Category Archives: Mugello Marvels

Mugello Marvels: Macelleria Landi Fulvio


Luco di Mugello, some years ago. The Landi shop now occupies the building behind the scooter.

Mugello Marvels explores the flavors and traditions of the Mugello region of northeast Tuscany, with an emphasis on local chefs, restaurants and shops, food fairs, and events.

This latest installment of Mugello Marvels once again focuses on a local establishment near and dear to me—very near in fact, located just down the road in Luco di Mugello—the Macelleria Landi Fulvio. This family-run butcher shop is an area treasure, offering top quality, locally-sourced meats and much more. But it’s the people behind the counter at Macelleria Landi who keep me coming back. Upon entering, I’m always greeted with a friendly smile and quick, professional service from the Landis, who bring decades of knowledge and skill in the butchery arts to their enterprise. Fulvio, having worked at his uncle’s butcher shop as a younger man, started his own butcher business in 1967, in a small space just behind the former post office of Luco di Mugello.  Fulvio (pictured below, right) runs the shop with wife Giuliana and their son, Alessio (left) .


A lot has changed in the years since Fulvio first opened, including an expansion in 1995 after the adjacent post office closed and the Landis acquired the space. This change meant a larger counter and proper shop, plus the added advantage of a main street storefront. A small rosticceria also forms part of the business. Roasted meats to go are available, along with other prepared items like lasagne and bolognese sauce, always fresh and homemade.


The Landi family are just the sort of neighborhood butchers one hopes for. Their meats, sourced locally here in the Mugello from places like the Cooperativa Agricola Firenzuola (or occasionally even closer, the farm here in Grezzano), are always uber-fresh and excellent quality. They make their own (additive-free) sausages, too, in keeping with the business motto tutto come fatto a casa.


With their skilled hands, the Landis will clean and prep any cut of meat you like, and they always take the time to give you a few cooking tips on whatever you’ve purchased. You can also choose from the selection of pre-seasoned, never-disappointing items ready and on display in the cold case, such as pork loin, lamb chops, marinated chicken pieces, and so on.


One particularly special aspect of the shop is the impressive assortment of gourmet items, selected by Alessio, who sources providers and contacts around Italy. A visit to this macelleria is never without the welcome diversion of browsing the fresh pasta, gourmet sauces, jams and honeys, cookies, cheeses, truffle products, and more. An impressive selection of wine, beer, and liquors is also on hand, and knowledgeable Alessio is always ready to suggest something.

During the holidays, Alessio brings in a variety of additional artisanal products, such as these beautifully-wrapped panettone cakes:


On weekends Macelleria Landi prepares and cooks roasts and more to order. In fact, on the day I visited them to learn more about their shop and the work they do, Giuliana and Alessio were preparing a traditional family recipe (passed down from Alessio’s grandmother) for roasted stuffed rabbit, which had been pre-ordered by a customer. True to the pleasant and obliging spirit of this place, the Landis offered to share the recipe with me (and you!).

Roasted Stuffed Rabbit, a Landi family recipe
Clean and debone a entire rabbit and lay the meat out flat. Adjust the meat as needed to make sure all is sealed, then salt and pepper well.


Next a thin layer of pork loin is laid on top of the rabbit meat, then a generous sprinkling of chopped rosemary, sage, and garlic, followed by a layer of prosciutto cotto.


Then a layer of frittata is added, followed by another dose of the chopped herbs and more prosciutto. Now the tricky part: carefully roll the entire rabbit closed, lengthwise. You’ll probably need an extra pair of hands to assist with this step, though Giuliana managed it impressively well!


Finally, secure the rabbit tightly with kitchen twine. Insert a few sprigs of rosemary under the twine, and roast for 90 minutes at 180ºC / 355ºF. Let rest and slice into 10 to 12 servings.


I’ll close with some photos of these lovely locals, la famiglia Landi, and my strong recommendation to pay them a visit the next time you’re in Luco di Mugello.

Here’s the mother and son team with their ready-for-the-oven masterpiece:


And father and son in front of their shop:


Macelleria Landi Fulvio
Via Garibaldi, 1
Luco di Mugello
tel: 055 840 1255

Mugello Marvels: Ristorante Gli Artisti

Gli Artisti restaurant is a Borgo San Lorenzo institution

Gli Artisti restaurant is a Borgo San Lorenzo institution

Mugello Marvels explores the flavors and traditions of the Mugello region of northeast Tuscany, with an emphasis on local chefs, restaurants, food fairs, and events.

This second instalment of Mugello Marvels looks at another wonderful establishment in Borgo San Lorenzo. Ristorante Gli Artisti, which celebrated its official 100th anniversary last year yet in fact dates to the late 19th century, has long been associated with Mugello area artists—hence its name. Frequented over the years by the likes of Rutilio Muti (1904-1995) and Ezio Cecchini (1926-1984), both from Vicchio, it is located in a tiny piazza named for Angiolino Romagnoli (1834-1896), a painter from Borgo San Lorenzo of the Macchiaioli movement. Perhaps the most illustrious of Gli Artisti’s patrons was Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988), whose encaustic painting of horses on one of Gli Artisti’s walls has unfortunately been plastered over. Just down the street from the historic Teatro Giotto, the restaurant was a favorite meeting place of theatrical companies, known to gather here to dine and discuss the evening’s performance. A true Borgo San Lorenzo institution, Gli Artisti also happens to be the oldest still-active eating establishment in the Mugello.

Last year, two young Italians, brothers Luigi and Nicola Tranchina, stepped into this heady mix of local history and tradition to take the helm at Gli Artisti. Thirty-year-old Luigi, gracious and highly knowledgeable, brings significant restaurant experience with him as Gli Artisti’s new head.  He is also an expert sommelier.  Chef Nicola has since left the restaurant to pursue other activities. In his place is Rocco Lamorte, a gifted young chef whose skills and accomplishments—at a mere twenty years of age—are astounding. Graduate of the B. Buontalenti Institute with top marks, protégé of noted critic Leonardo Romanelli, student of chefs Italo Bassi and Riccardo Monco of Enoteca Pinchiorri—need I say more about this young man?

I recently had the fortune to sit down with Luigi to discuss his vision for Gli Artisti and the work he and his staff are doing. We covered many topics, from the fundamental importance of quality products and following a seasonal calendar to how the Italian sagra impacts diner expectations (I’ve written before about sagras, but always from the perspective of an outsider observing the social customs associated with this peculiar Italian tradition; hearing a serious restaurateur’s views on them was enlightening indeed). Mostly we discussed their guiding philosophy of ‘tradition and innovation’ and how they approach the challenge of creating innovative dishes that simultaneously reflect and transcend the boundaries of traditional Tuscan cuisine.

A tall order, even more so here in the Mugello, where the notion of ‘Tuscan’ narrows to a few definitive items—crostini, tortelli, bistecca—yet these young men give the impression they would never be content to rest on their laurels. The dishes at Gli Artisti speak for themselves, revealing a perfect proficiency in the classic Tuscan repertoire together with the daring and aplomb that comes with experience. By exalting the traditional and classic through clever twists and touches, inventive flavor pairing, and only the very best ingredients, the team at Gli Artisti has achieved something extraordinary. Have a look at a selection from their menu:

To begin, the classic crostini toscani get a makeover, transformed into a terrine-like pâté  served with a loquat mostarda and a crispy pane carasau wafer:

2015-08-28 13.08.12

Next is the Fiori di Cipolla, a slow cooked, tender onion served with a D.O.P. Taleggio with hints of hay on a multi-grain puff pastry toast, drizzled with a 30-year-aged balsamic vinegar. Thus, Tuscan staples of bread-and-vegetable become the base for this delicate ‘flower’ of harmonious flavors:

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The Intrigo Mugellano is a fusion of two types of fresh pasta, tortelli and pappardelle. A long, potato-stuffed pappardella is twirled on the plate (a symbolic and playful twist on the classic tortelli shape) in a creamed garlic sauce garnished with threads of chilli pepper and dusted with sweet chilli powder, recalling the ubiquitous aglio e pepperoncino. Same ingredients, made over with distinction and flair:


Perhaps no dish reflects the idea of sperimentare senza mai dimenticare la tradizione or ‘experimenting while never forgetting tradition’ as perfectly as Come se fosse un Cantuccio, an ingenious variation on the uber-Tuscan dessert of cantucci cookies and vin santo: a vin santo sorbet served on a cantucci pratesi crumble ‘bed’ topped with a vin santo air—sometimes called foam in molecular gastronomy—that delivers flavor without substance, prepping the palate for flavors to come.  Those fond of texture contrasts will love this. By the way, Rocco and Luigi will present this masterful dessert at Expo 2015 next month:

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If you go: Take some time to study and appreciate the menu, which changes in accordance with the seasons and typically requires a month to create, plan, and test. Note the ® symbol next to certain items; this indicates a dish of their own unique design. Consider the very well-priced tasting menu to appreciate a broader sampling of the menu. There are several vegetarian options, and vegan dining is possible with advance notice.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Remember that Luigi is a trained sommelier so with regard to wine choice you’re in excellent hands. Moreover, he truly enjoys giving suggestions and seeing his clients happy—a great source of satisfaction, as he describes it, for people so passionate about the work they do. The dream? A Michelin star, someday. It’s early days yet, but I’d wager it will happen.

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Rocco Lamorte (left) and Luigi Tranchina

Ristorante Gli Artisti
Piazza Angelo Romagnoli, 1
Borgo San Lorenzo
055 845 7707

Mugello Marvels: Vino in Tavola

Andrea Guidotti in front of his fabulous bottega, Vino in Tavola

Andrea Guidotti in front of his fabulous bottega, Vino in Tavola

Mugello Marvels explores the flavors and traditions of the Mugello region of northeast Tuscany, with an emphasis on local chefs, restaurants, food fairs, and events.

I’m happy to launch this new category, Mugello Marvels, with a post dedicated to what is arguably my favorite spot in all the Mugello. Vino in Tavola is a convivial Italian bottega-style shop and deli located in the heart of Borgo San Lorenzo, a place locals frequent come the lunch hour to enjoy a panino and a glass of wine at the cozy counter. It’s also popular at the aperitivo hour.

crostini e vino, a perfect snack

crostini e vino, a perfect snack

Others come here to fill up hefty vessels with choice vino sfuso (think wine on tap), carefully selected by shop owner and connoisseur of tasty stuff, Andrea Guidotti, or to browse the selection of gourmet products, many of which are rarely if ever found in Italian markets. Which leads me to a digression…

I’ve written elsewhere about the lack of culinary diversity in Italy. Now, before you Italophiles start hollering about regional differences, note that I’m not talking about the various distinct traditions from region to region within Italy. I mean, rather, international cuisine and the foodways of others, about which Italians can be mighty suspicious and even disdainful. You folks reading this from America or the UK might not realize just how much you take for granted when shopping for, say, a specific type of cheese, since your favorite market no doubt offers not only a good selection of French and Italian cheeses but also those made in your own and other countries. Finding a good French chevrè or English cheddar in Italy is akin to a treasure hunt. Seriously, to judge by the paltry selection at large Italian supermarket chains, you’d think Brie was the only cheese France had to offer—a generic, underwhelming Brie at that.

I come from a country where even the most unexceptional of food stores will have an entire aisle dedicated to products from around the world.  Where I now live, those items, few and second-rate, are found tucked away in a sad, meter-wide section labeled ‘ethnic’ foods: a jar of Pace brand salsa, some rice noodles, perhaps Worcestershire sauce, a can of Uncle Ben’s beans. In some larger Italian cities, so-called ethnic foods stores do offer more in the way of variety, but at exorbitant prices and erratic availability. Sure, I can get cilantro or lemongrass, if I’m willing to travel two hours to visit one of these negozi etnici. Maybe I’ll pick up a rock-hard avocado that’s travelled from South Africa or Israel, if I don’t mind spending about 3 euros (the avocado is completely misunderstood in Italy). Closer to home, I could get lucky at our local grocery store, if I’m able to persuade the gal stocking shelves that a powder made from dried garlic is not a figment of my foreign imagination. An anecdote: once a French woman on holiday  stopped me at the supermarket: ‘Where is the salted butter?’ she asked. When I answered that it was very hard to come by—both of us eyeing the thirty-some brands of unremarkable Italian-made unsalted butter—she thought surely we’d not understood each other. C’est bizarre! A nearby Italian woman chimed in, suggesting a shop that might have salted butter—in another town.


Plaisir au Chablis from Burgundy and Le Brebiou from the French Pyrenees

Living in this land of culinary insularity has meant mastering, or at least getting comfortable with, the art of the work-around—growing cilantro and other ‘exotic’ herbs and making buttermilk and drying and grinding garlic for powder—which might seem resourceful but is really a time-sucking drag. Sometimes you need an ingredient that doesn’t require weeks of advance planning, you know? This brings me back to Vino in Tavola.

I wouldn’t call Vino in Tavola an ethnic store. Yet the selection of rare and international items Andrea stocks makes it truly unique among shops. He cultivates relationships with trusted wine-makers and producers well beyond Tuscany, and the results of his research and efforts can be seen in every square inch of his meticulously-kept, quaint, friendly place of business. Browsing the shelves and chatting with Andrea about newly arrived items is always a pleasure.  Especially the cheeses.


gruyère, raw goat’s milk robiola, and English cheddar – heaven!

Vino in Tavola is also great for gifts. You can put together a lovely holiday basket here, choosing from among the excellent Italian and French wines, artisanal beers, and liquors.


Italian and French wines and champagnes

And here’s a sampling of other items you’ll find at Vino in Tavola:


Escargots in Borgo San Lorenzo? Wonder of wonders!

colatura di Cetara

colatura di Cetara, the dreamy, anchovy-based sauce recalling garum of ancient Roman cuisine



a few 'ethnic' items

‘ethnic’ rice varieties

uncommon snack foods

uncommon snack foods

'nduja from Spilinga - aka the real deal

‘nduja from Spilinga – aka the real deal

I always feel a bit of a thrill when I walk through the doors at Vino in Tavola, wondering what new, tasty item will have arrived on Andrea’s shelves since my last visit. Sometimes I leave the shop with ideas for the blog, such as this post on the ‘purgatory beans’ of Gradoli, which I learned about thanks to a little bag of these storied white beans I spotted at Vino in Tavola. And I always leave with a bottle of wine or two, some butter—French and salted—and a smile.

Vino in Tavola
Piazza Dante, 22
Borgo San Lorenzo (FI)
tel: 055 845 5212

La Polentata delle Ceneri

Enrico Pazzagli, 'Watercolor Depicting One of the First Polentate, early 1800s'

Detail of Enrico Pazzagli’s ‘Watercolor Depicting One of the First Polentate, Early 1800s’ **

Polentata’ is probably best translated as polenta festival or fair, and many towns around Italy today are hosting some sort of polenta-centered event. Why today? Polenta has long been associated with Ash Wednesday and the Lenten period on account of its ‘lean’ quality—it’s a peasant dish, if you will, part of the cucina povera. If you make polenta the way I do—usually not without a dollop of cream or butter, maybe cheese, and typically alongside a nice roast meat of some kind and shameful amounts of gravy—you might find this hard to swallow. In any case, symbolically if not in practice in all of our kitchens, a serving of polenta on Ash Wednesday marks the close of the ‘fat days’ and the onset of Lenten customs such as fasting, penance, atonement.

Here in Borgo San Lorenzo, locals have been organizing a polentata on Ash Wednesday every year since 1800. It’s one of the longest-running folk events in the Mugello, with a celebrated backstory that’s hard not to get a little enthusiastic about.  In 1799, following the French invasion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, a battle to push out French troops took place in the streets of Borgo (much of the Mugello and Casentino areas were influenced at that time by the resistance movement Viva Maria, centered in Arezzo, where resistance fighters took back their city after Napoleon invaded). After the ‘furious battle in the streets around the Borgo San Lorenzo castle’ had ended, and the dead had been buried, local housewives and peasant women set about cooking huge potfuls of polenta to feed the stricken survivors.

The following year the polentata took place on Ash Wednesday, becoming known as ‘la polentata delle ceneri’ (cenere = ash), and has been held every year since in the town’s Piazza Garibaldi. According to Aldo Giovannini, a local writer and journalist who has published numerous books on the Mugello and possesses an archive of over 90,000 images of our territory, the polentata was kept a simple affair, free of the concerns of social class—a testament to la libertà.

** The watercolor is by Enrico Pazzagli, a local artist who creates  beautiful works of Mugello landscapes, scenes, towns, and more.


Polenta with Pancetta & Red Wine Vinegar Sauce: A Rediscovered Recipe

poor man’s polenta

Born in 1943 in Borgo San Lorenzo, Tebaldo Lorini is a writer and folklorist who researches gastronomic traditions of the Mugello. His cookbooks and the recipes therein are the fruit of his conversations with locals throughout our region, and as such represent an invaluable record of living memory.

Last year Lorini published Ricette Proibite: Rane, Asini, Rondinotti, Gatti e Tartarughe nella Tradizione Alimentare, or ‘Prohibited Recipes: Frogs, Donkeys, Swallows, Cats, and Turtles in Food Tradition.’ Not surprisingly, controversy soon followed, in particular from animal rights activists, but not only. With its recipes for oven-baked stork, crow ragù, cat stew, swan with orange sauce, grilled fox and more, Ricette Proibite stirred debate and roused emotions among a broad array of folks. To the accusations of sharing ‘unthinkable’ and ‘disgusting’ recipes, Lorini said: ‘Who said certain animals can be eaten and others not? Laws are different from country to country, as are all customs, histories and traditions. Tastes change over time. Today some recipes are the classic Sunday lunch, while others cannot even be named.’ In Lorini’s defense, some noted that many of these ‘unthinkable’ recipes were born out of the extreme hunger experienced during the war years, a time when other ‘acceptable’ forms of meat were scarce.

Leaving that thorny debate aside, today I am making a far less controversial recipe of Lorini’s, from his 1985 book Mugello in Cucina: Storie, Prodotti, Tradizioni, Ricette. In this work, Lorini explores the eating habits of ancient peoples up through the 20th century and reveals some local recipes of the recent past that few today would recognize, let alone serve.  According to Lorini, a sauce made from finely minced pancetta cooked in fresh garlic and red vinegar, la pancetta all’aceto, was used primarily by the charcoal makers of the Apennine Mountains (formerly one of the principle industries of my town, Grezzano) to flavor polenta. A distant cousin of sauces like carbonara and bagna cauda, pancetta all’aceto sauce should be served very hot. You can serve this as pictured above with creamy polenta or as below, with slices of crunchy grilled polenta.


750 ml (3 cups) water, or 1 liter (4 cups) if you want a creamier, much less dense polenta
185 grams (1 & ½ cups) polenta
100 grams (½ cup circa) of cubed pancetta
2 large garlic cloves
4 Tbls red wine vinegar
2 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls butter
salt & pepper


You need a large-ish sauce pan for the polenta and a medium-sized shallow pan for the sauce. The polenta and the sauce should be prepared simultanously.

Set the water to boil.

If you are working with a whole piece of pancetta, slice it into ¼-inch-thick slices then into small cubes until you have about ½ cup. Lorini’s recipe says to mince the pancetta, which is a challenge, so I settled for small cubes. Peel and mince the garlic and set aside. If you prefer a more delicate garlic taste, leave the peeled cloves whole.

When the water is boiling, add 2 teaspoons of salt. Now slowly pour in the polenta, whisking continuously. Lower the heat and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until the polenta is really smooth. Turn the heat off, add the butter, stir well and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil on high in the other pan and add the pancetta and garlic. Lower the heat and stir occasionally. After 2 or 3 minutes add a pinch of salt and pepper and add the vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the pancetta is rosy in color and a sauce has formed in the pan.

Transfer the polenta to a serving dish and make a small well in the middle. Pour the pancetta and every last drop of the juice over the polenta. This is a cucina povera dish, after all. Do not even think of counting calories or fat grams or any such nonsense. Serve very hot.


poor man’s polenta (grilled)