Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Real Foodies: Vinaino di Parte Guelfa

Vinaino di Parte Guelfa
Via Val di Lamona, 6
501000 Florence

+33 055 287876

Figure 1: The Duomo

Just over a week ago, I arrived in Florence, Italy with a heavy backpack, an emerging sunburn and an empty belly. I checked into my hostel and met my new roommate Madison, who also had the munchies. Two minutes later we were headed to a panini shop he had been recommended.

Figure 2: Street view

For some reason it took us about 10 minutes to find the place, despite the fact that it was directly in front of our hostel. To be fair it was a little hidden from the main square in a small alleyway, like all good places in Europe are. You walk in and there's sausages and cured legs and garlic hanging from the ceiling, the display cabinet is stacked with huge wheels and wedges of cheese, and there's a little shelf which holds little dishes of pesto, sundried tomatoes in oil and other condiments.

Figure 3: Leonardo and Luca

Figure 4: Hung

Madison and I got a panini each - a prosciutto panini for him, and a freshly sliced porchetta panini for me. And after my first bite of that sumptuous, tasty roast pork, I decided I would come back in the next few days to interview them. Never in my life have I enjoyed a sandwich that much.

Photos of Vinaino di Parte Guelfa, Florence
This photo of Vinaino di Parte Guelfa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Figure 5: Paradise in a panini (taken from

I showed up at their shop around 5pm on my last day in Florence, with a list of questions and all the zeal of an excitable food blogger. I had forgotten, however, in my enthusiasm that I don't speak Italian and they don't speak English. So we spent a tedious but delightful twenty minutes on the interview, slowly but surely making our way through each question, switching between English, French, charades and even a little Spanish thrown in for luck.

Figure 6: I want one of these for my birthday

So here's what I managed to get, with the language barrier working against me: Luca and Leonardo are brothers-in-law (and not "brothers in love" as I originally understood). They've had their sandwich shop for 5 years. Both of them have lived in Italy all their lives, and are originally from Florence. Before they opened their shop, they were both chefs in Italian restaurants. When I asked them why they decided to open a Panini shop, Leonardo said: "Dreaming for a long, long time." 

Luca and Leonardo say that the best thing about their job is their contact with the public. Perhaps this is why they decided to leave their busy restaurants to open a small eatery - as soon as a customer walks into their panini shop, they get to talk to them directly about what they want. The customer watches them make their food, and will usually eat their panini on the little stools just in front of the counter. Most chefs will never see the faces of the people who eat their food. I imagine that this closeness with their clients brings Luca and Leonardo much pleasure. 

Figure 7: Me and Leonardo (Luca's taking the picture)

The question that we spent the most time on was Question 7: What do you hate about your job? Luca and Leonardo looked at each other and spent a good five whole minutes shrugging, scratching their chins, frowning, and saying things like "Ah..." and "Hmmm..." while I waited patiently. Finally, I offered: "Niente?", and they threw their hands in the air with delight and said: "Niente! Ah, si, si, niente! Niente, niente, niente, niente..." 

And here's a tip: their favourite panini is made from the three following ingredients: porchetta (moist Italian roast pork), caprino (a type of goat's cheese) and pomodori secchi (dried tomato). You know what to do. 

Figure 8: Sunset over Florence from Ponto Vecchio

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