I lived in Italy for a while. It's a statement that sounds automatically romantic, conjuring up visions of rolling Tuscan hills and delicious, homemade lunches eaten under a trellis overlooking a vineyard. But the prominent reality was this: I lived in the ghetto, on a block populated mainly by salivating crack addicts and transsexual prostitutes (the latter of which I must admit were actually very friendly). Florence was a truly bizarre city. So much gorgeous, elegant architecture and history juxtaposed with so much contemporary horror. And this dichotomy absolutely warmed my heart. I miss casually strolling past the epic and ancient facade of the Santa Croce Church only to then be accosted by a gang of Albanian hooligans trying to sell me sixty euros worth of hash. It was that contrast of old and new that truly riveted me.
And the food... Obviously I miss the food. I am constantly on the prowl for New York City eateries that accurately capture the feeling of what it was like to dine in Florence. Osteria Morini does it. Via Della Pace does it. And in the West Village, Morandi does it. Go to brunch here. The simple, straightforward preparation of quality ingredients - as pictured above - will do wonderful things to your mouth.