by Melinda Gallo

Pandemonio

My girlfriend Diana and I decided to meet up for lunch today. I was secretly hoping that we would go to a new place instead of one of our favorites. I often go to many of the same restaurants because I hate it when I go to a new place and am disappointed. I was happy when Diana suggested Pandemonio because I had heard of it, but had never gone before. After having eaten there once, I might not go anywhere else.

I hadn't read anything about the trattoria before today's meal. I often fear that my expectations will surpass the meal and sometimes websites and reviews can make a place sound and look better than it really is.

I walked along the Arno, fought the crowds near the Ponte Vecchio, and crossed over Ponte alla Carraia to enter San Frediano. I zigzagged through Piazza del Carmine, which is now used as a parking lot whose uneven pavement forced me to not be able to look up at the oncoming cars because I was afraid I'd take a misstep and trip.

I arrived in front of the trattoria and was early, so I took in a few minutes of the sun that finally peaked through the clouds. I didn't know that Diana had arrived early and was sitting inside. I had peaked my head into the first room and didn't see anyone.

A few minutes after 1p.m., I decided to walk inside and realized that there was a patio in the back. No one was around, so I walked toward the back of the trattoria. I went past the kitchen where steam was coming out of pots and two chefs were diligently working. "Prego." one of them said after I blurted out that I was waiting for a friend.

My friend was sitting with an empty plate in front of her and looked happy. When I sat down, a woman, who is the mamma of the trattoria came to ask her how it was as she scooped up her plate. "Non c' pi nulla...di sicuro era buonissimo. (There's nothing left...certainly it was delicious.)" I said. "Porto anche a te ora. (I'll bring you some now too.)" she said and came back within a few seconds. "Pappa al pomodoro appena fatta. (Pappa al pomodoro, a Tuscan tomato and bread soup, just made.)" she said and plopped the plate down in front of me.

I looked at the mound she put on my plate and couldn't wait to get my fork into it. Pappa al pomodoro is probably one of my favorite Tuscan dishes.

Since we both had pappa al pomodoro as our starter, we each ordered a primo (pasta dish) and shared them both. Our absolute favorite was the risotto alla crema di scampi (risotto with shrimp cream). Neither of knew what to expect, but now I'm spoiled and probably could never have a risotto dish like this anywhere else.

We were full, but could easily be tempted by dessert. Before hearing them, we had decided on splitting one between us. The mamma came back out and listed off what they had today. We both looked at each other as we had no idea what to pick because they all sounded good. "Il cheesecake freschissimo e tutti mi dicono che buono. (The cheesecake is fresh and everyone says that it's good.)"

When the mamma came back out, she put down a plate with a large piece of cheesecake with strawberries dripping off the top of it. "Il primo pezzo sempre il pi grosso. (The first piece is always the biggest.)" she said. She handed us each a spoon and we immediately scooped up a piece.

We looked up at each other with smiles spreading across our faces. It was probably the creamiest and tastiest cheesecake I've ever had. Not too heavy and not too light. When the mamma came back out, I told her, "Signora, ma questo cheesecake eccezionale. (Madame, this cheesecake is exceptional.)"

She smiled and repeated, " quello che mi dicono. (That's what they tell me.)" It was almost as if she didn't really believe the compliment we gave her, but I'm sure that she'd heard it so many times that she must know how amazingly good it is.

As we left the trattoria, I told the mamma that it was a fantastic meal and that I'd definitely come back again. She smiled and said, "Noi siamo qua. (We're here.)"

I rarely boast about a meal that I have had, but I was so surprised and pleased with this trattoria that I couldn't wait to tell everyone I know. I even called Alessandro on my walk home to tell him how delicious everything was. I have plans to go back to the trattoria with him next week and I already know what I'm ordering.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!