Inside The Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo….
One of my favorite Saturday morning routines is to go to the central market in Florence, Il Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo. Here you will find the best and freshest produce, plus the passionate stall holders who are only too willing to impart their knowledge about whatever delicious ingredient they are selling!
I have learnt a lot from this market, from how to roast a beautiful roast pork with prunes and pine nuts to understanding the different ways a cheese or bistecca (steak) is aged. I have also bought nerves after the butcher described how to prepare them in such a poetic and romantic way, that yes, I was convinced this was surely a delicacy that I had been missing. Yes! you heard me right, beef nerves from the Trippaio after he explained how to prepare them for a salad. For the record, they really didn’t do it for me. No real flavour and the chewy jelly texture just wasn’t that appetizing!
I have my favorite vendors that I visit each week as they are not only incredibly friendly and helpful people but their products are so good, it’s hard to go anywhere else after eating the best they have to offer!
For cheese and prosciutto, I can’t go past Baroni Alimentari. Husband and wife, Alessandro and Paola are so hospitable and have the utmost patience when showing you the different varieties of cheese available. Wondering the difference between an aged (stagionato) or fresh pecorino? No problem! Here you can taste as many different varieties you like to ensure you are happy with your final purchase. Baroni sell every type of Italian cheese you could imagine, Pecorino, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Goats cheese, Ricotta, Burrata, Stracchino, Provolone, Mozzarella etc. Alessandro and Paola will explain all there is to know about cheese explaining that the most important things to know are the following :
– the exact zone of origin.
– if it is a mountain zone, whether it comes from a pasture or dairy
– the type of milk used (raw, pasteurized, from cows, sheep, goats, mixed, whole or skim)
– the period of aging.
Wow! Who would have thought all of these variables come into play to determine not only the taste but also the price of the different cheeses!
I love the Pecorino di Grotta that has been aged inside a grotta umida (damp cave) undergound for about 120 days. It has a dark crust which looks like a mixture of damp soil, mould and leaves. This cheese is very moist with an amazing flavor which is perfect just eaten alone with a nice glass of red or some pears!
There is an old saying here in Italy that says, “Al Contadino non far sapere quant’e buono il formaggio con le pere!” which translates as “Don’t let the farmer know how good the cheese is when eaten with the pears.”
There are other older pecorinos which have been aged for 8 – 12 months and are much firmer and drier. I also love the burrata cheese which is smooth and creamy and so good when eaten with ‘coccoli’ – fried balls of pizza dough served hot.
Baroni also sell excellent salami and prosciutto. From ‘cotto or crudo’, Cinta Senese and Prosciutto di Cinghiale (wild boar), mortadella, soppressata, finocchiona, lardo di Collonata and even the famous ‘Tonno di Chianti’ from the famous butcher, Dario Cecchini of Panzano in Chianti. You can also find an excellent selection of bottarga and even cured goose breast stuffed with foie grois! (think I may have to indulge in this on the next visit!)
There are also beautiful balsamic vinegars and delicious olive oils to taste at Baroni just in case you are not sure exactly which is the right one for you. Once again, the different terrains and varieties of olives combined with the different techniques used by the ‘Frantoio’ (mill) all have a huge influence on the look and flavours of each olive oil. From the opaque green, cold pressed oils to the clear golden varieties, you are sure to find the one (or three) that you prefer!
And if all of the above foods are not enough, Baroni also stock an excellent selection of salt from all over the world. Pink river salt from the Murray River in Australia to Black Lava salt from Hawaii.
Paola and Alessandro both speak english so don’t feel nervous about approaching them and asking them for their recommendations!
An impressive wine selection completes the beautiful offering of local and foreign specialties at Pizzicheria Baroni .Baroni alimentari Interno Mercato Centrale Via Galluzzo, 50123 Firenze Tel / Fax : +39 055 289576 www.baronialimentari.it firstname.lastname@example.org