Lampredotto is a traditional street food for construction workers and burly men, but in recent years has been transformed into one of those “must eat” items you see in any guidebook for Florence. Still though, when I asked the guy behind the front desk of the hotel where I could get the best lampredotto, he looked at me oddly and with surprise, like he was thinking “girls don’t really eat that…” It’s a simple sandwich with peasant roots and is sold by street vendors at lampredottai, or “sellers of lampredotto.” It consists of a crispy, chewy bun and tripe from the fourth stomach of the cow, which has been braised with veggies and herbs. Condiments include a salsa-like sauce made with spicy red chilies and cilantro, a perfect contrast to the buttery, rich tripe.
I grew up eating all sorts of offal, so I was immediately drawn to this traditional sandwich because it was the thing to experience in Florence (besides the Duomo and art… of course). I honestly have to say that of all the meals I had during my two month trek through Europe, this 3 euro sandwich from an unnamed cart was in the top 3. I chose the cart carefully, wandering around the small city center, bypassing the long lampredotto lines comprised of people holding Routard city guides, choosing instead the one that had a Slow Food snail sticker on the cart at a market, and only menus in Italian, Chinese and Japanese. I pointed to the picture of the sandwich I wanted, and ate it in on a bench in the main square. The next day, I went back for another one. It was really that good. Perfectly executed tripe, not stinky or chewy at all. It really did melt in my mouth. And the bun, crispy on the outside and soft and porous on the inside, wonderfully soaking up all the juices from the tripe and sauce. One of the most memorable street food experiences in my travels… so far.