by Melinda Gallo

Cibrèo

Tonight we met up with a friend of mine from California, Heather, her fiancé Chris, and their friends at Cibrèo. Heather and Chris have just moved to Paris for a year and their friends, Chris and Mara, were passing through after spending some time in Vienna. Florence seemed like a great place to meet and I was happy they made the stop here, so I could see Heather and meet her fiancé and friends.

I haven't been to Cibrèo ristorante (restaurant) in many years. The last time was when my mom came to visit me in 1998. I often go to the trattoria, called "Cibreino," and have also gone a few times to the Teatro del Sale. Cibrèo has four establishments all at the corner of via dei Macci and via A. del Verrocchio. There is a caffè as well that has a patio where you can eat and drink outside.

We walked into the bar area where the staff greeted us and took our coats. They were all friendly and quite jovial; not the typical Florentine staff I'm used to. They seated us in the back near the kitchen. It was only about 7:45PM and the restaurant was fairly empty. After we sat down, the cameriere (waiter) pulled up a chair and sat down. He greeted us first in Italian, so I responded. When he realized that it'd be better to speak English to our friends, he greeted us again, but in English.

He rattled off the menu in English for us, describing each dish. I knew pretty much all of the dishes as that is what is being offered at the adjoining trattoria, like the polenta alle erbe (polenta with aromatic herbs) and zuppa di zucca (pumpkin soup).

We immediately ordered our primi (first courses) because it was difficult to keep everything fresh in our minds.

For the secondi (main dishes), he told us about the collo ripieno (stuffed chicken's head), salsiccia con fagioli (Tuscan sausage with beans), baccalà mantecato (Venetian dish with puréed stockfish and garlic), cappello del prete (a boiled and then grilled sausage in the form of a pyramid).

After we finished ordering our food, we were handed the wine list. It was the only thing we were allowed to read as the menu was all dictated to us. We ordered a bottle of Chianti along with some acqua gassata e naturale (bubbly and still water).

The waiter smiled as he left and wished us a good meal. Within a few minutes, two girls brought us a plate with a crostino con fegato (bread with Tuscan liver pâté) and a piece of tortino di ricotta (ricotta flan). Then, they delivered numerous little dishes with other tasty treats, like insalata di trippa (tripe salad), Brussels sprouts, and verdure sotto aceto (vegetables in vinegar), prosciutto di Val d'Elsa, and pecorino con noci (pecorino with walnuts). They also set out on the table two baskets with bread that they make on the premises.

The camerieri came by often to fill up our water and wine glasses. I think I only touched a water bottle once.

All of our secondi came with more side dishes like green beans, fagioli, patate (potatoes), and cavolfiore (cauliflower). They also delivered a couple of two-foot long pieces of bread in the shape of dog bones. We broke them up into pieces and shared them. Surprisingly, it wasn't the typical Tuscan bread because it was salted.

After we finished our secondi, a different cameriere came to our table to tell us about the desserts, like the panna cotta con caramel (crême caramel), budino al cioccolato (chocolate pudding), torta al cioccolato senza farina (flourless chocolate cake), and a cheesecake.

When they delivered our desserts, they also gave us an extra plate with a piece of the cheesecake that we finished off rather easily. Afterwards, pretty much everyone had a glass of Moscato d'Asti while Dave had a glass of Vin Santo.

We sat and talked for a while longer and then asked for the conto (bill). I do like it that no one ever pressures you to leave in restaurants here as we were having such a great time with our friends.

Because I hadn't seen a menu and no prices were given to us, the bill came as a bit of a surprise to me. We ended up paying 505,00 Euros for all six of us. Up to this point, I thought our meal was fantastic. It was a little disappointing to me only because if you go to the trattoria next door, you'd pay probably half that. When people told me that the trattoria and the ristorante shared the same kitchen, I thought they meant that they had the same recipes. I didn't realize that all the dishes I saw that left the kitchen and were dropped off down the hall were actually going to the trattoria.

I enjoyed our meal at the ristorante mostly because our friends were with us. The atmosphere is much friendlier and comfortable in the ristorante with the table cloths, napkins, and beautiful silverware, but I'd be happy to eat all the same food at small wooden tables for half the price at the trattoria next door any day.

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