Look hard enough, and sometimes you might be pleased with what you can find. This is certainly the case of Cibreo Trattoria, the smaller cousin of the Cibreo Ristorante right next door. In fact, both share the same kitchen, but the trattoria is significantly cheaper than its ristorante cousin, which costs 90 Euros for a three course prix fare meal. Believe me when I say that Cibreo is definitely worth taking the time to look for it. It’s traditional Florentian fare is one of the best in the city.
Finding the set of Cibreo locations isn’t difficult; the more annoying part is figuring out which is which. The trattoria is situated on a street that has a lot of construction and pedestrian only areas, so at least it’s quiet. There are a few tables outside, but inside is decorated quite beautifully. The atmosphere of the restaurant has a very rustic feel; the walls are painted in shades of brown, with simple paintings, drawings, and lines of wine bottles providing simple decor. The seating and tables are all simple wood and straw, giving the impression that the restaurant is like a simple and old-fashioned Florentian home.
After entering at an early time for Italians (5:30), we found just how old-fashioned this restaurant is. Inside is only one waiter and the owner, who was busy writing the menu for the evening’s preparations. Each day presents something different, and I was impressed by the owner’s dedication to his restaurant. There is a passion that he exudes that isn’t found in a lot of other restaurants. After being seated, we were also happy to know that he spoke decent English, and was willing to translate the menu for us.
The menu is plain and simple, consisting of five or six antipastis and first plates, and a more complete collection of second courses. All of the dishes are typical Florentine fare, and gives a good representation of the region’s specialties. Mind you, this is the true Italian feast. Each person had an antipasti, first and second courses, and a dessert. Furthermore, most of us weren’t particularly hungry when we went – care to take a guess what that meant about the food quality?
Appetizers were an appropriate size to whet the appetite, which is something of a lost art in some restaurants (Chili’s Awesome Blossom comes to mind). Two of the recommendations were the fresh buffalo mozzarella and the crostini with pate spread. Simple and small, these appetizers packed lots of flavor. The mozzarella was indeed fresh – however, it was rather lacking in presentation (see the picture to understand what I mean). The crostini consisted of three pieces of toast with homemade pate served on top. A combination of olives and herbs, it’s has a subtle taste that isn’t overpowering at all. There is no real aftertaste either, which is great for an appetizer, as it doesn’t linger into the first and second courses.
A unique appetizer is tripe with simple olive oil and basil dressing, and with some vegetables added to taste. I’m impressed by this particular appetizer because I am normally not a tripe eater; call it a bad experience in a Chinese restaurant. I wasn’t enthusiastic about this dish, but when I tried it the tripe was more pleasant than I thought it would be. The flavor was much softer than previous experiences, and is worth a try when you come to the trattoria.
First course usually consists of pastas and soups. In Florence, however, pasta does not exist. Therefore, Cibreo offers a variety of soups and polentas, and we tried three of them. The first was a fresh porcini mushroom soup, which was creamy while retaining the strong flavor of the mushroom. It is garnished with a little bit of olive oil to cut down the strength of the mushroom a little bit so it’s not too overpowering, but the taste is still quite rich. Another first course was a polenta, which was pleasant, but a bit bland to my taste. The dish, like many others, is simple, with a thick polenta garnished with a splash of olive oil on top. The thickness is perfect, but I think that there could have been more herbs to spice up the dish a little. There is also the classic minestrone soup that has taken a Florentian twist by adding tuna pieces. This isn’t a packet minestrone; this is fresh soup made from the freshest vegetables and just-caught tuna. I’m amazed at a soup that is basically a clear soup (and hence should be light), but has such an astouding taste to it. With a hint of pepper added, this is one of the best minestrone soups I’ve ever had.
The best first course, in my opinion, is the tomato and bread soup. This is not your typical soup; instead, it’s served on a plate, and like other first courses, has a splash of olive oil. It’s so incredibly thick, you can pick it up with a fork! Of course, the spoon is easier. The fresh tomatoes are mixed with bread crumbs to create this dish. That’s basically all there is. Simple, effective, and must be tasted to understand how good this really is.
With two plates completed, Cibreo had yet to fail – in the second course, the head chef / owner continued to impress in every single dish we ordered. One dish is the chicken meatball with tomato sauce. The sauce is a mixture of cream and tomato, and is very similar to the tomato and bread soup. The chicken meatball has evidence of being homemade – they weren’t even spherical! – and is a light and pleasant mixture of ricotta cheese and chicken. Together, the taste is exquisite, and the sauce can be used to dip bread in (Italians frown on this a bit). Another dish is an ox tail stew, which is less a stew and more something that looks at home in dim sum, since there isn’t a lot of soup. With some green beans and a red wine reduction, the ox-tail gives its own unique flavor in conjunction with the wine sauce. The way the ox-tail is cooked is also incredible, with the meat falling off the bone. Of the two people who had the ox-tail, nobody needed to use their knife except for eating the vegetables.
A vitello meatloaf is a Florentian classic, according to the owner. It really looks more like a pate than anything else, and it’s especially exotic because there’s whole pistachios embedded inside the meatloaf. I was impressed with the soft texture of the meatloaf, but wasn’t enthusiastic about the pistachios, which I mistook for capers because of the saltiness. The mayonnaise based sauce provided takes away some of the saltiness, but I wasn’t too thrilled with it even with the sauce. If there’s a dish I didn’t like as much, this might be it. As a whole, however, Cibreo still does very well with their offerings.
Finally, dessert. There were seven offerings, and we chose four of them. The creme caramel is exactly like flan, so there isn’t anything special here. A simple, clean recipe that can’t go wrong here. Another is a coffee-flavoured mousse with chocolate covering, which made it taste like biting into a whipped mocha. The coffee used is a European brew, so you do not get the bitterness associated with American brews (hear me, Starbucks?!). A third one is a flourless chocolate cake. This is one of the richest chocolate cakes made, even with experience in eating other flourless cakes. The prevalent use of dark chocolate gave the cake its color, and although there’s a lot of it, the cake is still sweet enough to satisfy anybody’s sweet tooth. However, what takes the ‘cake’ here is the pear tart. The pear filling is not overly sweet, with berry undertones supporting fresh cut pears. The tart’s crust is also wonderful, with the crust supporting the filling while retaining some flakiness. This is one of the few dishes that is offered consistently as long as the pears are in season. Don’t miss this!
In my little ideal world, my meal from Cibreo would be:
Crostini -> Tomato and Bread Soup -> Chicken Meatballs -> Pear Tart
Oh wait, it did go like that!
My visit to Cibreo had high expectations because of its promise of homestyle Florentian food. This restaurant met my expectations, and then blew them out of the water. I’m impressed by the atmosphere, the food, and the level of passion the owner has for his food. I’ve only been to a few restaurants where the owner has served the guests himself, and they’ve all been special. When you go to Florence, get into Cibreo Trattoria. Just be careful of the Ristorante! That’ll set you back 90 Euros instead..
Oh, sorry for the lack of photos. My camera was messed up, so I had to use one I wasn’t familiar with, and a bunch of pics ended up blurry. Oh well, see for yourself if you go to Italy.
**Offers the full Florentian food fare
**Warm and inviting atmosphere
**Difficult to find
**Easily confused with Cibreo Ristorante!
Via de’ Macci 122r
CLOSED July 26-Sept 6