry jam.
While technically it is possible to order a pasta or sandwich. Nobody does. This is, first and foremost, a fry shop. That means in addition to coccoli, you can order fried vegetables, polenta, fried chicken or totani (read “Fried Calamari”) and a half-dozen or so other fried items including special menus with fried meat, vegetables and a beer for 12 euro or a cone of fried fish and chips with calamari and shrimp for 5 or 7 euro.
Owned by the same folks behind La Prosciutteria, there is the same attention to quality and detail in a fast-casual setting, only it’s not necessarily particularly fast. Everything is fried to order, and while the overhead conveyor belt designed to bring coccoli fresh from the fryer to the counter where customers are ordering is a cool concept, it has been abandoned in execution. So grab a stool, and a drink from the mini fridge, or order a glass of the house wine, a private labeled local Chianti still made in the original style (with a blend of red and white grapes) and get as comfortable as possible. This isn’t a place where you are meant to wait, and it shows with tiny counters and some half-sized stools meant for perching rather than people who eat a lot of fried food. But try a couple of coccoli or something more substantial, it’s a great alternative to the salumi sandwiches offered everywhere else. What seems like a gimmick at first glimpse may convince you otherwise.
Signature Dishes: Stuffed Coccoli fried to order
Get It:! Coccoli stuffed with Eggplant Parmigiana
Via Matteo Palmieri, 30, Florence. tel: +39 055 0684950. Open daily from 11:00 – late.