First Stop: On the Piazza della Passera – Florence

A little over a month ago I went to Italy for the first time and instantly fell in love. I moved between Milan, Turin and Florence and was enthralled with the weather (while the heat is comparable to Cairo, being able to wear a tank and miniskirt made a hell of a difference), the shopping, the food and the people.

Duomo Cathedral in Milan.

Most of my time was split evenly in Milan and Turin, but because I had heard lovely things about Florence I decided to spend two and a half days in the historic city.

Great decision on my part.

Though I had museum and other arty stuff on my agenda, I had completed my homework before arriving and located four vegan/vegetarian/organic-friendly places I wanted to suss out for either lunch or dinner. The first eatery I tried was a small, family run place called 5e Cinque on the Piazza della Passera. If I’m  honest, it was the first place I dined at because I literally fell into it after 3.5 hours of outdoor sightseeing (*note: that’s 3 hours of failing miserably at evading the scorching heat). I was a puddle of a mess by the time I came across 5e Cinque, so I gladly fell into an air-conditioned seat by the window during a more quiet period of the day (15:00).

I spent a few  moments throwing back a liter of water and took in the surroundings, which were rustic and quaint: wooden tables and chairs filled the room, a high brick arch curved over a deli fridge that kept cheeses and cured meats cool, and wine bottles lined the whitewashed walls. The wine list was indeed impressive (with biological Moscato and Chianti to boot) and had me salivating (and seriously contemplating) a mid-afternoon aperitif. The menu was extensive enough and consisted of a variety of Mediterranean vegetable, fruit, rice, pasta and meat dishes – enough items available for any Intolerant choose from – and all food was organic or bio, with most of it local (from Italy). As the sweat evaporated off the back of neck I ordered an eggplant and hummus starter and a large mixed salad (carrot, cucumber, iceberg, tomato, pumpkin + sesame seeds) as a main.

Lunchtime at 5e Cinque.

Overall the food was good. It was basic, but wholesome. I went mad for the hummus and eggplant starter, which I was tempted to order another round of….though didn’t since one totally sufficed for lunch given the filling nature of the hummus especially.  The eggplant was perfectly cooked: soft and flavorful without the rubbery texture it can sometimes adopt, and with an overall “meaty” feel on the palate. As for the perfect mix of garlic and lemon that burst forth from the mashed chickpeas…well, it was worth every bead of sweat that it took to find the restaurant. I prefer hummus when its on the pungent and tart side and this one managed to be perfectly astringent without assaulting the senses too much, leaving a slightly sweet – and highly satisfying – aftertaste.

The salad was rudimentary in its composition, but since I wasn’t looking for anything heavy my expectations were met. All I really wanted were some greens with a light vinaigrette and that’s exactly what I got, though since I’m a sucker for seeds and nuts the presence of pumpkin and sesame was very welcome.

If I had had room for dessert I probably would have gone for the fruit salad without the yogurt, but I settled for a rooibos tea instead. A great way to end a pleasant lunch on a stupidly hot day. For all the gluten fans, there were plenty of pasta options and a basket of bread was the first thing to come to the table. For the dairy lovers (you fortunate Un-intolerants you) there were a several lactose imbibed goodies throughout the menu such as a fabulous looking cheese platter (cheese laced with honey anyone?), ricotta dessert, salad with goat cheese and flat bread with mozzarella. I saw the flat bread and the honey cheese float by at one point (along with a killer plate of jamon…Aiii!) and it, admittedly, looked so wonderfully good.

I think the patrons that gorged it down seconds after it hit their table couldn’t have agreed more.

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