I’ve never been convinced of the Italians’ ability to produce decent Brettljausen. True, a few examples I ate in South Tyrol were good – occasionally fantastic – but most of the time, the Marendes they served were anything but inspiring. And then there is a controversial question of how much Italian South Tyrol is (but let’s not get into this discussion). As for the rest of Italy, their antipasti are mere starters or small snacks to accompany wines – or so I thought sampling antipasti at Italian restaurants in Vienna. I was totally wrong, of course, as my very first visit to Tuscany has proved.
The antipasti plates of Tuscany are Brettljausen in nearly everything, down to the wooden boards they are typically served on. Although there are meat-only varieties, quite often cheese is featured as well, and its taste, though not strong at all, easily beats the bland cheese-like creations served all over Lower Austria. There are other differences, too. For example, it was strange to see the spreads already smeared on bread slices, even though more bread of the typical tasteless Tuscan sort was provided as well. No mustard and horseradish were in sight (I have expected that somehow), having been replaced by baked Mediterranean vegetables (eggplant, zucchini and peppers) with olive oil.
Even ignoring the Brettljause for a second, La Prosciutteria is fantastic. Located on a busy touristic street, it neighbors what must be dozens of foreigner-oriented establishments with the menus that are exact copies of each other and the annoying barkers at the entrances trying to make you spend your hard-earned cash on a kilogram of nearly raw beef. In La Prosciutteria, however, one can easily spot locals (or at least Italian tourists) enjoying their ham and salami on the tiny benches outside or at a few simple tables inside. For the sake of the tourists, huge pre-made prosciutto/cheese sandwiches (very good, actually) are on sale, but much more interesting are the different types of cured meat lying behind the counter, very Heuriger-style, or even hanging from the ceiling. It’s a small self-service place, with plastic forks and knives and the beer and soft drinks available from a fridge at the end of the room. There is no printed menu provided, all the necessary information available on a blackboard hanging on the wall or from the super-friendly, mostly young staff. Apparently, all this is because La Prosciutteria does not have a restaurant license, but a quick googling reveals that despite its clever “simple” image, La Prosciutteria is actually a part of a chain with outlets in eight cities and its own merchandise that serves as an innovative room decoration as well as, I suspect, a good source of additional income. Whatever the truth is, this is a really cool location, providing one finds a sitting place – which, for some strange reason, I did.
The board I got – which was the smallest board for one person’s lunch or dinner – contained two types of salami, prosciutto and bresaola. All the meats were served as three or four slices only, which was enough to appreciate the taste without getting bored. The prosciutto was excellent, but I wish the flavors of the salamis were not so alike. The same applies to the cheeses: the three thick slices looked slightly different, but tasted too similar, the only variety coming from the spices applied to their crusts. Well, perhaps my taste is simply not refined enough. And finally there were three bread slices with spreads: a tasty spread with gorgonzola-like melted cheese, a sweetish one with some jam and a boring one with finely cut cooked paprika and olive oil.
To be completely honest, it was a slightly unbalanced Brettljause, having exciting stuff mixed with, well, board-fillers, but taking into account the unique atmosphere and the location, I would not hesitate recommending La Prosciutteria to anyone visiting Florence. If you eat pork, of course – but then if you don’t, what are you doing on this site anyway?