Just as bistecca fiorentina is the king of restaurant food in Florence, lampredotto is the king of Florence street food and indelibly associated with the city in the minds of all Italians. And you can't have all those beautiful steers butchered for their prime steak without also finding a use for other parts of the animal. Especially given that no food is ever wasted in Italy and the long history of la cucina povera means that there is a traditional recipe for just about every part of an animal.
I'm not sure when food trucks became such a ubiquitous fixture in cities around the world but unlike in America, where the food truck phenomenon is more about showcasing a whole array of non-native cuisines, the street food culture in Italy is more about demonstrating simple, traditional foods that for centuries have been a staple of the regional diet of that particular area.
In other words the food trucks in Italy represent a simple migration from local household kitchens to the street, so you won't see a Rimini piadina food truck in Florence or a lampredotto food truck on the Costa Romagnola. We like that, because otherwise regional differences disappear and they are a large part of the fascination of travel within a country as historically diverse as Italy.
That may be an overly purist philosophy for some people and I would agree, having lived for a time in Austin, Texas, that it's no bad thing to be able to travel around the culinary world via the 1,000+ food trucks in Austin without leaving the city limits, but that is America and this is Italy. Porchetta is perhaps the best example of something in Italy that has now shaken off its geographic origins around Rome and has become a common offering on food trucks everywhere, including the one we came across.
Anyhow, back to lampredotto. For years in Italy I have resisted lampredotto, which is the lining of the fourth stomach of a cow, perhaps because in my past I spent several weeks at a slaughterhouse in Northamptonshire looking at all four of a cow's stomachs and finding nothing appetizing about any of them. Elena however, being a native of Florence, eats lampredotto every chance she gets, as does the rest of her family.
So what exactly goes into a lampredotto sandwich? The stomach lining is boiled for a couple of hours in a stock made from all the usual ingredients, including carrots, onions, celery and in this case tomatoes. Then a salsa verde (green sauce) is prepared to slather on the top, derived from parsley, anchovies, capers, olive oil and often also garlic and sometimes hot pepper flakes to make it a little piccante. The salsa is made fresh and not cooked.
The bread roll is also important and is usually a large crusty Tuscan bun called rosetta. When the lampredotto emerges from the stockpot, still unfortunately looking grey and wobbly, it is chopped into small pieces (which at least improves the appearance) and some of the soft bread in the middle of the bun is excavated to make a hole for it.
Then, with the lampredotto firmly in place, the salsa is spread liberally on the top (more disguise I'm thinking) and the final flourish is the bagnato nel brodo, dipping the top piece of the roll into the stock before serving. And, this being Italy, it's all washed down with a glass of the local Tuscan wine, also part of the food truck repertoire.
I actually quite enjoyed it and it reminded me a little of the classic Italian beef sandwich in Chicago, also dipped in the meat cooking juice and served with a giardiniera relish, but of course the meat filling here is not quite the same. At this juncture I have to confess that I only took a couple of bites of Elena's lampredotto sandwich because once I saw how good the porchetta looked there was no way I was going to give that up for lampredotto, and who can blame me when you look at the magnificent massive porchetta below.
You shouldn't have much trouble finding lampredotto wherever you happen to be in Florence and the more famous places include Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale, Lupen & Margo just outside the Mercato Centrale and L'Antico Trippaio in the Piazza de Cimatori.
These are all fixed establishments whereas ours was a truly wandering truck that appears in different places every day.
A 1 minute speeded up video by Lupen & Margo showing the whole process is attached below and my first thought watching it was that their lampredotto looked much more appetizing than the one we had that's in the photographs above.