Review: All’Antico Vinaio, Florence Italy

Tuscany and Florence in particular, is famous for their many panino shops selling their local Florentine specialty – Panino al Lampredotto. Sounds pretty delicious right? However it won’t be to everyone’s taste – lampredotto is cow’s stomach, simmered in stock with spices and herbs for hours until it’s just edible enough to chop up and serve in a panino. I’m not going to lie, lampredotto isn’t quite to my taste either, but luckily there’s no lack of other panino shops in Florence selling other delicious sandwiches.

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All’Antico Vinaio is one of the most famous, with long lines outside their store at lunchtime every day. Everyone who’s ever been to Florence will have passed happy customers sitting in the local piazzas, walking along the streets, or even just sitting right in the gutter outside the shop, munching on their delicious sandwiches.

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So what’s the appeal? Part of it might be the honour-system self-service wine outside the shop, for only 2 Euro. More than a few people were taking advantage of this great deal. The main appeal however, is what you can see the cabinet behind the wine – that amazing Italian porchetta. Along with countless legs of salty prosciutto, smoked Tuscan vegetables, and large wheels of cheeses, All’Antico Vinaio uses the best and most tasty ingredients in their sandwiches.

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How do you assemble a sandwich? If you’re apprehensive at the idea of navigating the minefield of a million different sandwich filling combinations, All’Antico Vinaio has made it easy with their ‘Top Five’ as recommended by their staff and regulars. Some of the titles refer to favourite famous sons of Florence (Dante), others refer to the boss’s favourite combination, and one is even dedicated to the director Ron Howard, who spent 2015 filming the latest Robert Langdon movie with Tom Hanks in Florence (Inferno).

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After queueing for about fifteen minutes, we finally reached the front of the line and ordered our sandwiches. And what a handful they were!

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L’Inferno: Porchetta, rocket and spicy vegetable paste, 5 Euro

K opted for the Inferno sandwich, drawn to it by the thick slices of fatty and salty porchetta. Now I don’t know if Ron Howard went to All’Antico Vinaio for this sandwich regularly while filming in Florence, but you couldn’t blame him if he did – it’s a winner! The porchetta is definitely one of the highlights of All’Antico Vinaio, and any sandwich that includes it their home-smoked porchetta is one worth trying. This Inferno sandwich had a nice chilli kick to it as well through the vegetable paste – a nod to the fires of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

Panino with prosciutto crudo, pecorino and melanzane, 5 Euro
Panino with prosciutto crudo, pecorino and melanzane, 5 Euro

I chose to go my own way, confusing the sandwich artist behind the counter as I asked for a custom sandwich in extremely broken Italian, with a few unintentional French words thrown in for good measure. My panino with thin slices of prosciutto crudo, pecorino cheese and grilled marinated melanzane (eggplant) was a real winner – especially with the lashings of olive oil he added as I hadn’t chosen a sauce to go with the mix. It was simple bit effective – salty prosciutto, strong cheese, creamy melanzane, crunchy toasted panino. I’d be happy for them to add my creation to their regular menu with the name Gourmanda!

All’Antico Vinaio is a must-visit when in Florence. Whether you order a large sandwich each as a hearty lunch, or share a sandwich between two as a mid-morning snack, you’re bound to be blown away by the freshness of the ingredients, and the timelessness of their suggested sandwich combinations. For 5 Euro each, you really can’t go wrong!

All’Antico Vinaio is located at 65R Via de Neri in Florence, Italy.

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