When I see a long queue for food in front of a restaurant or a street food truck or any food seller I always tend to think that there must be something delicious going on to make so many people wait in line. That was the case with Nerbone.
This place is a Tavola calda, meaning it serves good food and reasonable variety at a very affordable price. You can usually choose from a selection of freshly made pasta, salads, sandwiches, hot or cold main dishes, soft drinks, beer and local wine. Located in the covered Mercato central, in the southern corner of the market, Nerbone has been serving up food to the Florentines since 1872.
Every day you can see behind the counter a couple of primi fresh salads like a ripe cherry tomato/mozzarella balls/basilic salad_simple and refreshing, you can also see some secondi main courses such as a roast beef_ one of the most delicious ones I’ve ever had incredibly tasty and tender. Of course more basic Tuscan dishes such as risottos and pastas are available. The pasta al pesto I tried was perfectly cooked al dente and with a deep green flavor of rocket and basil.
However, even if all those dishes are outstanding, the star of the place is the panino con bollito, a boiled beef sandwich where the bread is dunked in the hot rich jus-like broth_ to give and extra touch of gluttony and topped with a green parsley based sauce and a red hot and spicy sauce. The bread used is good Italian bread: it has a nice crusty outside and a soft fluffy texture on the inside. The meat is kept in the broth and thinly sliced a la minute in front of you and you can see how tender and juicy it is. Of course, being in Florence, the second star dish is the Lampredotto tripe sandwich, prepared in a very similar way.
Once you have managed to decide and choose your food you will pay a cashier. Then you move to the right and wait for the food to be prepared. There is no extra charge for the seating so if you arrived before the rush hour that is usually around 12h30 or if you are lucky enough to have managed to get a seat on one of the marbled topped tables, now all you have to do is enjoy those dishes of Tavola calda. Expect to spend less than 10€ for an average lunch and 3.50€ for the bollito sandwich. Nerbone still attracts a crowd of regulars everyday so the queuing can be a little long sometime. Though the decoration might not be at its best if you are looking for an authentic and affordable market lunch don´t miss this place!
Mercato Centrale, 50123 Florence, Italy
Photo: Emilie Mounsaveng