In the shadows of the amazing Basilica of San Lorenzo–the parish church of the Medici, who ruled Florence from the 15th to 18th centuries–is a small family-run restaurant where simple casalinga Florentine cuisine is served daily. It started as a typical vino e olio, where bulk wines and olive olive were sold, then turned into a trattoria in 1915. Still run by the Gozzi family, the brothers–Alessandro (in the kitchen) and Andrea (in the front of the house)–are fourth generation restaurateurs and have kept up the traditions originating with the trattoria’s namesake, their babbo, how Tuscans call their dads, Sergio: in fact, the place is known amongst locals as Da Sergio, meaning ‘Sergio’s Place’.
The first time I went there I discovered, thanks to my colleague Coral, something that I had never heard of before. It’s called Peposo which is a delicious peppery beef stew that dates back to the Renaissance and that Trattoria Gozzi is famous for. A simple dish made from stewing beef, peppercorns, red wine and salt, it allegedly originates in the Tuscan town of Impruneta, which is known for its terracotta. Apparently the Renaissance master–think, architect of the breathtaking Santa Maria del Fiore dome–Filippo Brunelleschi used the clay tiles from this area to build his masterpiece. This same Tuscan village is where many of the artisans who helped construct the centerpiece of Florentine architecture came from, bringing with them their craft but also a hearty and delicious local dish, the aforementioned Peposo.
Peposo, or Pepper Beef Stew
1 ¼ lb of stewing beef or shank (called muscolo in Italian)
1 tbsp of crushed black pepper tied into a gauze or cheesecloth
2 cups of red wine (Chianti preferred)
Salt to taste
Sauté the beef in a hot pan until browned (no oil or butter needed). Add crushed pepper sachet and wine. Cover and simmer for 2 hours (make sure it doesn’t get dry and add more wine if necessary) then a ½ cup of water or more to keep moist and salt to taste. Remove peppercorn sachet and serve with boiled potatoes.
Also on the menu at Trattoria Sergio Gozzi are pasta dishes like pici, a simple hand-rolled pasta made with just flour and water that look like thicker, shorter spaghetti. They originated in and around Siena and are typically served with tomato or meat sauce. But one of the most delicious primi that I tried on my last visit are a local version of potato gnocchi, called topini, topped with a beef or wild game ragu (boar, hare or duck). Pici are easy to make at home and can also be bought pre-made–both fresh and dried–but topini are a bit more labor intensive though well worth the effort.
The house wine at Trattoria Sergio Gozzi is solid, which is not surprising since the Chianti wine country is nearby. The prices are honest, the service is efficient and friendly and the ambience is very warm and welcoming. It is a really tasty, authentic Florentine experience and a way to recharge before moving on to the next beautiful church or museum.
Trattoria Sergio Gozzi
Piazza di San Lorenzo, 8R, Florence
Tel. +39 055 281941
Open for lunch only from 12:00 – 3:00pm; closed Sunday