- Mike Sula
- Lampredotto, Nonna’s
When I first visited Florence as a young whelp I was too much of a wuss to try the city’s signature panini di lampredotto, a tripe sandwich sold from street stalls all over the city. Historically a workingman’s sandwich, it was a cheap, high-protein way to fill up on the way to the olive orchards. But it’s maintained its appeal despite its filling: the abomasum, or a ruminant’s fourth stomach, which resembles “bundles of dirty dishcloths” as the The Oxford Companion to Italian Food puts it, and can smell fairly miasmic if not properly cleaned. Typically it has to be bleached before it’s stewed with celery, onions, and carrots and piled on a crusty roll—topped with a parsley-based salsa verde—and dunked in the beefy brodo, just like an Italian beef.
The well-known Roman version of stewed tripe has shown up here and there during our local Italian restaurant renaissance (restaurance?), so I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone started making Florentine lampredotto sandwiches. But it is a bit surprising that it’s shown up at Nonna’s, the sandwich adjunct to the Bristol Group’s Formento’s on Randolph Street—which takes a decidedly New World red-sauce approach—and which, for all our modern embrace of old peasant foods, doesn’t have a particularly gutsy menu (I review it later this week).
But there it is on the board among the Italian sub, the meatball sandwich, and the eggplant parm. There is a generous pile of shredded stomach on this sandwich, but it’s superlatively tender—neither snappy nor rubbery the way it’s preferred in Chinese preparations. Compounding its bold squishiness are thick slices of boiled egg, topped a by a bright, acidic, mint salsa verde that cuts right through the visceral sumptuosity. If you have textural issues with stomach, the crusty ciabbata, which is only partially dunked in the jus, balances out the lush innards just right (The same bread has the opposite effect on Nonna’s “Frank,” a split fennel sausage that disappears in the crumb among spicy mayo, mozzarella, and peperonata).
Nonna’s menu is concise and focused compared to the more elaborate one Formento’s is serving up; just 9 sandwiches (all at $8.50), and a handful of sides, like a weirdly liquid potato salad, an unexceptional antipasti salad, and the same bombolini and (terrific) Italian wedding soup on the menu next door. It also serves as a point of sale for Formento’s-branded wines, tomato sauces, and giardiniera.
If you feel like courting controversy you could argue that the panini di lampredotto is like the ur-Italian beef. You can even order it with giardiniera, and assume the Italian Stance at the three stool counter that provides the only seating in the joint.
Tripe. It’s what’s for lunch.
- Mike Sula
Nonna’s, 925 W. Randolph (entrance around the corner on Sangamon), 312-690-7323