The Challenger: Il Cernacchino
For rules, regulations, and a fascinating review of sandwich history, see here. For our current rankings, see this blog’s side bar.
Just when you thought I couldn’t eat another panino…Sandwich Wars returns!
Quick review: The ranks didn’t change much after last month’s battle with Gustapanino. All’Antico Vinaio is still in first place with their outright ridiculous Finocchiona panino. Da’Vinattieri remains close behind with their super salty, and downright addictive, porchetta sandwich. I think they’re getting a little cozy up there at the top, don’t you?
This month I needed something new to shake things up. I started asking my friends established in the gastronomic scene here in Florence where they were getting their panini these days. Someone mentioned a place called Il Cernacchino, on Via Condotta, right in the center of Florence, just off Piazza della Signoria. I had never heard of it and I was skeptical. My first thought was, it will be crazy crowed. Nope. Ok, well then it will definitely be overprized. Not at all. Alright then, get ready for a disappointment taste-wise. Wrong again.
Contestant #6: Il Cernacchino
Via Condotta, 38R Florence, Italy (See map below)
Hours: Monday to Saturday: 9:30am – 7:30pm
Unlike most of the locations we’ve been to so far that have Tuscan classic feel with wood…everything, this adorable little hole-in-the-wall looks like your grandma’s kitchen on crack. You can’t miss the retrofitted red cabinets and an enormous range hood with the splash of adorable wallpaper. Behind the front counter, laden with treats, snacks, and sweets, piled so high you almost can’t see over them, are two lovely sisters serving up delicious food all day long. They wear red and white-checkered outfits that match the killer kitchen and really complete the “look.”
Now, of all the places we’ve been for sandwich wars, this one posed the greatest non-sandwich threat. The food selection here is just insane. They have crostini, primi, salads, focaccia, and homemade sweets that are all right in front of you when you walk in. It’s almost impossible not to order them. Fear not! I stayed strong and I kept my eyes on their panini list like a good soldier. There are 12 custom sandwiches that are all 4Euro, one of which is not even really a sandwich at all, but rather a kind of bread bowl. YES, a bread bowl…for soup. In case you’re curious, it’s glorious, but sadly for our purposes, not really a sandwich. On their list they have the classic prochetta (though it is served with a mustard sauce, which is new), but as I was trying to shake things up, I went with one of the more unusual selections on the list: Salme con pecorino e mostarda di fichi. Holy mother of sandwiches. It was good.
Here is a visual breakdown:
The roll is your standard Tuscan white, not super salty, but fresh. Inside were some nice big pieces of salami, some very thick cuts of pecorino cheese, and, the best part of all, “fig mustard.” What is that, you ask? Lord only knows, but it is DELICIOUS. The salty and sweet, the spicy and subtle, oh mama, me likey. I didn’t realize I had gotten a little bored of the typical Italian panini flavors and was much in need of a change. Some of the other exciting sandwiches on the list that I think would have blown my palate away were the pecorino and chili jam panino (great vegetarian option!) and the two lard sandwiches, one with mushrooms and one with the chili jam and pecorino. So much to try!
To top it all off, the sisters are very nice and laughed when I asked for extra fig mustard and also whether they were willing to sell me some. They have a counter that can sit up to 6 on the ground floor, but there’s also about 5 tables upstairs as well (which you wouldn’t even know was there, hence the lack of crowding). When it does get crowded, one of the sisters goes around and asks people who are done to leave, which is great if you’re waiting but sad if you’re sitting. Though panini, like pizza, is one of those rare Italian foods that isn’t meant to take three hours to eat.
1. Taste: 8.25 points (out of 10)
Such a great, new, and unique flavor. I have already been back once to have it again. I gave it a little less points than Da’Vinatieri and All’Antico Vinaio only because I would love some more salty bread. Sorry. I’m such an American.
2. Cost: 4 points (out of 5)
No one is as cheap as Fratellini, but 4 Euro is just so reasonable for what you get.
3. Location and general experience: 5 points (out of 5)
Indoor seating with space for about almost 20 and situated right in the center of town. Plus two friendly faces to greet you every time you go in, doesn’t get much better.
Total: 17.25 points out of 20 = 86.25%
REIGNING CHAMP: All’Antico Vinaio!
See map for Il Cernacchino: