Teatro Del Sale, Florence

posted on: Monday, 24 June 2013

The 'gelatina' the staff made me when I arrived early: I still don't really know what it is

The huge kitchen improvises over the five hour brunch service

Amazing baked apples with pistachio and sugar

When I got up on Sunday morning, the city of Florence was deserted - everyone was at church! Not an avid churchgoer, I went to a different, but equally theatric altar: Circo-Lo Teatro del Sale's famous brunch.

Owned by famous Florentine cook, Fabio Picchi, the Teatro del Sale is actually a members only club, that puts on two dinners and two brunches a week. After securing my membership which takes a little bit of paperwork and a smile, I asked the staff what was on the menu for the day.

 "The kitchen is spontaneous so they get inspired by the ingredients they have," the host said. "We don't ever really know."

The kitchen is truly spontaneous. I arrived an hour late which apparently made me quite early by Italian standards, so one of the cooks whipped me up a 'gelatina' to try while I waited. It looks like a creme caramel but tastes like a soft sheep's milk cheese with olive oil drizzled over the top.

The Teatro del Sale takes its name from it's location - it resides in a cavernous converted theatre and seats around one hundred guests on red velvet chairs in a room with dark wood floors and high ceilings - but the brunch service was also full of theatrics. 

The kitchen have free reign to make whatever inspires them and once each dish is ready, the head cook sticks his head out of the kitchen window and calls people to come and try the latest dish in bellowing Italian.

The cooking, shouting and eating went on for five solid hours.

Early on we had crostini dipped in olive oil, gnocchi, polenta squares and warm bread with freshly churned butter and home-made apricot jam. And then we moved into seafood. I sampled the crisply fried anchovies with lemon and the mussels steamed in white wine, though there were a number of options.

Throughout the meal more and more side dishes appeared on the central table: cooked peppers, spiced carrots, cous cows, roasted fennel. Then around 2pm, the meal hit its crescendo. Fifty roasted spatchcock came off the roasting rotisserie and were served up with crisp potatoes and stuffing.

When I thought I couldn't eat a mouthful more, the dessert was laid out with the coffee: baked apples appeared dusted with sugar and pistachio, tart house-made yoghurt, flourless bitter chocolate cake and soaked cherries.

And then as it hit 3pm, the hundred or so guests started heading home. I followed suit and just made it the two blocks home where I fell instantly into a deep sleep, or more likely, into an authentic Italian food-induced coma.

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