Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — Since 1953 this boisterous
trattoria has been serving great food at family style tables in the
heart of Florence. I honestly can't remember if some research
pointed us here, or if it was serendipity. But either way, I'm glad
we went. After our trip to the market for pre-lunch and market
perusal, we worked up an appetite checking out all the churches and
Medici hangouts. We squeezed our way into a table at
Mario and recognized one of the waitresses as having been
working at one of the stalls in the market. It turns out she was the
daughter of the owner and was working in the market to learn about
oils and vinegars. This family restaurant sent their daughter next
door to work in the market to broaden her culinary perspective. And
she returns to work at the family restaurant during the
hour. It seemed clear at this point, we'd come to the right place
for lunch. When she later worried about whether we'd ordered enough
food, we weren't just in the right place for lunch, we were in
Given that it seemed to be a pattern for the region, we
didn't hold it against them when the awful bread showed up. As we
expected it was completely devoid of flavor. No
salt. Just terrible. Luckily the bread was quickly forgotten as we
ragu. It was super beefy with an almost cinnamon flavor.
Hearty and juicy. Good stuff. The
"worm" pasta was fresh and slightly
salty in a good way. A nice contrast to the ragu. The
bean puree was super smooth. The savory beans
were not heavy and were served with enough olive oil so they didn't
come out mealy.
Florence is famous for a certain type of grilled
steak served with a lemon. The steak is seasoned beautifully as
well. Trattoria Mario's
Bisteca Fiorentina was no exception. It was
an amazingly juicy perfectly seasoned steak. It was cooked rare with white, tan,
and pink spots all dripping with juice. The lemon made it perfect.
The bitter greens in the
salad were good as a complement.
Next up was the
Piposo di Mauzo
- beef brisket with an amazing sauce consisting of red wine tomato,
olive oil, and black pepper. It was ruby red and warm in my stomach. The
Fagioli Bianchi however was just ok.
Peyman disagreed and
thought it was very good. The potato dish was interesting -
Patate in Umido - potatoes in a red oil sauce. The sauce was great.
It started fresh and bright and got more complex and savory on the
finish. The fries were soft but not limp. They were fresh tasting and
perfectly salted. We also had the classic
Osso Bucco. It tasted of red wine and cinnamon. Really good flavor.
We wrapped up with
biscotti and vin santo for dipping. I'm not typically a biscotti
fan as they usually come close to breaking my teeth. But this had a
super almond flavor packed into a balanced crunchy/chewy cookie.
In Florence, Trattoria Mario is wonderful. Outside
of Italy it would be mind-blowing. Either way it's a definite stop
for lunch (if you happen to be in Florence). Even if you've never
been there, the combination of the food and atmosphere make you feel
like you're home.