FRESCOBALDINO REVIEW

Returning to a restaurant in which you had this one amazing time at, can be a bit like bumping into a one night stand in Tesco: awkward, disappointing, mostly embarrassing. You’re going about your weekly shop in a relaxed fashion and the trolley scoots round the corner of the cereal aisle. As you’re selecting what to have for breakfast, a familiar face comes into your peripheral vision, causing your stomach to backflip. You hide behind a box of sugar puffs, perhaps they haven’t seen, but there is no such luck… An uncomfortable and clunky conversation ensues, typically consisting of, “So what are you up to at the moment?” – “Oh, you know, the same.” – “Remind me what that is?”

Without the beer goggles, this person doesn’t seem quite as dreamy, in fact you can see a bogey hanging from their nostril and the overpowering smell of aftershave has made you do a mini vomit in your mouth. After an awkward silence, you say your goodbyes, perhaps make a feeble suggestion of going for “a drink some time” and take the walk of shame to the vegetable section, praying you don’t decide to use the same till later on.

I came to Frescobaldino three years ago and it pretty much sparked a longwinded and almost carnal love affair with Italian food. It was the first place I ever tried steak. I remember being shocked that it could be red and fleshy in the middle and still be warm and voluptuous, all the while tasting a thousand cows better than a Big Mac. The truffles covering it (probably the first time I’d had those too), lifted me into a dizzy trance, I forgot to think and just did life. It’s arguable that perhaps this was down to the wine that the Frescobaldi family is so famous for. It flowed as freely as the conversation; our glasses always full to a happy medium. Before this experience, I was such a prude fusspot, I became a new woman, you could say I lost my gastronomic virginity there. After eating vast quantities, I had to rest for a whole day.

And so, I return a few years down the line with caution, hoping my high expectations that were formed on that day won’t be dismally crushed. I come in through the main entrance and I am seated in the restaurant. I notice the menu is a bit pricier than last time. My primo piatto is fine but the staff are far more formal and a lot less personal and I feel rushed. My food reflects this because the steak is luke warm, as if it was cooked in a hurry and left to cool while I was eating the previous course. My face is burning, are these the prickling tears of disappointment? I’m so hot in fact, I ask if I can take my drink to the quiet courtyard and finish it there. They oblige. Once I am there, I am told by a waiter called Primo that this is the wine bar, Frescobaldino, I had been sitting in the restaurant, Frescobaldi by accident, and the menu is slightly different…

It all comes rushing back, I remember Primo, how friendly he was, how knowledgeable he was about every wine he poured and how he served each dish in front of us while explaining how they were made. That evening, I decide to return again with friends to give it all a second chance.

They call them “bar snacks”, but the bar snacks are more like works of art. Out comes insalata caprese, sitting on bails of finely shredded lettuce. It is marinated with an earthy juice from the artichokes resting on top. Even though it tastes incredible, truffle mortadella often comes under predjudice because of its ugly appearance. This time though, it is sculpted into pink ruffles and looks so dainty, even the sceptics give it a try. It is accompanied by fennel salami arranged in a similar fashion, which smells of a balmy summer night in the Tuscan countryside. Frescobaldi’s signature pate is spread thick on crostini and vivid green olive oil for dipping envelops the salty bread.

The huge antipasti would have been enough but we committed to zucchini and scallop risotto as well. The rice is warming, sticky and made yellow by saffron. The enormous scallops are so juicy and the biggest I’ve ever eaten. The coral has been left in and flavours it with the kind of sweetness you get when prawns are cooked shell on. We try pasta too, with meat. A thick type of spaghetti loop the loops round our fork, occasionally slipping off so we have to slurp it up.

A different bottle has been carefully chosen for every course and we learn about each one accordingly. Starting with Prosecco of course, followed with a light fruity red, then graduating to a more sophisticated garnet. By the time the meal is over, we’ve received a masters in Vin Santo from the cheeseboard and a pHD in grappa… Although we’re not feeling too clever at this point.

To top off that brilliant meal, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much when eating out. Primo was generous with our poor Italian, hospitable and good humoured. He held back to give us “girl time” but joined in on the jokes. There was nothing awkward or forced about this meal, just old friends, catching up.

So if you’re planning on having a one-lunch-stand at Frescobaldino, I’m afraid it’s not going to work out because you’ll have to keep going back for more.

Frescobaldino
Tel: +39055 284724
Via de’ Magazzini 2-4/R
Firenze
www.deifrescobaldi.it

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