Florence, Italy: Il Latini

Tonight the TCU group decided to go to Il Latini, a GREAT restaurant in Florence. Erin got us reservations and had heard of this place on the Food Network. It didn’t disappoint. As you’ve already gathered from other writings, Italy is a country very nonchalantly meticulous with food; they want it to have the best quality and served with the perfect combinations, but they also want the people eating to enjoy it as much as possible. It’s a nice attitude.

The night we arrived in Florence, Jeremy (who’s now no longer with Accent — long story) took us out to dinner at a restaurant without a menu. It was simple: you have a choice of three things for each course and you choose one. Il Latini was the same way! Because we had a reservation they ushered us right in to our table and once our backs touched our chairs they had the antipasti of prosciutto in front of us. We all looked at each other and realized what kind of restaurant we had just walked into; it was a look of terror and admiration combined in one; it was sublime.

Besides the prosciutto for the first course, they brought out several crostini with different oils and spreads. Then came the choice: pasta or soup. We all (with the exception of Brett) chose soup – Pappa al Pomodoro. I’ve had this soup almost half-a-dozen times while in Florence and this version didn’t compare to any of the previous ones. Before we could even get a quarter of the way through, the owner came over and said we weren’t liking it well enough, so he told the waiter something in Italian (too quiet-slurred-fast for us to understand) and said he was taking care of it. ?!? We didn’t even know how to react. Italians are about slow-food movement; without even giving us a chance to see how good it was (even though he was right in the end), he made the decision and got us a better dish. The meal became even more sublime. At this point someone asked how much it cost since we weren’t choosing any of this: he gave us a price and it was more than any of us had paid for a single meal in the semester (although I’ve been close a couple of times — all of them memorable), but we all realized it was going to be worth it.

The pasta dish they brought out was full of ribbon noodles drenched in a red non-tomato-based meat sauce. It was unbelievably better than the soup. Then they brought out three different vegetable plates: spinach, beans in a red sauce, and peas with hap. These peas were some of the sweetest peas I’ve ever had; and I don’t even like peas. Before we realized it, they brought out the meat plate. To say it was a plate doesn’t do it justice. It was a ceramic dish, but the meat amounted to the size of two (maybe three) footballs. There was SO much.

What kinds of meat take up so much? For sure there was roasted beef, lamb, chicken, veal, and rabbit. We each had a full plate and there was still 2/3 of the meat on the tray left. Luckily someone, I think Marisa, asked if we could take it home — which they didn’t mind at all! Brett made an admirable attempt to make up for the rest of us. After his third plate he said enough, and then the waiter came over, put his hands on each of Brett’s and then helped Brett use the fork and knife to cut more off and put it on his plate. Marisa had the comment of the night: “wow Brett, you got served!” (Those under 25 should get the pop-humor of that)

After all of this came the desserts: six different types with spoons for each of us to try. There was a chocolate gelato dish that resembled a mousse. There was a baked cake of three flavors of dough with a creamy filling. There was a carmel sauce on a flaum. There was another cake with a liqueur center. There was a raspberry cake. Then came an experiment for all of us: lemon and almond biscotti. These dippable cookies came out with a brown liquor that we think was a type of dessert brandy. We assumed we were supposed to dip: big mistake! The flavor combination was atrocious. So, after I’d had three cookies and that flavor was out of my mouth, I gave it some time and then decided it was a waste to not drink the brandy. That was my best decision of the night. I’d had three glasses of the table red wine earlier at dinner and I ended up having three of those glasses of the dessert drink (some of the others didn’t believe me that it actually tasted good).

After that, they brought out a bottle of another dessert drink. We’re not sure what it was (Erin made sure to get a picture of the label). It wasn’t bubbly like a champagne, but it was INCREDIBLY sweet. Two glasses of that and I decided to end the night on a good note. We finished the meal and went back to the girls’ apartment and hung out for a while. We all had a little buzz, but none of us were obnoxious. Simply sitting and talking with everyone brought back great memories of the beginning of the semester. We started the semester this way and we finished it too. Semesters are symmetrical: we work hardest at the beginning and the end, we do more things together when we first get to know each other and when the end is in view. Il Latini was a great thing for the last week of the semester and the friendships we created here.

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