My trip to Tuscany started in Florence and I was in search of an authentic Tuscan lunch experience when I stumbled upon Trattoria Marione in the Via del Sole where it meets the Via Della Spada. Close your eyes and conjure up seemingly cliched images of Italian eateries, think Lady and the Tramp, and you know what it looks like; small tables rammed into a series of interconnecting rooms, none of them quite on the same level, red and white check table clothes, salamis hanging over the bar, whicker covered Chianti flasks on the tables – containing wine though, not candles.
The people appeared local, the language around me was Italian, the place bustled and was filled with the noise of contented, chatty diners. I am sure many a tourist passes it by and dismisses it as too much, too what you would expect. I am less dismissive of cliches, after all they get to be seen as cliches for a reason. However from the street very little sets it apart from all the others.
It really is very good though, seemingly authentic and it certainly appeared to make a lot of people happy while I was there.
It isn’t easy to find wild boar dishes in England and I like it, so I took the opportunity. What is more they love to eat sweet ripe grapes, so are an absolute menace to vineyards and I would be supporting my fellow wine trade members by eating some.
So for my starter I chose the special of the day: tagliotelle sul Cinghiale or tagliatelle with a wild boar sauce, which is typical of the region. The ragu had a depth of flavour that was quite wonderful, yet like a great wine was balanced too. The richness did not overshadow the freshness of the tomato or the reverse – I loved it, it was not just about power, it had many different notes. Whenever I have had a wild boar ragu before the meat has always been swamped by the sheer quantity of tomato – not so here, it really was more of a stew than a sauce.The pasta itself was perfect too with no hint of mushiness, just the right side of al dente.
I ordered the only wine available, a simple glass of what I was told was Chianti from the aforementioned flasks. On reading the label later I discovered that their Chianti was in fact Rosso di Toscana IGT, but I can forgive them that bit of over simplification. At first taste it was light, thin even, but with the food it provided a perfect background to the pasta and it’s sauce, it was clearly Sangiovese with lovely red fruit and a good cleansing seam of acidity. I got thinking about light wines of this type, frankly if you drink wine at lunch as a foil for the food and then expect to go back to work, then you do not really want a big wine with lots of extract or much alcohol over 12.5%.
Sticking with the wild boar theme my main course was Cinghiale alla Cacciatore e spinaci, or wild boar stew served with spinach – the very essence of Tuscan cuisine. Too much wild boar? I don’t think so as it is hard to find at home, has a lovely gamey flavour without being too rich and is very lean meat as far as I can see. In this case the meat is perfectly tender and falls beautifully, while the sauce has a light flavour balanced by a savoury depth – it all works superbly.
Interestingly the guy next to me had a plate raw fava beans and pecorino cheese. He just sat there studiously shelling them and surrounding the slices of cheese with the beans before sprinkling them with salt and tucking in.
I loved the fact that at least two tables had groups of men on them who were joined by friends for dessert or coffee. The tables were filled with happy animated people, co-workers, mothers and daughters, elegant ladies, smart businessmen and families as well as the odd solo observer. This is a gem of a place and the macchiato was rather wonderful too.
I have no idea if it was genuinely authentic, but it felt it to me. Trattoria Marione ticked all my boxes for it to join my list of really good non swanky restaurants that provide exactly the sort of meal I want when on my travels.
The only negative point would be the price, which at €41 for a nice lunch is at least double what a similar meal would be in Spain, but it was Florence and even I know that has to be an expensive place to run a restaurant.