Text & photos ©2009
Few foreigners would ever dream that along with pasta and gelato another multi-regional Italian dish is trippa or tripe, inexpensive, often stewed in tomato sauce and topped with grated cheese. An acquired taste even for Italians, several of the stivale’s or boot’s cities: Torino, Milan, Treviso, Parma, Bologna, Genoa, Lucca, Livorno, Florence, Rome, and Naples, boast their very own tripe recipes.
For examples, in Treviso it’s a soup eaten on market days; in Torino they serve it with wild mushrooms; in Genoa and Milan with beans, peas, and potatoes; in Lucca with cinnamon, and in Naples plain with salt and lemon juice. In fact, no self-respecting Neapolitan crèche would be complete without its trippaio’s, or tripe vendor’s stall, decorated with its garland of terracotta lemons.
The Romans and the Milanese traditionally eat tripe on Saturdays, but in Milan they call itbusecca and other Italians call the Milanese busecconi or tripe eaters. However, busecca is not your ordinary tripe; it comes from la ciuppa and la francese, Milanese dialect for “cap and the Frenchwoman.” The “cap” is the caul and the “Frenchwoman” is curly tripe. For buseeca followed by zabaione, both to-die-for, there’s no place like the 200-year-old “institution” of Milanese cuisine, Trattoria Milanese (Via Santa Marta 11, tel. 011-39-0286451991, closed Tuesday). In Rome, there’s even a proverb relating to tripe: Non c’è trippa per gatti, (“There’s no tripe for the cats,” meaning that the request you are making is out of the question). This statement was made in 1907 by the newly-elected London-born Jewish mayor, Ernesto Nathan, when he struck from the municipal budget the subsidy for the little old ladies who fed the city’s huge feline population. For the Eternal City’s best tripe head for Testaccio, the port of ancient Rome, where you’ll find Perilli a Testaccio, named for its mountain of potsherds (Via Mamorata 39, 011-39-06-5742415, closed Wednesday), and Checchino dal 1887 (Via Monte Testaccio 30, 011-39-06-5746318, closed Sunday and Monday).
In Florence, perhaps the capital of tripe (especially in the once working-class neighborhood of San Frediano in the Oltrarno, or “Across the Arno”), they specialize in curly tripe, but they call it lampredotto, the lining of the cow’s last stomach. After a morning seeing the masterpieces in the Pitti Palace and Masaccio and Masolino’s frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine church, stay in San Frediano to sample the city’s best lampredotto together with the local craftsmen at Trattoria Diladdarno (Via de’ Serragli 108r, 011-39-055-225001, closed Monday), Vinesio (Borgo San Frediano 145r, 011-39-055-223449, closed Monday), La Casalinga (Via dei Michelozzi 9r, 011-39-055-218624, closed Sunday), or Carmine (Piazza del Carmine 18, 011-39-055-218601) four old-fashion neighborhood trattorie. Moreno, one of the waiters at Carmine, has worked there for 40 years — since he was 15-years-old.
Surprise: if you are short on time, lampredotto is the fast food of Florence. It’s sold, boiling-hot, chopped finely before your eyes, from street carts, and served “classico” with salt and pepper on a hard roll for 2.50 euros or ,”completo” with green and/or hot sauce, also on a hard roll, the top of which has been dipped in hot broth, for 3.00 euros. Open from around 8:30 AM to 7 PM weekdays and Saturday morning, these mobile tripperie are located at: Loggia del Porcellino, Piazza de’ Cimatori, in the parking lot of Piazza Porta Romana, Via dell’Ariento (just outside the Central Market), Via de’Macci (near Santa Croce and the market of Sant’Ambrogio), Via Masi Fineguerra, and Piazza dei Nerli (south of Amerigo Vespucci bridge).
For an in-depth history and numerous recipes you can order a copy of La Trippa, Signora della Cucina Povera, by prolific food-writer Leonardo Castellucci, published in 1996 by Piccola Biblioteca Gastronomica, ISBN 88-85193-23-4, price: 7.50 euros, from Solo a Firenze (Borgo SS. Apostoli 37 Rosso, tel. 011-39-55-216324, email: email@example.com). Castellucci tells us that outside Italy tripe is a favorite in Madrid, Algeria, Turkey, France (especially in Marseilles and Provence), Brazil and Portugal
Lucy Gordan is an award-winnning travel writer and cultural journalist living in Rome, where she is Epicurean-Traveler.com’s Bureau Chief. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.lucygordan.com.